David Kearns, author of such classics as Dance Hall Girl and Where Hell Freezes Over, went on an audacious Twitter rant Thursday after Lauren Spieller, an associate literary agent for Triada US, retweeted Whitney Reynolds’ tweet challenging women to “describe yourself like a male author would.” The retweet apparently set off feelings Kearn was harboring toward female literary agents, as weeks earlier he described an agent from #500queries as having “real vinegar in her heart.”
Kearns has been railing against #500queries, a free service, since mid-March, describing the agent reviewing queries as “some snarky twenty-something bashing on writers with a little smirk on her face,” who he claimed wasn’t worth submitting his manuscript to for review.
“No, I have an aversion to the extremely young and snarky. I don’t think they will appreciate historical fiction. They want Ya Yas and Travelling Pants and so on. It would be like sunshine to a vampire. They would hiss and spit at it. Waste of time.”
According to the first part of Kearns’ misandry manifesto, he was set off again by Spieller retweeting “a post that said male writers could not possibly describe a female main character.” Kearns was likely referring to an April 1 retweet about describing oneself “like a male author would,” although days earlier Spieller retweeted “a thread for men desiring to write Realistic Female Characters,” calling it a “forever thread,” so it’s difficult to say for sure.
Regardless, on April 2, Kearns initiated a Twitter argument with Spieller, asking her “do you honestly believe male writers cannot describe female characters?”
Spieller responded, “Are you asking me if I think it’s impossible, or are you asking me if I stand by what is being said about male writers often doing a poor job?”
“Both?” Kearns asked next, to which Spieller retorted, “The answer to your question was in mine.”
Kearns continued, “The question was a perfectly serious one following an offensive tweet you retweeted. I respectfully gave you a chance to respond. You went this way?” Spieller did not reply but did like a follower’s video response to Kearns that used a second long clip from his book’s movie trailer, which he paid for himself. Kearns declared that the tweet was copyright infringement, and went as far as threatening legal action unless the clip was removed.
After 3 minutes without a reaction, Kearns offered this insight about Spieller’s publishing career, “You would think even an “associate” literary agent would understand the basics of copyright law. But that’s “Triad Literary Agency” for you. Even an MS in British and Irish literature cannot keep one from becoming an asshole apparently.”
Spieller responded, “First of all, I didn’t send that gif. Second, it’s “Triada.” Maybe instead of worrying about copyright, you should worry about copyediting. Third, enjoy shouting into the void because I’m muting you.”
By this point, day 2 of the argument, Spieller had considerable support from her 9,745 followers, and Kearns requested that she “call off her Harpies” while she’s “busy laughing and encouraging copyright infringement.” Spieller did not respond.
Three days later, on April 5, apparently still upset about his spat with the 20-something female agent, Kearns launched a “serious” open discussion about “#misandryinpublishing,” which the vast majority of his 1,198 followers completely ignored. Unfortunately for Kearns, Spieller noticed that the “querying male writer” who had targeted her for an unsolicited argument a few days earlier was now subtweeting her in a massive ‘thread.’ Spieller quickly coopted his hashtag and soon had it trending, creating a vast amount of attention to the discussion.
Although his rant was intended to be a thread, Kearns failed to properly thread a single tweet, skipped pt.31 and doubled up on two numbers, making it incredibly difficult to follow. To that end, we decided to compile the entire 38* part tweet stream.
OK girls and boys I am opening up a serious discussion about
I had a bad twitter argument with an associate literary agent this week. She had retweeted a post that said male writers could not possibly describe a female main character. I sent one tweet asking her to clarify her stance. My question direct, respectful. She sent back something cryptic and condescending Shakespeare be-damned, we boys are well too stupid to capture all the gorgeous subtleties of a woman. I have pitched to her agency, my main character is a woman so my question wasn’t [an] argument for its sake, I wanted to know if I was wasting my time.
[I] Spent [the] remainder of the morning under attack. One of her fans even stole a clip from a movie trailer I made about the book. A trailer I paid $2 grand in production costs. Ms. Agent approved of the theft with a sly little like. Is this what it has come to, AKA
#misandryinpublishing on display that is now apparently the main flow of agenting river? If so it hurts the business of writing, reading and definitely publishing.
