If you’ve been looking for my last release, Nothing Better Than This Hood Love, or the part 2, the finale, that was supposed to come out on 11/30, you probably realized that neither book is available online. You probably noticed that none of my books are available (except for a few paperback versions). You probably also noticed that books published through my publishing company, Royalty Publishing House, aren’t available either.
First, I want to apologize for the inconvenience. Many of you use your love for reading for pleasure, for escape or to release stress and now, a lot of the books that you planned to read are no longer available. Secondly, I want to take this time to dispel some of the rumors and explain a few things with some of the readers (and authors) who follow my work as well as the company and the authors who make up Royalty Publishing House.
Rumor #1: I unpublished all of Royalty’s books because I want them to be solely on the LiT Reading App.
This is one rumor that I’m still scratching my head about… honestly. I’m not at all sure where it comes from because it literally makes no sense. The LiT app is open to all authors of any genre and many Royalty authors were using the app as a way to write creatively in other genres while releasing the Urban Romance novels, that their readers know and love. Not only does it make no sense from a business perspective to suddenly make this move when the majority of our Royalty readers are used to finding our books on online, it’s mind-blowing to think that, as a businesswoman, I’d deliberately sabotage myself and my authors.
Rumor #2: Something fraudulent was done (by either by myself, Leo-my husband and publisher of Leo Sullivan Presents, or someone on our team) to which led to our companies being ‘investigated’.
If I were to count the amount of times I’ve heard someone say that some kind of magic spell is used to make certain books sell (and others not), I would be counting for a very, very, very long time. Assuming that something like this is true not only overlooks how much time we spend working, reading, and testing out other areas of business for our companies, but it discounts the efforts and abilities of our team. We have really, really good authors who write very well and work very hard to build up their brands. We also have been blessed enough to be able to network with readers who enjoy many of the authors signed to one of our companies as well as the companies we’ve partnered with. No one has to perform magic spells to make good books sell to people who love to read.
I frequently do giveaways and contests to shine light on new releases by new authors. Never have I conducted any contests promising payment in exchange for 5-star reviews nor have I promised reimbursement or payment for purchases. Each of our books ask for readers to leave reviews — honest feedback only. All authors sign contracts attesting to the fact that they are the sole creators of the books they send in for publishing, and I do not stuff books with hundreds of pages of random things at the end in order to manipulate sales.
Rules on what you can and can’t do to promote books change often and, as authors and publishers, I’ve always tried to keep up with them. At one point, we were told that we couldn’t give away books for free in exchange for reviews (not counting ARCs which are given in advance of books being published) and that we had to use one specific giveaway tool so that they’d know which reviews came from people who received free copies. Then this tool was recently removed from our publishing platform’s website, but no clarity was given on whether publishers could go back to giving away free books as a promotional tool. For that reason, we nixed that and decided to give away prizes to readers who had already shown their support for new releases. Now it seems that there is no answers on whether or not that can be done so I will probably end contests as a whole unless they are done through the LiT Reading App.
Rumor #3: I unfairly lock my authors in their contracts and withhold their payments until they fall in line with my demands.
This is one thing I’ve never spoken on because it’s a matter of business and, specifically, concerns contract disputes which is an issue of legality and not public opinion. However, I’ve been tagged, inboxed, and emailed frequently by readers who have been told things that aren’t true so I’ll shed some light on the issue. For about eight months I’ve been silent while another individual has been on a whole tirade. The more I keep my silence, the more bogus 😳 the story gets.
At one point, I was told that I said to my authors “If ya’ll want out of your contracts, go get a f—- lawyer.” One big problem with that… I don’t curse. 😐 In my books? All the time! But that’s not even how I speak. And I definitely don’t tell anyone that I made them a bestseller, put food on their tables, kept their lights on and own the air they breathe, which means they owe me. At the end of the day, authors sign with a company for a reason and publishers sign authors for a reason. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that only works if both parties put in work. I don’t discount the effort that authors put into creating their books and perfecting their craft and I would hope they wouldn’t discount my efforts, or my team’s efforts, in publishing their material.
