Secret Diary of a Sports Publisher #3 Pirlo Uncovered

In the third in the series, Martin BackPage gives you the inside story on the company’s biggest-selling book to date, I Think Therefore I Play, the autobiography of Andrea Pirlo.

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In April 2014 we published Andrea Pirlo’s autobiography I Think Therefore I Play. It has been our bestselling book. We have never been surer of a title’s success. Publishers are often coy about their sales figures, but I’ll tell you exactly how many we’ve sold… to the end of February 2017, 74,464 copies.

In March 2014 I went to Madrid to do some promotion for our Spain book and try to hook up with Pirlo, who was in Madrid for the Spain v Italy friendly. The ghostwriter of Pirlo’s book, Alessandro Alciato, was also at the game, and I caught up with him in the bowels of the Vicente Calderon afterwards. “You do realise this book is going to be massive?” I said. He looked at me as if I had two heads. He had no conception of Pirlo’s status outwith Italy.

Pirlo’s genius achieved proper recognition in the UK after he picked apart England at Euro 2012 with a spellbinding array of passing. As he enjoyed an Indian Summer at Juventus – and his beard took on lustrously biblical proportions – so the cult of Pirlo grew.

We sent the manuscript to the translator, Mark Palmer, who reported back with increasing excitement. The idiosyncratic voice of the subject shone through, he said. This was Pirlo in full football philosopher mode. The book was short – less than 40,000 words – and brimful of insightful, eccentric tales. Mark did a wonderful translation and our designer, Kouki Gharra, nailed the cover.

So, the content was strong, it looked beautiful and it was zeitgeisty. Publicity? Well, we started the hashtag #PirloThursday with killer quotes from the book in the lead-up to publication. It went viral. Launch publicity was enormous. It took over our lives for a fortnight and seemed to reach every corner of the globe.

The first print run disappeared in three days. We have been hitting the ‘reprint’ button ever since.

Martin BackPage