Truth be told, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to great Fantasy Premier League content. There are so many excellent resources out there from podcasts, YouTube shows, and blogs to Patreons, the FPL Show and Twitter.
Sometimes it is high quality, sometimes not so much. Sometimes people charge for it, sometimes it is free. But with so much content at our fingertips, it can be hard to cut through the noise and focus on the good stuff. And that is why Toby Margetts, my best friend, and I decided to write a book about FPL.
My first thought was ‘there must be a ton of great books out there on FPL’. I was wrong. With the exception of David Wardale and FFS excellent book Wasting Your Wildcard there was very little else offering any value. It really felt like there was a gap in the market.
In a strange way, the dearth of FPL books on the market gave us an overwhelmingly broad spectrum on which to focus the book. Do we aim it at FPL veterans or the more casual player? How broad do we go? How deep into the technical analysis do we dive? We agreed that a middle ground was the right approach. In short, we wanted any conceivable FPL manager to get something from the book whether they were the number one ranked player in the world or had barely played the game before.
We also wanted part of the book to focus less on the ‘how to be a great FPL player’ and more on the ‘what it means to be part of the FPL community’ with its many niche nuances, memes and esoteric areas of interest.
Chelsea’s Timo Werner and Mason Mount
Toby and I have always been FPL enthusiasts getting increasingly serious (and competitive) about the game over the last decade or so. It became a passion and when you’re passionate about something you love learning about it and getting better at it. It’s fun. And having someone that shared that passion meant an almost obsessive level of chatter on a 24/7 basis.
We were finding new ways to analyse and look at the game in order to improve our ranks. We were trialling third-party applications and websites to see if they gave us an edge. We tested new ideas and theories to see if they improved our decisions. Some did and some didn’t. But what we noticed was a level of consistency starting to build up in our finishes.
Anyone can have a good season in FPL – what separates the good players from the great players is consistency. One finish in the top 10k surrounded by 10 finishes outside the top one million doesn’t cut it, in my opinion. Far more impressive would be 10 finishes in the top 50k. The bad seasons should be the odd one out, not the good seasons. Only twice in the last 10 years have both of us finished outside the top 50k.
Liverpool celebrate winning the Premier League 2019/20
So how on earth do you get a book published? We didn’t have a clue. We had normal jobs, didn’t know anyone in the publishing world and knew very little about how to go from notepad scribbles to published authors. What we did have was enthusiasm and bags of it, so we started putting pen to paper (or rather making sure we were saving our WhatsApp rambles to each other!) and decided to figure out the details later. In the time from initial idea to publishing (18 months) two more FPL books were actually released but fortunately these were more focused on stories from the FPL world and not on how to improve your game. We are still the only authors who have written a book with the specific purpose of helping readers become better FPL managers.
With two of us involved in the process we used Google Docs to collaborate. A working document that both of us could access and edit in real-time was invaluable. You never know when a brainwave is going to strike. We spent a lot of time identifying the chapters and each took on the responsibility of writing different sections. Looking back, the structure was all over the place during the writing process, but we were so keen that we went hell for leather and spent around six months getting the bare bones together: around 50,000 words.
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and Harry Kane
Knowing we had zero standing in the FPL community (we weren’t even on Twitter at that point) I knew we had to add some stardust, so I was delighted when Jules Breach said she would write the foreword. Having her on board probably helped when we were approaching publishers cold too – more on that later.
Cautious about whether this book would be a success, we were reluctant to spend money, so we asked a designer friend to create the front cover and spruce up the charts and graphs.
Another role I knew we needed was someone that could edit the book. While we had clear sections, it needed a better flow, more structure and one common voice throughout. After 12 months of writing it’s so hard to view your content objectively.
We were fully absorbed so I approached an old friend, who had written a football book himself and happened to be an FPL enthusiast like us. I suggested, rather than up-front payment, we would cut him into a three-way split of any profits the book made. He obliged and a few months later we had a decent product that we were now ready to share with publishers. Previously our approaches had all resulted in a straight no or no response which was frustrating. Perseverance was the lesson here.
We sent a lot of blind approaches to publishing houses who said the same thing over and over, “We really like the idea and the way it is written, but it’s just too niche for us.” I always thought, what’s niche about seven million players all around the world? If just one percent of those buy the book then we are laughing. We considered self-publishing on Amazon (if you do this they take a massive cut) but fortunately, we had a yes from the perfect publishing house. Ockley Books specialise in football titles and were willing to take a punt and the rest, as they say, is history!
If I could do anything differently it would have been to have been a member of the FPL community well ahead of publishing the book which we did in August 2019. We sold most of our books through Twitter and although we created a bit of a profile in the two months before release, it would have been brilliant to have more friends in the community that we could have asked favours for in way of promotion. Instead, we posted about 30 books out to well-known accounts and simply asked them to retweet our posts if they enjoyed the book.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandez
Sales have been steady all year round with peaks in the summer break and ahead of Christmas. We decided not to list the paperback on Amazon which may have been a mistake but at the time our publisher wasn’t happy with the cut they were taking.
The e-book has sold well and by having the Kindle version on Amazon, we at least still feature on the go-to place for books. During our first few weeks we were ranking in the top three of all Amazon’s football books ahead of Rio Ferdinand’s autobiography no less. We’ve had lots of great reviews too which definitely boosts us in the searches. E-book sales make you more money too – whilst with the paperback you have to factor in printing costs with the e-book you pay a one of fee (couple of hundred quid) to host on the likes of amazon and apple books and then 100% of every sale goes straight to you.
We always said if we sell just one copy then this book would be a success. All we wanted to do was share our thoughts and pass on the knowledge that had got us some decent FPL finishes. There’s something still very romantic about reading a paperback and I’m delighted that thousands of FPL fans have left their comfort zone of only absorbing their content on Twitter and YouTube and given the book a go.