WritersWeekly Warnings Report

Date Filed: 07/03/02
Company: Lee Shore Literary Agency / Lee Shore Agency, Ltd. / Sterling House Publishing / SterlingHouse Publisher Inc. / sterlinghousepublisher.com / leeshoreagency.com


UPDATE - 11/06/02:

Re: January's Heat and Heaven's Luck - my two novels published by SterlingHouse

Initial reading fee for my first novel, January's Heat, and editing cost was in line with all other complaints in your WritersWeekly.com Warnings. My problem is royalty checks. My latest, Heaven's Luck, has been out for over a year and I know for a fact 100's if not 1000's have been sold and I have yet to see any royalty money. Several phone calls and e-mails have all gone unanswered.

Cynthia Sterling did actually call me a few months back and talked for an hour but like all other conversations... little was said of substance. Cynthia can sell an icebox to an eskimo.

Harold Hester
aka - Hess
http://haroldhester.com

PUBLISHER RESPONDS:

Ms. Hoy;

In accordance with SterlingHouse Publisher Incorporated's publishing contract, royalty statements are due May 1 and November 1 of each year. Mr. Hester received his May statement on time. He will receive his November statement on time. All figures in these statements are correct and accounted for.

Our records indicate that Mr. Hester's phone calls and e-mails have been answered.

Mr. Hester was contacted by SterlingHouse regarding his statement about his sales figures. He has not yet responded.

Cynthia Sterling, CEO

WRITER RESPONDS:

In response to your note and Cynthia's comments:

Good evening Angela - -

I have two novels - January's heat and Heaven's Luck. January's Heat was published in 1999 and to date I have received about $200 in royalties. The last check was "about" the summer of 2001. Heaven's Luck was released in August 2001 and I received a statement about 2-3 months later (I am in Missouri, 1,016 miles away from my records and files. These dates are from memory). The "statement" was for Heaven's Luck only and was for an amount under $2.00.

I called one of the Jennifers (there are 3 Jennifers there.) (All nice to chat with but none give information or help other then, "...you will have to talk to Cynthia about that...".) at SH asking the number of copies my novels had sold. They could not give me a number. I called at least three times asking Jennifer (don't remember her last name) about the total numbers sold - she never gave me a figure. Cynthia called me around July or early August 2002 (a full year after Heaven's Luck had been released, talked for an hour but could not tell me the number copies of either of my novels that had been sold).

It would be interesting to know the "correct" numbers sold. I have a mailing list of over 20,000 that a bit over 10% have told me they were or have bought my books. Who does SH answer to? How does any publisher know exact numbers sold???? and accounted ?

"Our records indicate that Mr. Hester's phone calls and e-mails have been answered."

Not so.... but I am away from my home computer and cannot give dates and numbers of e-mails NOT answered, but it's at least four e-mails NOT answered during the last 3 months. Maybe if they were to forward what they said they answered to you - you could verify dates. You have my permission to read any and all correspondence between SH and myself that they will make available to you.

You have MY TOTAL PERMISSION to read my mail and their response - if there was any!!!!!!! My home computer has the mail in my filing cabinet and I cannot access it from Missouri.

"Mr. Hester was contacted by SterlingHouse regarding his statement about his sales figures."

If this says that Cynthia called me she did.. BUT she gave me NO figures. NONE!!!

"He has not yet responded."

If I have been contacted - I am not aware of it. My snail mail is forward to me here in Missouri and I am on-line daily to open e-mail.

Seems a simple solution to me for SH just to forward all correspondence to you. If not, than it's a pissing contest of he said - she said.

Fact: I have received NO royalty money for going on 2 years and SH has not or can not tell me number of copies sold for either of my books.

Hess

WRITER FURTHER CLARIFIED NON-RECEIPT OF ROYALTY INFO:

Hi Angela,

January's heat was co-authored with Pat McCarthy. Heaven's Luck was my solo novel.

January's Heat was published in 1999. To date Pat and I have received less then $130 for January's Heat. Over a year ago Pat received a royalty check for $46.00 that she was immediately notified it had to be return because SterlingHouse had made a mistake.

If memory serves.... I received a statement on January's Heat a year or so ago that no copies had been sold for the reporting period so royalties were $00.00.

Heaven's Luck was released in August 2001 and I received a statement (no check) during the fall 2001 for less the $2.00 (two).

I have still NOT been told total numbers of copies printed for either book or copies sold.

SterlingHouse has not answered any of my last four e-mails so apparently they are not talking to me anymore. Can you ask them a question for me??? I am negotiating a movie deal for Heaven's Luck. The question.... "If I get a movie... what will be SterlingHouse's role....?" I have asked them this question but have not yet received an answer.

