An Author Lost Her Book Deal After Tweeting About a Metro Worker. She’s Suing for $13 Million.

From The Washington Post:

Natasha Tynes, an award-winning Jordanian American author who lost a book deal following claims of online racism, is suing her publishing house for $13 million. The lawsuit, filed in California on Friday, alleges that Rare Bird Books breached its contract and defamed her, causing “extreme emotional distress” and destroying her reputation.

In 2018, Tynes contracted with Rare Bird to distribute her upcoming novel, “They Called Me Wyatt,” about a murdered Jordanian student whose “consciousness” inhabits a 3-year-old boy with speech delays. The book, written over four years, was set to be released this month.

That changed in May, when Tynes became the subject of a national and international news story.

On the morning of May 10, the World Bank communications officer and mother of three tweeted a photo of a black female Metro worker who was breaking the D.C. region transportation agency’s rules by eating breakfast on a train.

. . . .

“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes tweeted. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds,” she wrote.

By 10 a.m., less than 30 minutes later, Tynes had deleted the post and apologized for the “short-lived expression of frustration,” according to court documents. But the fuse of public outrage and ostracism had already ignited.

Tynes took the additional step of contacting the agency to ensure the employee would not be disciplined (and the complaint notes that no action was ever taken against the transit worker). Then, she spoke to Rare Bird executive Robert Jason Peterson and explained that, “having not grown up in the United States, the issue of race had not even occurred to her when she made the tweet.”

. . . .

Peterson, the filings said, reassured the writer and told her he did not blame her. “You’ll get through this, we’ve got your back,” he allegedly said to Tynes just before noon.

Hours later, Rare Bird released a statement, calling Tynes’s tweet — which it described as the policing of a black woman‘s body — “something truly horrible.”

As The Washington Post previously reported, in response to the tweet, Rare Bird announced it had decided not to distribute her book. “We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way,” the company announced on Twitter.

. . . .

“What Rare Bird has done to Natasha Tynes is just beyond abhorrent,” said attorney William Moran, who is representing Tynes. “I’ve never seen a publisher throw an author under the bus like this before.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Here’s what Rare Bird Books says about itself:

About Rare Bird

Rare Bird is the parent company of Rare Bird Books and Rare Bird Lit, two Los Angeles-based book industry firms founded by former Book Soup marketing and publicity director Tyson Cornell. Rare Bird Books, the publishing wing, is a PGW-distributed independent publisher of approximately fifty+ books each year in multiple formats, including print, ebook, audiobook, and limited edition. Rare Bird Lit, the services wing, is a boutique marketing, promotions, and design firm specializing in book industry services for major and independent publishers, authors big and small, and other organizations.


Since being founded as a home for authors and publishers seeking new ways of publishing and marketing books that deserve to be read, Rare Bird has made a commitment to dedicating itself to being a leader in: a) developing, designing, and publishing great works that exceed the overall expectations of what just words on a page can provide; b) working with authors and publishers as a cohesive unit rather than adversarial opponents; and c) expanding the limits of what books can offer the world.

. . . .

 Meet the Team

President and Publisher—Tyson Cornell oversees all aspects of publishing, acquisitions, and general business operations. He started Rare Bird after nine and a half years as marketing and publicity director at Book Soup bookstore in West Hollywood, California, working with thousands of legendary authors, and major political and cultural figures, including: Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Gore Vidal, Lauren Bacall, John Updike, Isabel Allende, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Maya Angelou, Hunter S. Thompson, and over 15,000 others. He studied Ethnography at UCLA and Cal State University, Northridge, and is now approaching his eighteenth year in the book industry.

Sales and Marketing Director—Julia Callahan oversees all aspects of sales, distribution, marketing, and author relations. Prior to joining the Rare Bird team, she worked for four years as Tyson Cornell’s marketing and publicity assistant at Book Soup where she helped coordinate thousands of events each year, notably The Doors’ 40th Anniversary, Ralph Steadman, Tony Curtis, and many others. Before that, she worked as an associate at Paramount Studios on The Dr. Phil Show and Star Trek. She grew up in Santa Cruz and has a BA in English.

Editorial Director—Guy Intoci oversees all aspects of the editorial and production departments. Before joining Rare Bird in 2017, he was the editor in chief of Dzanc Books. He began his career as an editor at MacAdam/Cage Publishing after earning his degree in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, and also served as editor in chief of MP Publishing. Over the last decade he has worked with countless authors, ranging from some of the most promising and exciting debut writers to New York Times Bestselling authors and Pulitzer Prize winners, including Kirstin Allio, Rick Bragg, Robert Coover, William Gay, Jac Jemc, Charles Johnson, Lee Martin, Josip Novakovich, Jack Pendarvis, Nic Pizzolatto, and George Singleton.

Link to the rest at Rare Bird Books

Has anybody heard of these people before? Or any of their books?

31 thoughts on “An Author Lost Her Book Deal After Tweeting About a Metro Worker. She’s Suing for $13 Million.”

  1. “What Rare Bird has done to Natasha Tynes is just beyond abhorrent,” said attorney William Moran, who is representing Tynes. “I’ve never seen a publisher throw an author under the bus like this before.”

    Brand new to the business, William?

  2. I actually own one of their books, though if you’d asked me I couldn’t have told you the publisher.

  3. It’s looking more and more true that in the future, everyone will be the subject of a Two-Minute Hate. For whatever reason, some now think it good to deprive people of their livelihood if they disapprove of them. I guess it’s all fine and well if the people who have that attitude are the only ones bearing the consequences of it.

    But it would be nice if manners, and humility, and charity came back into vogue. Oh, and intestinal fortitude. The Predator must have gone to the offices of Rare Bird books and ripped out a few spines.

