Indigo River Publishing is a mid-size traditional book publishing company located in Pensacola, Florida. Cofounded by Dan Vega, Indigo River Publishing has published multiple best-sellers in its six years of business.
I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the cofounders, Dan Vega, and learn more about how a serial entrepreneur and a writer with a dream started a book publishing company on a shoestring budget and with virtually no experience in the industry.
When did you start Indigo River Publishing?
“We officially opened our doors in June 2011, but it started a couple years prior to that. The inception of Indigo River occurred on a plane ride home from New York on a napkin where we wrote down the whole vision we had for it.”
What motivated you to start Indigo River Publishing?
“I met a guy named Adam when I was in the seminar business for almost 10 years full-time. He came to my seminars and we became friends, and one day he asked if I would mentor him. I told him if he gave me a year to mentor him, then I would back him and help him get his business started. He was a trained writer from the Institute of Children’s Literature and his aspiration was to go into publishing, so at the end of the year, I honored my deal and we started Indigo.”
What was the toughest thing you went through when first opening?
“Honestly, figuring out what to do. Adam knew about editing and writing but we didn’t know really anything about publishing. So I told him, “I’ll pay the bills for six months, you figure out how to be a book publisher.” Adam successfully built some relationships with the big “New York Five” and things progressed from there. Really everything was a struggle, it was a new business for us.”
How important have good employees been to the success of your business?
“Good employees have been crucial to our success. We look at about 40 to 50 manuscripts per month and we only take on three projects each month and 35 new authors per year. To be sure we’re choosing the right ones and mitigating risk, we have to rely on great people – everyone has to do their job. We’ve been very fortunate not only in finding great people, but also developing people and its served us well.”
If you could to start over from Day One, would you do anything differently?
“I’m not sure if we would have done anything differently. Honestly, whenever I go into a business venture, I always expect to succeed. Where we are now has exceeded our expectations and we’re legitimately competing with the big New York publishers. So I don’t think i would change much. I’m sure there were a few projects we took on where we didn’t know what we were getting into. But we figured out how to refine our strategy and make those projects successful, so no regrets.”
What’s the toughest part about having a book publishing business in 2017?
“Probably all of the misconceptions about book publishing, which is largely due to how transparent the world has become because of the internet and social media. We follow certain writing groups and on many occasions when we take on a new author, we have to tell them to stop attending those groups because there’s so much negativity and speculation of book publishers about the way they operate, what they want to see, needing a literary agent, having to this, having to do that… A lot of it is not true, its just that no one really gets to talk to a publisher. So by the time we get an author on the phone, they have so many misconceptions and bad information that we almost have to go through a process of de-brainwashing and helping them unlearn all the false things they’ve been hearing so we can actually explain to them them how the industry works, how royalties work and how a book publisher actually operates.”
If an author had to choose between Indigo River Publishing and other book publishers, why would you suggest they work with you?
“First of all, there are very few mid-size traditional publishers in the United States. 95% of book publishing is self-publishers, which is really just taking your book to a printer. Now why an author should choose us over one of the big New York guys, is that being a little bit smaller, we are definitely more responsive. In my opinion, many of the bigger publishers have taken their foot off the gas when it comes to marketing. They might put you through distribution, but until their author sells five or ten thousand copies, they don’t really get engaged. Being smaller, all of our books have to turn a certain amount of profit so we can out-hustle the big guys. Our motto is leave no stone unturned when it comes to the marketing, which is 95% of a book’s success. In short, we can provide premium quality products but the marketing is where you really get the difference.”
Excluding Indigo River Publishing, what company or business do you admire most?
“I really give my hat off to Apple. Obviously Steve Jobs was an innovator and an amazing human being. But since his passing, the company has done a really good job to stay current. What I think they do better than most is they really find out what people want and then give it to them. Regarding that, I think the difference between sales and marketing is effective marketing will actually take you to the point of sale, and then when you can’t do that, then you have to hire salespeople to help you get there. But Apple has such effective marketing that they can take it all the way to the point of sale, and the reason that they do so is they really listen to the needs of people and then they provide it.”
Has anyone been a source of inspiration in your life?
“In general, many people have inspired me. In business, I’ve had a lot of great mentors. One person in particular is Bill Bartman. At one time I think he was in the Top 25 of the Forbes richest persons list. But he was really a great person. Some of the things he knew about business and about strategy would have taken me a lifetime to figure out. I would sit there and listen to him, and things he said were so profound, I’m thinking, “How would anyone ever figure that out?” So I think that mentorship saved me years in the game of me trying to trial-and-error it, so to speak, and make it on my own.”
About Dan Vega
Dan is an entrepreneur, first and foremost. In his off-time, he studies business and attends business seminars. “That probably sounds really sad,” he says, “but that’s the honest-to-God truth.” He enjoys spending time with his family in the mornings and on the weekends. Other than that, he’s a grinder. “I truly enjoy studying business and strategies. It’s fun for me,” he says.
About Indigo River Publishing
Founded in 2011, Indigo River Publishing is a modern and progressive publishing house and believes in a more dynamic and entrepreneurial approach to the building and marketing of books.
Indigo River Publishing