As such I have been through the rigamarole of the process. Believe me when I say, I know about agents what they do and don’t do. I also have a fair idea what they should do when asked a serious business question. One thing they do not do, is exhaustively research and write the material in the first place. No. That’s what WE do, as writers, and we need to be proud of it. And we as writers need to defend each other when agents do a number on us in public.
Further disclosure: I have a compulsive need to take down a bully, any sort of bully, anywhere, everywhere. It’s in my DNA.
So having seen this little game played out on male writers who dare to ask questions against all this man-hating rhetoric flying within lit agent circles, I was compelled to react. It’s not just
#misandryinpublishing that’s the problem it’s the paradigm itself. The agent has gotten it into their head, that HE or SHE is the most important element in the equation. We writers have given them our power. We R creators. We need to take the power back.[10.1]
I spent some time in Real Estate here in Florida and the similarities between the two businesses are there. The work, is a piece of intellectual real estate. It’s a home you, the writer, built. You need to be proud of that. Your first impulse should be siding with those who bleed sweat and work to create reality out of thin air and bring it to life. Because THEY the agents, can’t do it. You the creator have a special gift which is foreign to them. Yet, time and time again we see creators bending and scraping and throwing other creators under the bus to appease these people who do not create, they sell. Granted, a very important part; but without us? Nothing.
It’s like the homeowner begging the REALTOR to let them knock down a wall or reduce their price beyond reason, just for the glory of basking in the presence of these agents. Christ sakes! Get your back up. Stiffen your spine. Have some pride.
And book sales continue to slide. Why? Perhaps because the creators are no longer considered worthy of listening to? Scraping? Mewling? Throwing those among their number under the bus? Only the business people and agenda pushers have value anymore? The issue of
#misandryinpublishing is a numerical problem, a drag on the already dwindling sales hobbled by techno-revolution. The industry is throwing away half their potential market for the sake of an ethos: men are bad, and we need to hurt them, to get them back.
Name any business that deliberately does this sort of thing? It’s like you’re in a burning house and your answer is to bring gasoline into it and pour it on the couch you have always hated for the color. I am not angry at the associate agent anymore for her dismissive nonsense.
I am not angry at her agency though I would now, never use them. No, what I want is the
#misandryinpublishing to stop, because it is hurting book sales, and hurting society in the form of want. Want for decent books, untarnished with nakedly stilted political agendas replete with obvious ham-handed shoe-horning of same onto the page. Books that are made of stories that look and feel real because they are representative of real life. Stop #misandryinpublishing.
It is also having a bad impact on our boys in society. Schools are having trouble maintaining the interest of young men now in academic pursuits because literature, in general, is geared toward girls. When half of society thinks reading is a foreign activity, long passages in contracts mortgages and so on, become difficult. Half of the country unable to read a promissory note, or understand what an ARM was, resulted in a financial collapse.
You will note the same tricks being employed to silence dissent as ever. “Hush you!” “Don’t say that” “calm down” and my personal favorite “you just don’t understand”. For ages, these have been used to silence women, and now women are perfectly happy to deploy these old trite phrases against a man who is pointing the all-girls club and saying “How does this work for male readers or writers at all?”
To follow the logic that a man cannot correctly write a woman, is to say S.E. Hinton should not have been permitted to write The Outsiders. To suggest a man cannot write a woman is to negate the works of Shakespeare and how many others.
#Misandryinpublishing is to suggest I have no [right] to publish or even have considered this gorgeous story,
#DanceHallGirl. That I have no right to have dedicated seven years research into #BelleBilton a woman who lies in a grave in a place called Ballinasloe, Ireland where she died in 1906. She will be lost to history if her story is not told. And I have told it from the eyes of a lover, who knew her. But no, not in this environment because the story of BelleBilton should be told from a lover, a worshiper’s perspective. Because as a woman who had to do what she did to come as far as she did, she had to become the perfect answer to the questions of men.
Failure to permit a man to paint Belle as men of her day saw her is a crime. It is a short-sighted agenda of today’s largely American market which has no depth of character, no deep love or joy. Which is likely why our country is a complete mess.
It’s so gratifying to see so many women participating in this forum. It is great to see they’ve now discovered who Belle Bilton was, as many bash me for daring to write about her…since I am a man.[29.1]
I will try to get through as many comments as I can today. Quite the task.
