What’s your worse nightmare? Losing everything you’ve worked hard for? Being unable to provide for your family? Having to explain to your children why you can’t come through this time? Well, for many authors signed under Leo Sullivan Presents, the end of last year began the saga that became their worst nightmare. On or about November 22nd, 2019, Amazon began to remove books associated with Leo Sullivan. As a result, companies even remotely associated with his name and brand had their books taken down. Over the course of the next several weeks, thousands of books from hundreds of authors were removed from Amazon. Needless to say, many authors and readers were in a frenzy (see Figure 1).
Initially, Mr. Sullivan told his authors and the umbrella companies under him, who are 99 percent women of color, nothing substantial to explain the event. He provided no reason for the suspension, saying that he had no idea what was going on and was in meetings to try to figure it out (see Figure 2). Yet weeks passed by and his only explanation consisted of him allegedly claiming that Amazon was against him because he was a successful black man. According to him, it was nothing more than that. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aVXrgrtu6JpwUV2vJE2ig-KXwpkrcqM2/view?usp=sharing
Still, more time passed, and no one had gotten paid, though Leo promised that they would (see Figures 3 and 4). When authors and even frustrated readers went to Amazon directly, they were basically to told contact the publisher to find out what happened. In essence, Amazon washed their hands of any responsibility, leaving these writers, their children, and their families, without the money they’d worked so hard to earn during Christmas and the New Year.
I was subsequently contacted by a group of authors published under Leo Sullivan Presents, who refer to themselves as “The Pen Sisters.” This is their story. It has become a publishing nightmare; fiction even their imagination couldn’t create. After several interviews, tons of research, fact-checking, and pouring over countless screenshots, texts, and voicemails, it’s time that America hears their story.
It is important to note that each of these ladies’ claims has been verified, and where applicable, shared below. I will not report anything that I cannot prove through paperwork, screenshots, or videos. Please note, that there is extremely graphic language in some of these exchanges. I’ve chosen the milder of them to release. This written interview is a follow-up to the on-air interview that Backwards & In High Heels, The Podcast (which I co-host with Jenny Gattone) did with Author Ebony Diamonds.
Much of the information in this article has been posted publicly online, while other parts have not yet been revealed. Despite this, the safety of these authors and preserving the integrity of their portfolios is my number one priority. Ebony bravely volunteered to reveal her identity. The other pen sisters do not wish to be named, even by their Pen Names. Allegedly, Leo has threatened these young women with his publishing house lawyers, withheld royalty checks in exchange for their silence, and even went as far as boldly telling one of the ladies he would post her work on other platforms, and continue to collect royalty checks, regardless (see Figure 5).
When I contacted Leo and asked for a statement, he declined (see Figure 6). Nevertheless, it’s not about him at this point. He and his wife have had plenty of opportunities and platforms to speak their version of the truth. At some point, he will have to provide a defense for his actions; this is not that place.
My goal is not to convict him in the court of public opinion, but rather to allow those who are afraid to speak directly to voice their concerns and their truth anonymously. That way, they do not have to live in fear of retribution.
To date, it is alleged that he has refused to let many out of their contracts, and only a couple of weeks ago, removed their books from his reading app, the LiT Reader, which has some less than favorable reviews. Still, more authors are being added daily, some even reportedly against their will or without their consent.
For those authors who did get their books back, somehow their edited material has allegedly disappeared, leaving them to pay for edits out of pocket that they’ve already compensated their publisher for. To put this in perspective, authors agree to give publishers a percentage of their monthly earnings (usually 50 percent) in exchange for several products and services, including covers, formatting, and editing (You can view Ebony’s contract here, which is exactly identical to every other author signed with Leo Sullivan Presents. Pay attention to Miscellaneous XI. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GaqbD_rKQPhh0GwmoEXYk0qYUXQWbYvq/view?usp=sharing).
Many of the authors made thousands, some even tens of thousands, in monthly earnings. The cost of editing can range between $200 and $800, depending on what the author may need. In any case, they’ve paid for those edits several times over at this point and should absolutely have them. I’d hope that any editor who worked for Leo Sullivan Presents would send these authors their edits as soon as they could, to assist them during this difficult time.
On or about January 7th, 2020, Ebony received a text response from Leo Sullivan Presents’, assistant, Tina Nance. According to Ebony, she originally asked for the release of her rights and contract, to which Tina allegedly replied that she was going to check with Leo.
As of this time, he has agreed to release Ebony from her contract but did not give her an update on the release of her book rights, which will allow her to publish them on her own, using other platforms. If he doesn’t release them, that means every single book Ebony has published under his company is his, and she can no longer earn money from them.
To provide context on what that means as an artist; there were over fifty-five pieces of urban fiction published with Leo Sullivan Presents under Ebony Diamonds’ pen name, spread out over a five-year period that she may or may not get back. And if she does get them back, her edits may have disappeared, so could potentially be paying for each out of pocket.
