Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Can a Publisher Cancel a Book Because the Author is Gay?

Apparently you can.

Meet David Powers King. Lots of you probably already know him. Last October, I was invited to join a critique group of which he is apart. The four individuals in this group have been fantastic. They have helped me grow so much as a writer, and I now consider all of them dear friends.

When I found out David and his co-author, Michael, had signed a publishing contract for their debut novel, Woven, I was thrilled! By that point I'd had months of exposure to David's work, and knew anything he wrote would be fantastic. As I learned more and more about the story, I got more and more excited for October, when I would be able to buy a copy and devour it.

That's not going to happen now. Oh, I have no doubt the book will be published. But not in October. Not by Cedar Fort. Why, you ask? All because of one word--partner. Go on, read the article. I'll wait. You can also listen to the short news clip that aired on KUTV last night. And read David's thoughts on the matter.

I'm shocked, too. I couldn't believe it when David told us what was happening. I checked my calendar--it's still 2013. I thought we were enlightened now? I thought we decided discrimination was bad? I thought we were supposed to love everyone and judge not, that we be not judged?

The writing and online community seems to be exploding with this news. Read this very interesting--and enlightening--blog post on the subject. The whole thing is just sad. Cedar Fort knew Michael was gay when they signed the book. By offering them a contract, Michael and David assumed it wasn't an issue. Woven is a YA fantasy with a very heterosexual romance angle. It's fun, light-hearted, something anyone and everyone can enjoy. It doesn't infringe on anyone's value or belief system. Cedar Fort wanted the book, but they didn't want to properly--and respectfully--attribute the work to it's rightful authors.

Because David is LDS, Cedar Fort caters to a largely LDS audience, and Michael is gay, I'm sure waves will be made. But let me say this: this was not a decision made by the LDS church. This decision does not reflect on the opinions of all LDS people. There are many, many good LDS members who are just as saddened by Cedar Fort's actions on this issue as am I. As for me, I stand by my religion's beliefs and statements on the matter, and I always will. You can read about the LDS church's stance here and here, on their official websites. And those beliefs state, over and over and over, that everyone--everyone--deserves to be treated with love and respect and humanity. Which unfortunately did not happen in this situation. At all. It's sad that all of this mess is because of one tiny word. A word not even in the book, but the bio.

The good news is David and Michael again hold the rights to Woven and now they can shop for a new and better home for their novel. Which they will find. And when they do, I will be at the release party with a copy in my hands. Because I buy books based on the book's merits, and not the authors' lifestyle choices.

So what do you think about the situation, blog readers? I'd love to hear your thoughts.



C. Michelle Jefferies said...

This isn't about discrimination. This is a money making business decision. When a small press produces a book, it is a huge deal money wise. They have to be able to turn around and sell the book they just produced or go out of business. When a small press's distributor and main brick and mortar store will not carry the book because of the author bio, they will lose money on the book. And at that point in time they have every right to cancel the contract, not because the co author is homosexual, but because they stand to lose money on the transaction.

Ru said...

C. Michelle Jeffries -- but his online presence (which they were surely relying on for free marketing) mentions quite prominently that he lives with his partner. I think it's disingenuous to say, "Help us market your book! We know you're gay, anyone who finds you online will know you're gay! Oh, but we'd lose money if we actually put that you have a partner in your bio."

I don't think Cedar Fort would have lost money on this book even with the word in. How many people even pay attention to author bios? And what percentage of those people would actually allow the word "partner" dissuade them from buying the book? It seems like a terribly small percentage to cater to. I know that their base audience is the LDS market, but I have more faith in LDS readers than that.

I think that by canceling the book the way they did, so close to its release date, they will suffer a lot bigger financial consequences.

Lindzee said...

I agree completely with both Michelle and Ru...yes, if it's a marketing concern, that certainly is their prerogative. No, I don't think that one line would've cost them sales. However, my main complaint with the whole thing is they waited until the DAY before it went to press to mention their concerns. If they were worried about marketing concerns, they should've either not signed them (since they knew he was gay) or been upfront when he first submitted his bio about their reasons for not allowing that line. Instead, they approved galleys containing the word "partner," then removed the line without his authorization, then mentioned their concerns the day before it went to press. Completely unprofessional.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I totally get what Michelle is saying about the business aspect of the decision. My question is why they took so long to realize it might be an issue for them. It's not like Michael was keeping it a secret.

I think Ru is right. There's going to be some unpleasant backlash on CF about this. It made the local TV news, and I've been seeing bits about it on Twitter.

I guess the question CF has to ask if whether or not this backlash is less than the other one they feared.

Lindzee said...

That's my question, too, Donna. It's not like it was a big surprise to CF.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I would believe the business aspect if I didn't know they had contracted the book from around last October. Also I read that someone at Cedar Fort had told Michael something along the lines of 'he had a penis and should know what to do with it'. That's clearly not business.

So I think it's just despicable and wish David all the best. I don't know Michael but I wish him the same and I'm glad David stood by him like true friend and co-author would. Woven will get published elsewhere and I'm sure your next publisher will be more tolerant.

Deanna said...

I think that your work should be the issue, not if you are gay. And a store not carrying the book because the author is gay seems a bit ridiculous to me. How about love everyone? It's sad for the author to go through this, hopefully the next book deal he gets is awesome.