Macon book publisher arrives at final chapter

Indigo Custom Publishing, a well-known Macon book publisher for nearly a decade, is out of business.

Lawsuits and liens totaling nearly $1 million were filed against the company last year, several authors say they’re owed royalties from books that Indigo published, and the company has been evicted from its downtown offices after failing to pay rent.

About five months ago, Henry Beers, Indigo’s owner, said that while the company wasn’t operating under the Indigo name, its affiliate, Blue Marble Books LLC, was “still rocking,” and “still strong,” and it was not shutting down.

But last week, Beers said that Blue Marble and Henchard LLC, an imprint business set up by Beers, are “closed up, done and out of business.”

In March, the publisher was evicted from its office in the SunTrust Bank Building on Second Street because of past-due rent, and a bank was authorized to seize its inventory and equipment in December for nonpayment of two promissory notes totaling about $472,000.

Beers blames his troubles on the lousy economy that took a toll on the business.

“The economy has been killing the publishing and printing industry nationwide, and the last few years have been difficult,” he said. “It has hit the magazine market, the newspaper market, it has hit the book market. ... The economy killed so many different facets that it was just very difficult to determine where things were going to go or what the future held in the publishing world, and it got to the point where you couldn’t make heads or tails of where it was going and how the wholesalers or anybody were handling it, either.”

Despite the lawsuits and liens filed against his company, Beers thought things would get better.

“Small businesses of all sizes can only hold on for so long, and we held on and held on and held on probably longer than we should have,” he said.

Indigo hit with lawsuits

Beers grew up in Warner Robins. Before graduating from the University of Georgia in 1984, he opened a health and fitness center in Warner Robins in 1980 and ran it for five years. According to court documents, Beers filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1985.

Beers also worked for Macy’s and the former America Office Products in Macon before working from 1991 to 2001 with his brother’s publishing company in Alabama.

Beers, 50, founded Indigo Custom Publishing in late 2001, and it originally published mainly pictorial books for cities, communities and companies. It produced books on Savannah, Atlanta’s Buckhead and Macon, as well as books on cities in other states.

By 2003, the company, which then operated out of Beers’ home, had regional managers in Alabama, Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey. Beers said then he was involved in every aspect of the business.

Blue Marble Books LLC, created in 2005 by Beers, was set up as an on-demand publishing business, and books were produced based on the number of orders it received. Beers said in November that Indigo was going “dormant” and the company was investing “in what other people want.” The shift to Blue Marble would make the company stronger in the long run, Beers said.

While lawsuits were filed in a 2003 discrimination case in New Jersey and in 2007 in Bibb County for nonpayment of debt — with final judgments issued for $12,500 and $10,230 plus interest, respectively — the first large lawsuit against the company came in early 2009.

An equipment leasing firm, Wisconsin-based M2 Lease Funds LLC, filed suit in February 2009 for $279,476, contending that Indigo failed to make lease payments on a printing press. The lawsuit names Indigo, Beers, Rick Nolte and Robert Aldrich, all of whom signed “guarantys of the obligation,” according to the lawsuit. Nolte was associate publisher at Indigo, and Aldrich was its executive vice president. Nolte is a former sports editor of The Telegraph and has written for the paper as a freelancer.

A lawsuit filed in June 2009 by Macon author Glenn Grossman claims the company and Beers breached a contract by not paying all the royalties due on the book “The Yoshinos of Macon.” An answer filed by Beers denies any personal obligation and says the company didn’t owe more than $1,210. The lawsuit was dismissed by Grossman in March, but his attorney said it may be refiled.

“We believed, but had no knowledge of it, that they were going to be filing bankruptcy,” said Grossman’s attorney, James Voyles. “I did not want to have my client pay the expense of a trial to only have it wiped out in a bankruptcy.”

Beers declined to comment on whether he planned to file for bankruptcy, saying it was a personal matter.

Another large lawsuit against Indigo was filed in September 2009 by Thomas Flanagan in Indiana for breach of an employment contract. Flanagan worked for Indigo as national director of territorial sales and was tasked with hiring a national sales force, he said.

Flanagan’s employment was terminated June 3 by Beers when Beers told Flanagan that Indigo was closing, according to court documents. But Flanagan learned that Indigo continued to do business, and he filed the lawsuit.

The publisher did not respond to the lawsuit, and a default judgment was awarded to Flanagan for $234,783 for wages, attorney’s fees and other payments due.

Flanagan said recently his issue is “unresolved” and that no money has been paid.

“Frankly, I would not anticipate that there would be,” he said, because of the financial situation of the company.

In mid-November, Beers told The Telegraph that Central Bank of Georgia in Ellaville, which had been put under close scrutiny by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., was calling in the company’s delinquent loans to try to raise cash.

Indigo had two promissory notes with Central Bank — one for $259,388 dated June 2008 and another for $212,394 dated September 2008 — using the company’s accounts receivable, inventory, furniture, fixtures and equipment as collateral, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 23, 2009.