This is part one of the expose’. There was so much information that it was impossible to fit it into one article, so I’ll be bringing you a new installment each week until I cover everything. With that being said, let’s dive in, there’s a lot of ground to cover!
According to my sources, in 2011, Sullivan Productions LLC was created, where Leo would dabble in filmmaking. Fast forward one hundred books, a feature film, and launching the #1 Urban publishing house in the nation later, and here we were in 2019. Allegedly, eighty-seven authors and six elite publishers were listed on Leo Sullivan Presents (LSP) website. LSP holds the contracts of Ebony and the rest of “The Pen Sisters” work.
So why was Leo really terminated and prohibited from publishing on Amazon with not one, but ALL of his companies? The reasons may vary. According to one author (who owned a publishing company under Leo), it was because he violated Amazon’s rules (see Figure 7). Her claim is substantiated by Amazon’s feedback directly to Mr. Sullivan (see Figure 8).
Could it have anything to do with the fact that he used unsuspecting authors and readers to go and swipe pages on Kindle Unlimited to earn the one cent per page swipe commission (see Figure 17)? Not only did he allegedly prey on new authors and readers to cheat the system, but he was also using illegal software, which was a huge violation of the Amazon TOS (Terms of Service) clearly displayed on their website and searchable via Google, under “Publishing on Amazon.” Could the motive have been to increase profits and retain the title of the #1African American Ebook Publisher?
What’s worse is that several credible sources allege that he used these unsuspecting new authors for page views, knowing it was illegal for them to do so, though they probably had no idea they were doing anything wrong. According to my sources, one of his more popular schemes was that he would claim there was a gift card at the end of the book they could claim to encourage people to click all the way through. He labeled it “support.” So, a warning to all authors: if you are currently with Leo Sullivan Presents or Royalty Publishing House and you are being asked to click through someone’s book in exchange for a gift card at the end, please stop it! You are running a risk of having your account shut down!
If it wasn’t the illegal software, maybe it was the multiple accounts. While one cent per page view doesn’t seem like a lot of money, if you have three accounts (the only two I’ve been able to verify that were connected to him are Leo Sullivan and Kim Jones) reading 200,000 pages each day on each account, that money adds up. Of course, there are many ways for him to have a presence on Amazon without us ever knowing it’s him, or him ever even logging into the account. It has been rumored that he still has authors who are uploading old releases on their accounts and giving him part of the money, which again violates Amazon’s standards.
To further exacerbate a bad situation, Leo Sullivan allegedly refused to answer questions from readers (see Figure 9) or authors (see Figures 10 and 11) about what really happened publicly. Instead, those he chose to speak to, would be via phone call. Perhaps because it was a place where he could tailor his responses to appease the person on the other end of the line. I must admit, he does have a way with words and can talk his way into or out of nearly anything. Instead of addressing things publicly, he allegedly asked Ebony Porter-Ike, President of epi Media Group, LLC to send out a memo to his authors addressing frequently asked questions (see https://drive.google.com/file/d/18j9CVMdKOEdYmx_gTxj851hlNdAmgWXs/view?usp=sharing).
In the frequently asked question section of the memo, the following information can be found:
Needless to say, the authors had an extreme reaction to the email (see Figure 12), which had Leo apologizing for the misstep (see Figure 13).
Allegedly refusing to let them out of their contracts, to publish independently, and nearly forced to keep writing or else, at least these authors could rest assured that Leo would ensure they got paid, as he’d promised (see Figures 4 and 14). Until he changed his mind, reportedly saying he’d never told them that, (see Figure 15). Instead of paying these authors as he agreed to, he had a series of excuses. One was that Amazon hadn’t sent out the reports yet, though that was quickly debunked and challenged by authors (see Figures 16 and 17). My sources have also indicated that he’d have authors call, so he could ask how much they needed to make it through the holidays and sending them that instead of the amount they were actually owed. Reportedly, further attempting to manipulate the situation by making the authors feel they owed him their loyalty.
Another point of contention was bonuses for authors who performed well. Amazon pays out a substantial bonus for authors who hit the top of the charts. These authors are called “Kindle All-Stars” (see Figure 18). Yet Leo allegedly never mentioned this to any of his authors. When they found out about this bonus, his explanation was that he kept them reinvest in his company (see Figure 19).
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by this situation. Authors, their families, the author support services, etc. all took a huge hit last year. To the readers: support authors! Don’t discontinue your Kindle Unlimited accounts. They are all rebuilding and need you now more than ever. Join the author fan pages, so you can keep track of their latest releases and buy them. If your favorite isn’t writing, message them and ask if they have a Cashapp, so you can send them a donation. Every little bit helps, especially for those who have had to obtain legal representation to either get the rights to their work back or in response to lawsuits.
Leo Sullivan Production Books Forum on Amazon:
https://www.amazonforum.com/forums/digital-content/kindle-books/530417-leo-sullivan-productions-books Donate to Ebony: https://www.gofundme.com/f/1uw8nj0ihc?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet
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