As far as contracts… I’ve made videos on this. But in case you haven’t seen those, I’ll revisit the topic.
When it comes to contracts, every author that I’ve signed is told to thoroughly review it. I encourage authors to have an attorney review it as well. *To clear up some incorrect information I’ve heard out there – a criminal justice attorney or anyone with “basic knowledge of the law” is not the best person to review a contract for you. Get an intellectual property attorney or at the very least someone who specializes in contracts.* The contract that I use is a standard publishing agreement, subject to change as long as both parties agree. As far as the number of the books in the contracts, authors have a choice where it concerns that as well. No one is forced into signing anything; as adults and professionals, everyone has a say when it comes to what they agree to. Once the contract is signed, it is still able to be changed. I’ve had authors who have signed contracts and then life happened so they ask for it to be renegotiated. I’ve always been open to that. I’m an author myself and I understand how life can affect your writing. For that reason, I’m always open to fair compromise.A contract is what you agree to during the best of times so that it's clear what needs to be done during the worst of times. Click To Tweet
Fortunately, in the almost six years that I’ve been a publisher, I’ve only had one instance where I refused to let an author out of a contract. Author A became upset with Author B having a cover concept that she felt was too similar to hers. I offered to work with Author B to change her cover but Author A said no, she was offended and wanted out of her contract immediately. Again, I refused and offered to shorten the length of the contract but Author A was adamant on wanting to be released, stating that she felt she’d ‘outgrown’ being with a publisher. Once it became clear that no compromise would be made, Author A took to her social media page and decided to engage in a long rant about how she was being forced into fulfilling a contract that she’d signed out of ‘loyalty’ and no longer wanted. 🤔 And… at that point, I was done with compromise. Like I said before, a contract is what you agree to during the best of times so that it’s clear what needs to be done during the worst of times. Once a smear campaign starts, the worst of times has begun because I don’t know anyone in the world who is willing to compromise at that point. Defleeee not me!
When I had my first publishing contract and I wanted to leave the company that I was with, I didn’t ask for my contract to be terminated. I signed it and I agreed to fulfill it–it didn’t matter that I woke up one day and felt like I wanted to do something else. As an adult and a professional, I gave my word so I focused on finishing what I needed to do in order to move on. Social media is not the way to handle disputes. More things could be solved by picking up the phone and giving someone a call. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be addressing this at all if people who matter (authors, readers) weren’t believing the lies that have been going on for months.
I think I said enough on that issue…
Oh wait…one more thing! Please stop believing everything you hear just because one person is loud, cursing and ranting and the other person is silent. Silence is not an admission of guilt. Sometimes silence just means that person feels like they have nothing to prove 🤷🏾♀️Silence is not an admission of guilt. Sometimes silence just means that person feels like they have nothing to prove. Click To Tweet
Rumor #4: I use a ghostwriter
Um… no 😐. I’ve written every single one of my books myself. People will make up anything these days.
So what now?
Unfortunately, an enormous amount of published books, a result of many years of blood, sweat and tears, are not currently available within the program where we’ve normally made them available. We are petitioning to have them placed for sale again but until that happens, we are publishing them on other platforms (LiT, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) until we can get all of this correct (which we hope will be soon).
The information we’ve received from this company about why our books were unpublished has been vague, especially since the several false and defamatory emails sent to initiate this entire process contained allegations of cult-like activities such as masterminded manipulation tactics, and ‘mind control’ of both authors and readers. The ‘mystery person’ (I put this in quotes because, thanks to IP addresses being traced, some things aren’t exactly a mystery anymore) created a story that all of these authors, who are now missing a huge chunk of their income right before the holidays, were being forced to write and/or plagiarize books and then create a bunch of different profiles posing as readers to make it seem like the books were getting read when they really weren’t. There were claims that all of the reviews for each book were fake, that the authors and publishers wrote them themselves and/or paid for 5-star ratings from people who had not even purchased or read them. Even as I type it, my expression is 🙄. The entire thing is ridiculous on so many levels. It’s insane that I even have to take time to address this or that someone would go to this level to punish so many authors with children, parents, and others who rely on them.
