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Longtime sports publishing house ‘Triumphs’ in Chicago

Triumph Books logo
Triumph Books acts as an independent publishing house in the South Loop of Chicago at 542 S. Dearborn St.

On April 14, Kobe Bryant stepped onto the court and put up 60 points against the Utah Jazz in his final game after 20 years in the NBA.

Less than two weeks later, Kobe Bryant: Laker for Life, a 128-page, glossy-covered paperback book, was on stands published by Chicago’s own Triumph Books. The publishing house was ready for this. In fact, they’re ready for every game, championship, success and scandal in the sports industry, says Bill Ames, the publicity manager and acquisitions associate at Triumph.

“We have to strike while the iron is hot. There are not a lot of publishers out there that do what we do in terms of having full-color, glossy paperback books within a week of [a significant sports moment].”

Ames credits Triumph’s endless partnerships in making these quick-to-print, or instant titles, happen. He said the publisher will work with specific media outlets before a big game. Triumph utilizes the media company’s archive to generate new content for its source, putting out a book highlighting a team or player’s successes and histories in their respective leagues. Building these partnerships and nurturing the relationships has been a primary focus for Triumph Books over its 27 years.

Back in 1989, Mitch Rogatz founded Triumph Books in downtown Chicago. The company churns out roughly 100 titles a year, all with one niche: sports. A former Random House subsidiary, Triumph Books is now part of the Independent Publishers Group (IPG), with 20 employees and partnerships across the country. George Castle, a Chicago-based freelance sports journalist who has authored more than a dozen books, credits much of Triumph’s success to Rogatz, despite not having any professional ties to the company.

“He has some great acumen in the business to battle the headwinds that afflict all book publishers as the Internet wrecks industry after industry,” Castle said.

After so many years in the publishing business, Triumph Books’ content doesn’t appear to be wearing thin, despite printing similar titles each year. According to Ames–and the steady annual revenue Triumph Books rakes in–sports-related content books are as booming and desirable as ever.

“We have typical markets we go to that we know are successful,” he said. “Chicago, Detroit with the Red Wings and [various teams from] the University of Michigan, New York, and Green Bay to name a few. We know there are certain markets and fan bases that have a loyal following; so if we keep putting books out there, people are going to want that content.”

Chris Chelios
Former Chicago Blackhawk Chris Chelios with Bill Ames of Triumph Books, a 27-year-old, Chicago-based publishing company. PHOTO/Courtesy Triumph Books.

Among the most popular pieces Triumph Books keeps on shelves are its 100 Things series, which focuses on the numerous things loyal fan bases want to know about their favorite teams and players. Other favorite titles include Triumph’s biographies and autobiographies. The popular If These Walls Could Talk series pairs up a longtime writer with a sports announcer or athlete to share a behind-the-scenes look at games and events not open to the public.

Ames said they refresh outdated content after so many years to keep the fans up to date.

Triumph’s instant titles are the unconventional books that come out after a big game. In those cases, the typical cut-and-dry publishing method goes out the window and Triumph Books uses its tried-and-true method to push out new titles immediately after a win. The publishing house writes books for the relevant teams well before the big game. Once the game is played and fans know the outcome, the winning team’s book goes to print. It’s all pretty smooth sailing according to Ames, except for one unfortunate circumstance involving the 2012 Super Bowl.

“We had a book ready to go for both the New England Patriots and the New York Giants,” Ames recalled. “The Patriots were undefeated and they lost to the Giants. It was discovered that there was actually a book available on Amazon celebrating a Patriots championship. We happened to hand that content over to our sales partners beforehand [and it accidentally got published]. It’s almost without fail that we will have a championship book ready to go and that content is ready to go before the season even kicks off.”

The other cog in Triumph’s machine that makes these books happen is its publishing team. They have weekly acquisitions meetings to go through new proposals, content and photos that get turned over to the editorial department. The four staff editors will work with the partners to produce the books before the production department lays out the pages and designs the covers.

Ames said Triumph’s books will be on newsstands for many years to come. And despite scandals, controversies and embarrassments that are bound to occur with each passing sports season, Ames said fans will always gravitate toward their favorite teams no matter what.

“At the end of the day, the stands are going to be full and fans are going to be buying gear and supporting their favorite teams; sports fans are incredibly loyal,” he said. “Sports is a form of release for people. It’s a way for them to get away from everything. [The fans] aren’t just going to walk away from that catharsis that brings them so much joy and entertainment in their lives.”

Sports and memorabilia books are a catharsis for the Triumph Books team as well. Ames describes their office as “like one big family” and they take immeasurable pride in their work.

“We always say our signature is that we are the leader in sports publishing,” he said. “I think that’s just who we are.”


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