I remind all this started when a writer took offense at a tweet by an agent who seemed to agree that men can’t write about women correctly which is a silly thing to say and the writer politely asked for clarification. And because the writer was a male and wrote about a woman and had submitted to that agency, he had to then discontinue the relationship informing both parties who had received his query.
And to those who think the story of Belle is only about feminism (and thus no man should write) fail to see it’s about the relations between nations, England and Ireland. It’s about the late Victorian era, it’s about setting and fun to narrowly focus only on the dimmed lens of modern PC sensibilities and dogma misses the richness of the times in which Belle Bilton lived and the struggle for independence between Ireland and England, and harshness of the class system.
By David Kearns (@Davez_not_here)
*Some punctuation and grammatical changes were made for readability. Please reference the number following a section to view the original tweet associated with that section.
Kearns’ stream of consciousness didn’t land him many supporters, although many found his proclivity to rewrite history amusing. He goes as far as linking misandry in publishing to boys losing interest in school and the subprime mortgage crisis.
THE SUBPRIME MORTGAGE MARKET WAS CAUSED BY TOO MANY BOOKS ABOUT WOMEN is not a conspiracy theory I ever would have thought I’d read. But, here we are.
— Ms. Justina Ireland Says “Mwa Ha Ha!” (@justinaireland) April 5, 2018
Needless to say, most found his arguments ridiculous, although the perception that women dominate literary publishing is reflected in recent data showing major publishers like HarperCollins, PRH and Hachette employ about 60 percent women. However, in the same study, they also show that, while women may be more predominant, the average male salary was typically 10 to 30 percent higher than females in the same position. If we ignore the publishers and focus solely on the literary agents open to queries, female representation jumps to 75 percent, a clear majority that could easily be perceived as a “girls-club.”
In essence, Kearns seems to be arguing that because women are now the majority of literary agents, men can no longer write about female characters. This, Kearns claims, is the result of the inevitable backlash against men from the long-oppressed women, who now find themselves in the position to subjugate men as payback, obviously at the cost of their own business interests.
“The issue of
#misandryinpublishing is a numerical problem, a drag on the already dwindling sales hobbled by techno-revolution. The industry is throwing away half their potential market for the sake of an ethos: men are bad, and we need to hurt them, to get them back.”
Interestingly, while Kearns is right that the U.S. publishing industry is the world’s largest, and most dominant, he is incorrect saying that the industry as a whole has “already dwindling sales hobbled by techno-revolution.” Print newspaper publishers have certainly taken a bath, but book publishers have managed to maintain and even grow profits, despite competition from ebooks and Amazon. According to Research and Markets 2017 industry analysis, paperbacks remain the most popular book format and the industry has gone from family-owned to publicly-traded media companies, generating around $28 billion in revenues annually.
Hence, the idea that the publishing industry is “throwing away half their potential market for the sake of an ethos” seems outlandish considering there has been no significant decline in revenues or publication numbers to correlate to the rise in female representation as literary agents and at publishing companies.
Furthermore, if there was a conspiracy among female literary agents to suppress male writers, the evidence should appear in the data for the most popular books — New York Times best sellers. At the very least, female authors should be around 60 percent of the best sellers, if the women in publishing were doing any sort of decent job suppressing men, yet the evidence shows a very balanced split between authors of both genders, slightly favoring men.
Kearns’ opinions about the publishing industry put far too much stake in gender, which many have shown is far more fluid than a hard-and-fast designation that determines future actions. While the industry has managed to successfully adapt to the ‘techno-revolution,’ Kearns seems unable, perhaps due to his “aversion” towards young people and inability to work with women.
The only agents available are female these days. But I refuse to crawl to anyone, male or female. They put that down as "condescension" to a "female agent" I mean, it almost sounds like a traffic ticket. Lol.
— David Kearns (@Davez_not_here) April 6, 2018
Hopefully, Kearns’ skin is as thick as the literary agent he described as an “erstwhile grommet,” which seems likely as he thanked everyone including the “haters” for participating, and appeared to enjoy the increased Twitter attention.
I was criticizing an erstwhile, grommet literary agent and I think if she has a thick skin she can take it. If she can't well, maybe she can become a whiny writer
— David Kearns (@Davez_not_here) April 2, 2018