Beers said he “cannot” say what the money was used for.

Although the case is listed as “costs paid, case closed,” Beers said the case is still open, and he would not comment on it. The bank’s lawyer said through an assistant that he would not comment about a client, and an officer for the bank did not return several phone messages.

In December, the judge in the case issued a writ of possession, an order that allowed the bank to take possession of the collateral.

“The bank, of course, seized everything in December that we had,” Beers said. “So that pretty much put the nail in the coffin ... on the Indigo side of things. From there, we just started getting people’s property to them that we were holding.”

Beers declined to comment about the other large lawsuits, saying they were still in litigation or “unsettled.”

Besides the lawsuits, at least two liens for nonpayment of unemployment contribution were filed in 2009. A lien filed in November for about $700 was paid in March while the other one filed last August for about $800 remains unpaid, according to the Bibb County Clerk of Superior Court’s office.

Beers said he is now working with Sphinx Inc., a south Bibb County printing company, to complete some “work in progress that I wanted to complete and deliver to those people, and we were no longer able to do that.” He said he didn’t know how many books need to be completed.

Authors: Not paid for books

Several authors, who have not filed lawsuits, say they either have not received full payment or haven’t received any payments for books published and sold through Indigo or Blue Marble.

Macon native Bill Walker wrote “Skywalker: Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail” that Indigo published in 2008.

“I paid 100 percent of the cost of both the first and second editions of ‘Skywalker,’” Walker said. “In return, Indigo was supposed to hand over to me the proceeds from the book sales.”

The book sold regularly through Amazon, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and other retailers, Walker said. “But I never received a single dime the whole time for these sales,” he said. “I continually asked for accounting from Indigo but was repeatedly rebuffed.”

During one conversation when Walker was asking for payment, Beers told him that he was quitting the business, Walker said.

The last time Walker spoke with Beers was in March, “and it ended with him screaming at me,” Walker said. “I’m the type of guy that believes in giving people a lot of chances, but you can’t talk to this person. He rants hysterically. He is all about intimidation, and it’s worked.”

Beers also told Walker to “join the fray” and get an attorney to sue him, Walker said.

When asked why Walker and others like him haven’t been paid, Beers said: “I cannot give you specifics on any individual author or book.” Asked why, Beers said, “It’s because I don’t have the answers.”

Walker said last week he is now “looking at his options” but has not filed suit.

Indigo has published three books by Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore, who has referred other authors to the publisher. He chose Indigo because it was a local company.

“We don’t have anyone to deal with now,” Grisamore said. “I feel bad about it because they are like family. ... I feel frustrated but sad, too, absolutely.”

For The Telegraph, Indigo also published and printed about 1,000 copies of “Macon By the Numbers,” a book that was compiled by Grisamore. All the books were presold, with the payments going through Indigo, said Telegraph Publisher George McCanless.

“(Payment) went to them, and then they were supposed to pay us our share,” McCanless said. “We were never paid for the books. I think we were getting about $3,000 to $4,000. ... Until all this recent trouble, we just anticipated that they were going to live up to their agreement and send us our money.”

In response, Beers said: “Well, that sounds like a claim you need to file on Indigo.”

Mike Ford with NewTown Macon, a downtown booster organization, said it paid Indigo to have a book published in 2008 called “Street Singers, Soul Shakers, Rebels With A Cause: Music from Macon.”

“We paid to have the book written, pictures made, produced and published and delivered to us, and we just never got all our books,” Ford said.

NewTown paid for the printing of 3,000 copies of the book but has received about 500, Ford said.

“We liked the book they did. It was produced well,” Ford said. “We would like to have the copies that were promised in the contract, but it looks like we are going to have to make some other arrangements to print it in the future.”

Also, Indigo owes royalties for the book “10 to 4, Brett Favre’s Journey from Rotten Bayou to the Top of the NFL,” according to its author Mark McHale and his wife, Beverley McHale, who handles his book sales. McHale, a college coach, is credited with helping discover Favre when he was in high school.

The McHales received only two quarterly royalties payments in 2008 for the book released in late 2007, Beverly McHale said. The proceeds are designated for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

This past fall, Beverly McHale said she learned from the Florida printing company that printed “10 to 4” that it has an invoice from Indigo for 5,000 books instead of the 3,000 agreed upon number. The extra 2,000 books would have a retail value of more than $32,000.

“We don’t have a clue where all those books are,” she said.

Beers said he had “no information on ordering 5,000 books.”

“Sometimes you print something and you print over, but that’s high,” he said. “That’s an expense we would not have undertaken. So, I can’t comment on that because I don’t have a clue on that.”

Beverly McHale said that at some point they were going to have to let the matter go.

“We’ll never get anymore money,” she said. “I would just like to see justice done. ... It’s very sad. It’s heartbreaking.”

Telegraph staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. Information from The Telegraph archives was included in this report.