Prior to it becoming clear that a disgruntled person seeking revenge was behind this, I did think that this huge company had zeroed in on us small group of urban authors for some unknown reason and we tried to come up with possible reasons for it so that we could ask our authors and readers to take action. We asked readers to send emails about how many books they read, screenshot their kindles and show the books they’ve purchased/download… anything to prove they were real people who follow these authors. After all, we received absolutely no warning when this occurred. All of these books were unpublished at the same exact time that an email came through with one loaded question asking us to explain our high number of pages read. Our only explanation: We have a lot of writers who have a lot of readers who love their books and read them as soon as they are available. Many readers have contacted me and said they read 2 or 3 books a day. These authors also have very active reading groups, they engage with their readers, support each other’s releases and work really hard to promote their releases. They don’t have to write books and then create pages to purchase or review them. There is real proof that people love their work.
The response we received was that we needed to give more information. When we asked what exactly they wanted us to explain, we were told that it was sensitive information and no details about what exactly was being questioned could be disclosed.
So then we began to ask questions again about why, after all of the years of publishing without issue, these companies and these books were being targeted when other companies in other genres sell just as many books per day and even more without being questioned about how they are able to do it. Was it race? Was it because we were targeted by some automated bot that triggered this process? Was it because of some other error? We questioned our team, reviewed our last few releases, reviewed our paid ads, paid promos and came up with nothing.
And so here we are: continuously playing the game of sending email explanation after email explanation to explain something that we don’t complete understand and being told that it’s not enough but we can’t know why. Of course, we thought this company was singling us out for some reason–we weren’t given any warning, no second chance and no explanation (as is the usual route). But around Thanksgiving, it finally became clear that this was the doing of someone who created a story to get it all started and asked for anonymity after stating that they were afraid for their life. That’s when we finally realized why we weren’t getting any clear answers on why our books were unpublished without warning.
To be honest, it would make a great movie and/or a great book. It takes a special kind of human being to rant about someone for months and then say they are the one being picked on. In almost six years of publishing, I’ve had many disagreements but they’ve never become volatile. People disagree all the time and it’s okay. Not everyone who does business together has to be best friends. However, respect has always been given on my part and it’s expected from anyone I work with. I’ve never cursed anyone out. I’ve never threatened bodily harm, never blackmailed anyone, and (outside of this instance and under advisement of an attorney) never withheld an author’s payments for breach of contract. If ever I’ve been perceived as being disrespectful, it’s because I’ve felt disrespected.If ever I've been perceived as being disrespectful, it's because I've felt disrespected. Click To Tweet
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that only a mere week after a person was told by their attorney that they had no case and would have to fulfill the terms of their contract and release the books they’ve completed under Royalty that suddenly an email was written to have all of our books unpublished. I especially don’t think it’s a coincidence that after these books were unpublished, the person then went on to speak publicly about how I’m in breach of may responsibilities as a publisher for not having authors’ books published and how they should use this as grounds to get out of their contracts. It takes a special kind of person to go behind the scenes and do something malicious to so many people and then publicly pretend to sympathize with them. But… as this ‘mystery person’ stated: “If I gotta suffer so do everybody else.”
I’ve been taken advantage of many times in the past when I was at my lowest point so I know how that feels. I would never do that to someone else. My senior year of high school I was in a relationship that turned abusive and I had no idea how to get out of it. I was embarrassed to even admit what was happening behind the scenes and scared about what would happen if I told someone about it. Although I’d tried many times to end it, he knew where I went to school, where I lived and would threaten me into staying. When I finally graduated and went on to college, I thought that was my way out. I got an apartment with two other roommates, blocked numbers and went on with life, thinking that chapter of my life was closed. Unfortunately, a friend of mine betrayed my trust and one day, I arrived at my apartment to see my ex waiting for me in the parking lot. My roommates were home so I was able to escape that situation without major incident and then packed a few of my things and went back home the next day.
