It’s been quite a run for indie press Entangled Publishing. The first two books in Rebecca Yarros’s Empyrean series, Fourth Wing and Iron Flame, took the publishing world by storm, selling 2.3 million print copies in 2023, according to Circana BookScan. But perhaps the most surprising thing about the books’ runaway success is that it didn’t surprise Entangled founder and publisher Liz Pelletier at all.

“We knew Fourth Wing would be big,” Pelletier told PW, adding that she had such confidence in the book—the first book for Entangled’s Red Tower imprint—that she ordered a massive 315,000-copy first printing in hardcover. “You know when you have something special,” she added.

Nor is Pelletier worried about how her company will follow up a monster 2023. Red Tower’s big book for the spring is Mai Corland’s Five Broken Blades—for which Pelletier has once again bet big, this time ordering an 850,000-copy first printing.

So, what drives such Big Five–level numbers from a lean indie press of about 30 employees? Pelletier said her confidence comes from her own brand of market research, which, despite her background as a software engineer, depends less on algorithms and number crunching than on her own voracious consumption of news and information. It was this research that helped Pelletier see the potential of an imprint aimed at 18–25-year-olds and the surging romantasy genre, which, in launching Red Tower, Pelletier says she saw a chance to expand.

“I didn’t want books that were just heavy on romance and light on fantasy,” Pelletier said. “I wanted a mix.” Readers do too, it turns out.

Launching Red Tower isn’t the first time Pelletier has taken a new direction. When she started Entangled in 2011, her format of choice was the e-book. But when the company hit PW’s annual fast-growing indie publishers list in 2020, it was because Pelletier had shifted Entangled’s emphasis to print, reducing the number of books it published annually and putting more marketing muscle behind each title.

The strategy worked. Before there was Fourth Wing, the first three volumes of Tracy Wolff’s 2020 YA series Crave hit the bestseller lists, selling 400,000 copies in less than a year. To date, the six volumes in the Crave series have sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide, and their success helped Pelletier prepare for what was to come with Yarros.

Still, the blockbuster success of Yarros’s Empyrean series has taken the publisher to a new level. Pelletier said that pitches to Entangled have increased in the past year, and that the approach of some projects has changed. “In some of these special projects, we are invited into the author’s process from day zero and continue in that spirit throughout editing and beyond,” she noted.

Entangled’s success has also allowed the company to experiment with different formats and markets—for example, licensing graphic audio rights to Iron Flame, Fourth Wing, and Five Broken Blades. Pelletier said she is even considering an offer to make one of Entangled’s titles into a video game. There’s also been increased contact with film and television people, which Pelletier enjoys. “They have a great perspective on the market,” she said.

With a backlist of about 2,000 titles, Entangled today has established itself as a solid midsize publisher. But Pelletier has no plans to increase Entangled’s annual output of 50–75 titles per year. And she remains determined to keep it an “agile” publisher that “builds teams around projects,” can adapt to different publishing models, and can work collaboratively with authors on concepts that will best generate reader interest.

As for the future, Pelletier said the goal is to continue “to listen to readers and to deliver books they will champion.” Along those lines, a major objective is to publish books by a more diverse group of authors. And Pelletier does have an ace in the hole to keep Entangled’s momentum going: in late March, the company announced it will release the third volume in the Empyrean series, Onyx Storm, in January 2025.

As someone who has always been a big reader, Pelletier said that carving out a successful career in publishing has exceeded her expectations. But she isn’t letting success go to her head, and she is quick to give others credit for Entangled’s success. “I am humbled by how things have turned out,” she said. “It is a credit to our team. Fourth Wing didn’t come out of nowhere.”