UPDATE - 07/10/02:

We were contacted last week by a current Lee Shore client. He praised their service and then listed the five books he has written. After the list, this sentence appeared in his email:

"All of the above books were placed by Lee Shore"

We searched for the five books online and below is what we found. After we sent the email below to the author, he opted to "get out of this battle." Therefore, we have omitted the names of his books to protect his anonymity. He did, however, state that Lee Shore was up front with him about his "options."

Hi [author's name],

I went looking for your books online and this is what I found:

1. [Book #1] was published by Northwest Publishing - was a subsidy publisher (not a traditional publisher) before going bankrupt. The owner went to jail.
http://www.sfwa.org/beware/Northwest.html
http://www.utb.uscourts.gov/LocalOpinions/opin.htm

That's the only Northwest Publishing Inc. I can find. Was your book published by another company with the same name?

2. [Book #2] was published by Commonwealth Publications, Inc., which was ordered to pay their victims (authors) $10,000,000. See:
http://www.nwu.org/book/common4.htm
http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/pubop011.htm
http://www.bbb.org/alerts/canpublish.asp

That's the only Commonwealth Publications, Inc. I can find. Was your book published by another company with the same name?

3. [Book #3] was published by Sterling House...owned by the same people as Lee Shore. This book was not placed with a traditional publisher. It was "published" by your agent.

4. [Book #4] was published by Aegina Press, a subsidy press.
http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/peba.htm
http://www.geocities.com/ebyame/warning.html
http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/index.php?t=97
http://www.mysteryvault.net/ShortOrder/v02n02.htm

That's the only Aegina Press I can find. Was your book published by another company with the same name?

5. [Book #5] will be published by Sterling House in June, 2002. Again, that's the "publisher" owned by your agent.

Angela Hoy
WritersWeekly.com



Summary:

Lee Shore and Sterling House Publishing are owned and operated by the same individual. Cynthia Sterling. Under the Lee Shore Literary Agency her modus operandi is this: She charges a reading fee for material submitted to her. She also has an in-house editorial service that is also a costly endeavor. She has never placed a book with a well-known publisher. She bills monthly for sending out manuscripts to "publishers." It's an ongoing income.

She is known on sites such as Writer Beware and is found throughout the internet with a multitude of complaints.

http://www.publishamerica.com/cgi-bin/pamessageboard/data/main/1949.htm

http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/index.php?t=272

I wrote an article on Writers Net and many responses to me concerned her and her attempts to separate new writers from their money. One individual was asked for six thousand dollars to edit a manuscript. She is not a member of the AAR and is no longer listed in Jeff Herman's Guide to Agents and Publishers. She does maintain a website, however I for one would not recommend her "services."

Ron Jenkins

WRITERSWEEKLY COMMENT:

When asked how much he is seeking as a refund, Ron wrote, "It's in the neighborhood of $2,500-$3,000. The editing fee alone was $1,000. She had the book about a year and a half. I was getting regular bills anywhere from $60 to $120.00 or in that neighborhood."

Response WritersWeekly received to its inquires into the matter:

PUBLISHER RESPONDS THROUGH THEIR ATTORNEY, STACEY VERNALLIS:

I received a phone call from the publisher's attorney, inviting me to their office to see how their operation runs. She said they have offered that to their critics before. I politely declined and mentioned that asking someone to drop their busy schedule to take a trip was not a reasonable request. I then requested they submit everything in writing concerning this complaint. She seemed hesitant to do so stating that we might misquote her. I assured her we would publish the entire contents of her emails, word-for-word.

WRITERSWEEKLY FOLLOW-UP EMAIL:

Hi all,

I must offer an apology. The three lines below about Sarah Anne Starr were from a previous complaint about another publisher that I left on the template. I'm sorry for this confusion.

However, the complaint submitted by Ron Jenkins is being investigated because:

1. Agents charging reading fees are, in our opinion, unfair. Agents should be profiting from selling books to publishers, not profiting from authors. Does Lee Shore charge a reading fee?

2. We've seen many accusations online that Lee Shore offers to edit manuscripts for an extremely high fee. Again, agents should be profiting from selling books to publishers, not profiting from authors. How much does Lee Shore charge to edit manuscripts?

3. Lee Shore is also Sterling House Publishers. If Lee Shore is also a publisher (or owns a publishing house or partners with it, or whatever type of wording you use for the Lee Shore/Sterling relationship), what incentive is there for Lee Shore to try to place books with a traditional publishing house (that does not charge editing fees and doesn't force an author to purchase copies of their own books)?

4. Is Sterling House a subsidy or vanity press? May we see a contract, please? Has Lee Shore ever "sold" a novel to Sterling House? How many novels by clients of Lee Shore are published by Sterling House? How many have been sold to legitimate, traditional publishers? How many Sterling House books were previously accepted by Lee Shore and edited, for a fee, by Lee Shore? Approximately how much does it cost to publish through Sterling House? What funds are required from the author? Does Lee Shore get an agent's percentage (or any percentage) of the revenues for books published by Sterling House?