Then on New Years Eve of 2005, I decided to go out to dinner with friends who were in town for Christmas break. Once dinner was over, I had about 2 hours left before Watch-night Service began at my church. Since my apartment was less than a mile away from the restaurant, I decided to stop there before it was time to head over to church. I knew something was wrong the second I walked through the door. It was pitch-black dark (my roommates had gone home for Christmas break) and it smelled like someone had been smoking. I went upstairs to my room and when I turned on the light, there were holes punched in the wall, empty beer bottles on the floor. When I tried to turn around to leave, my ex jumped out from the closet and grabbed me. That night, I was beaten repeatedly and the only reason he stopped was because I said that I was pregnant (I wasn’t but it was the only thing I could think of to say). At that point, he told me that if I was really pregnant, I would call my aunt (who is like a mother to me) and tell her. I called her and did as he asked but she could sense something was wrong and asked if I was at my apartment. I told her yes and she hung up the phone. The next time she called me, she told me that she was in the parking lot and wanted to see me. If she had never done that, I’m certain that I wouldn’t have made it out of there alive.
Once that happened, I was afraid to stay alone so I put the apartment on a college roommate finder website to be sublet so that I could get out of my lease and explained the circumstances as to why I wanted to move. Someone replied that they wanted to help me, saying they would send me money orders to take over the lease for their daughter and I was relieved. The money orders came for much more than they should’ve been so I emailed to let them know and was told that it was a mistake so I should just cash them, deduct the fee for the apartment and then send back the extra money to them through Western Union 😒. This was an obvious scam but I was too young and desperate to recognize it. Needless to say, after almost going down for a crime I didn’t commit, I had (thankfully) never communicated with the person outside of email so I was able to use the paper trail to show my innocence. However, I ended up getting fired from my job, having to pay back the bank and was evicted from my apartment which I could no longer afford and wasn’t staying in. The person who scammed me probably went on to scam many other college students who didn’t know any better.
Preying on innocent people in their time of need, using money to establish control, and promising grandiose things I never plan to deliver isn’t me at all. Every potential deal that I’ve mentioned to my authors is most definitely something I plan to deliver on, if it makes sense financially and wouldn’t disrupt the amount of money they currently make. This is why I try out the process myself first. If it works, then I’ll bring others through it. If not, I’ll let them know that it seemed like a great idea but the outcome wasn’t what I expected, and then we’ll move on to the next thing.
And lastly, belittling people into feeling like I’m the sole one responsible for their success isn’t what I do. It’s not even in my nature to think that way, much less say something like that to someone. As a publisher, I have a role and responsibilities so I won’t allow anyone to make me feel like I don’t matter or make a difference at all but I also don’t ignore, downplay or discount the efforts of anyone else. Authors and publishers partner together, meaning authors do their part, I do my part and we hope for great results. If one didn’t benefit in any way from partnering with the other, then what was the point in doing business together to begin with? I try my best to be fair, flexible and understanding but I’m not going to be a pushover: I’m not going to fold just because someone decided to go to social media in order to attempt to embarrass, control or force me to move how they want me to move. And, at that point, I’m really not going to even halfway-try going out of my way to be nice about anything.
To anyone I may have offended with this post, I apologize. A lot of readers look to my page for positivity which is why I remain silent and usually ignore the things I hear but, at this point, I had to speak because many things have gotten out of hand. I understand that a lot of people are affected and they are searching for answers that they deserve to have about things that they aren’t at fault about. But when it gets to the point that authors are afraid to share their links to new releases for fear that someone is waiting in the shadows to report them in hopes to get them banned, things have gone to a level where it shouldn’t be. How can you, on one hand, claim to be the brave person speaking up to expose the wrong-doing in the publishing industry but, on the other hand, taunt authors about how you’ll make sure they get banned for life from writing, won’t receive any payments off of their future work, ridicule them for having the talent to write great books in a short amount of time and work in the background to make them afraid to even promote or release their own books?
To all authors affected by this craziness, understand that you don’t have any enemies over here. Understand that direct conversations work better than public vents, shady posts and one-sided accusations. These days, people will talk to everybody in the world before speaking to the person they have an issue with. At the end of the day, most things could be solved with a simple phone call.