  4. Just speaking in general, when a company executive, a politician or anyone else with power says, “We’ve got your back,” they’re usually looking for where to stick the knife.

  5. All I know is that if she wins, I’m going to start submitting to traditional publishers, confirm my social media account works, and make sure I’m riding the train every day…

  6. This is a horrifying story. To think that a short-lived tweet like that (maybe an expression of poor judgement, maybe not) could lead to the kinds of consequences it did terrifies me. Especially in light of the countless truly evil things spewed online, how could the twittermob turn so viciously on this woman?

    • NYC Publishing culture.
      It’s what they do, it’s what they are.
      She is far from the first, won’t be the last.
      The “trigger” doesn’t even have to be real; a misread or outright lie will do as an excuse.

      • Rare Bird and California Coldblood Books is a small (<10 employees?) California company. Hardly NYC publishing culture. I heard that They Called Me Wyatt itself was pretty much a friends and family seller, although I couldn't substantiate that. Probably not now, since they only withdrew paper and left it available on Kindle Unlimited and it's now 447 in Contemporary Fantasy Fiction. Nice PR move, but, unless the book is actually good, not sustainable.

        • They moved west?;)
          Certainly threw her under the bus in classic NYC style.
          It’s not as if the book had anything to do with the “scandal”.

  7. I note that the tweet was criticizing BEHAVIOR of an INDIVIDUAL.

    Of course, these days there are no individuals, only collectives. So this became an attack on an entire racial group (and gender, for bonus points). A racial group (and gender) that is designated as a “victim” collective. If this had been a white male, on the other hand…

    Never heard of the publisher before. Now that I have, they have joined the “no buy” list and “tell everyone I know that they are garbage” list.

    • Also, does anyone think that the Washington Post would be reporting this as favorably if the author was not a female minority?

      Maybe I’m being uncharitable, but I’m skeptical.

  8. That’s like when I was at the Highway Department.

    People would see someone in a State truck, parked, eating lunch, or doing paperwork and complain to the General Office.

    It never occurred to them that the truck was the person’s office, and they had every right to eat their lunch or do paperwork.

    The other example. Someone sees a guy leaning on a shovel, and complains to the General Office. Clearly, the person complaining has never used a shovel in their life.

    What needs to happen is someone needs to show up to where she is working at her desk and start complaining. Then see how she likes it. HA!

    • What those yahoos don’t realize is that the state doesn’t dare leave the truck unattended – too may cases of an idiot trying to ‘play’ with one and hurting themselves or someone else (never mind the property.) That ‘lazy bum’ leaning on a shovel is keeping still more idiots from falling into pits or into equipment.

      My own story of an idiot trying to make me pay for their being stupid was while I was living in an apartment complex in ’85. Hearing a small child screaming their head off, I go outside and find a two or three year-old running back and forth crying away. Don’t know for sure, but he might have missed his turn and plowed into the edge of the bumper on my ’72 pickup – putting a nice notch in his ear (and you know haw those bleed.) ‘Mommy’ comes running around the corner and tells me she needs my name because she’s going to sue me for her kid’s injury (never stopping to actually check on her kid.)

      I doubt she liked the look in my eye at that point – nor me smiling and saying I needed her name and address too – so I could call child protective services and advise them of an idiot letting her two-year-old run around in a busy parking lot – and being more interested in suing than in taking care of said injured child.

      Funny thing, I never heard another word about it …

      The more things change the more they stay the same.

    • Think this might be a case of the system enforcing a rule on everyone but their own?

    • This is why there are pen names. She can come back – just not as she was. (Though I’ve noticed some things have a half-life if you let them just lie there. Suing though will help prop it up long past the trial – if there is one.)

    • Actually, we’re already running up against a limit there. Google beginning to de-index a lot of pages more than ten years old now; the other search engines are probably doing the same.

      Even as cheap as storage and access are now, it still costs *some* money, and the Web is so vast, it adds up. The search engines’ business is selling ads, not indexing the Web; indexing is a sales tool for them, not their reason for being.

      The pages are still there, but finding them becomes much harder when the search engines ignore them.

      For that matter, link rot comes to all pages eventually, I’ve watched too many business sites, blogs, and entire forums vanish with no more than a bunch of 404s and a handful of partial pages on (note: search engines tend to ignore; best to go there and search directly if something has vanished)

  9. Nobody expects the Twitter mob, as they almost said on Monty Python.

    Allynh’s point is the only one I’ve seen that makes some sense to me, though I suspect there’s no Metro worker exception to the rule. She copied in @mwta & I’ve not heard what the response was . If any.

    I don’t know how good her hand is, but it appears she has openers. I hope she wins.

  10. This is the kind of story that gives lawyering up a bad name. It also is bad journalism, but that is par for the course.

    She may or may not have a breach of contract claim. It depends on what is in the contract. This could, in theory, entitle her to whatever she would have earned from the book, which is unlikely to be much. She has the burden of proof.

    The $13 Million bit comes from the “extreme emotional distress” tort claim. Good luck with that. She had the burden of proof here, too.

    This all plays into the notion that you can collect millions if someone makes you sad. This is risible on its face, but many people hold to it as a deeply held article of faith. They often hold themselves out as peculiarly virtuous in that they were sad once, and chose to forgo collecting their millions.

    This brings us to her lawyer. How is he being paid? Is he billing his hours, or is he working on contingency? Either way, the best possible face to put on it is that the lurid $13 Million garbage is a bid to pump up a bit of nuisance value. Here is my firm prediction: This turkey is never going to trial.

  11. She probably wasn’t being racist, but massively insensitive. For all she knew, this Metro worker might be working two jobs to support her family in what is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, and didn’t have time to eat at home. This was excellent lesson in why you should mind your own business, especially if you don’t know what the other person’s story is.

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