Why isn't it stated on the Lee Shore website that you own/are affiliated with Sterling House?

Does the majority of Lee Shore's revenues come from authors or from royalties paid by publishers not owned by Lee Shore / Sterling?

On the Sterling website, there are approximately 134 books for sale. On the Lee Shore website, there are only 7 books listed as sold to publishers last year, only 2 in 2000, 1 in 1999 and 7 in 1998 Can you explain this?

Please respond in writing.

Angela

6/19/02 - PUBLISHER RESPONDS THROUGH THEIR ATTORNEY, STACEY VERNALLIS:

Thanks for the apology and the clarification. Apologies are rare these days. You have asked for allot of information. As I told you. The businesses are in the process of physically moving to a larger space today and tomorrow. Consequently, the companies will not be able to respond before next week. I am sorry if this conflicts with your deadlines. perhaps the editor can grant you and extension so that your research can be completed before you publish only half of the information that you require. You inquiries seem to suggest that perhaps your sources are confused by which entities offer what service. For example, your statement that Lee Shore is Sterling House is incorrect. These are separate businesses that happen to have common ownership. The distinction is important. I ties unfair to lump the activities of the companies together. they could not be more different. Lee shore and Sterling House offer entirely separate services and the contract that they enter into are not standard in the sense that they are one size fits all. The Sterling House clients often have diverse needs and make special requests. The same can be said for the Lee Shore clients.

Both businesses have a confidential relationship with clients. For example, when where and how much a particular client received for the publication of a book is not information that is generally available to the public. I assume that you are familiar with the fact that most publishing houses keep their clients and their contracts information confidential. I would help us greatly if you could confirm that the complaining client in question, will authorize to disclose to you the terms of their relationship with Sterling House or Lee Shore. for example, Mr. Jenkins has been avoiding calls and changing e- mail addresses with such rapidity that he hasn't been reachable. Can you ask him to write to us and confirm that he desires to have the terms of his relationship exposed? I need this assistance to protect the company form suit for violation of confidences.

I am not sure I understand your comment regarding the websites. I anything, the content should confirm how very separate the businesses are! I Lee Shore was offering only Sterling House has a publisher, then the Lee Shore agency would show that it has 134 sales to Sterling House.

Your inquiry gives us hope that there is at least one analyst interested learning and not merely reporting unsupported, critical backlash from mystery sources who refuse to come forward. We look forward to answering your questions. We may find that you and my clients in fact share different views. Nonetheless, I hope that by exchanging information, we can deepen your understanding of our business and the many satisfied writers who have been associated with Lee Shore and Sterling House. thanks for your time.

6/19/02 - WRITER RESPONDS:

Dear Angela,

I read the correspondence from Lee Shore Agency's legal representative. I would have no problem if "our deal" was exposed. I would especially like the part where I was told by Jennifer Piemme that 20 Hollywood casting agencies requested to see my full manuscript. This was a statement she repeated to me at least four times. She claims this occurred when they attended the convention in California. The National Booksellers Convention.

Also, would they like to expose the fact that they were looking at E-publishing as an alternative to getting a book published. E-publishing as we all know can be achieved without the help of an agent. This was also suggested to me.

Lee Shore Agency needs to make it clear exactly what it is they do. Lee Shore does charge fees. Fees from the minute you request a "manuscript critique."

There are plenty of complaints about Cynthia Sterling and Lee Shore on the Internet.

She stated that I have been hard to track down. I have had the same email address that I have always used. She knows this as I have emailed her and Jennifer from it and Jennifer actually replied in regards to not being contracted by them anymore. Why would Lee Shore want a current phone number for me? If they are willing to refund my money in full, then she is more then welcome to have it. I think the reason they would like to talk on the phone is because it's nothing in writing. It's nothing hard that can be used against them.

Thanks,
Ron.

6/19/02 - WRITERSWEEKLY RESPONDS TO PUBLISHER'S ATTORNEY:

You didn't answer any of my questions, so I will wait a week to see if anyone at Lee Shore or Sterling chooses to do so.

None of my questions requires your client to obtain any confidential or contractual information on any one author. The questions, as you can see, are all general in nature about the business practices of Lee Shore and Sterling. Please either answer my questions or refer me to someone who can so we can proceed with this investigation.

We are not investigating just one complaint. We are investigating your client's business practices as a whole.

You should also spell-check your emails. I had to re-read many of your sentences because the typos made them difficult to understand.

Angela Hoy
WritersWeekly.com

6/27/02 - WRITERSWEEKLY RESPONDS AGAIN:

Has Lee Shore decided not to answer our questions?

6/27/02 - PUBLISHER RESPONDS THROUGH THEIR ATTORNEY, STACEY VERNALLIS:

No. Iam in trial in a matter that lasted longer than expexted. I will be available next week

UPDATE: As of today, WritersWeekly.com has still not received answers to the questions above.

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