The Million Dollar Deal with NAL

Again, Robert Lafore produces an incredible title on a difficult subject.

The personal computer boom reached its peak in 1983.

I met a New York literary book agent named John Brockman. John looked at my accomplishment record and said: “Mitchell, all the big New York fiction publishers want to jump on the computer book bandwagon. I can make you a rich man.” John exuded confidence and was a consummate dealmaker. “Mitch, everything is image in this business,” John told me.

So, I gathered all my authors, took a photo, and hired a friend to make me a brochure showing off all our titles.

1983 This wa the style NAL wanted. I thought it sucked.
This primitive brochure got us a million dollar advance. Front cover +

John planned to conduct an auction, sending out the brochure and copies of my books and giving publishers 24 hours to bid.​

Yet the entire process was preempted by a publisher called New American Library, who begged John to postpone the auction and cut a deal. In less than a month, he proffered me a 15-book contract accompanied by a $1,000,000 advance.

Bang! Overnight I had to hunt and secure office space, hire editors, select managers, and arrange for typesetters.

The back cover shows a graph of our growth in computer books +
The Waite Group in 1984 was a motley crew. +

There exists a particular kind of heaven where a halo caps one's head while one's knuckles go white with fear. Great fortune had walked up to me and pumped my hand. I was scared to death. One of the best things to emerge from this project? The relationships I forged with several of my authors, who subsequently joined ranks with me as employees. One writer stands out in particular–Robert Lafore–author of Assembly Language Primer. I was a fortunate witness to Robert's career trajectory as he fired off numerous best sellers. He set a high standard for my career efforts.

Publishing can be, at times, a bush of thorns. My million-dollar deal would later reveal a few sharp barbs. A clause in the contract labeled "joint accounting" would prove to be an unpleasant reality. Watch out for that one if you ever sign up for a group of books!

I battled NAL about doing five books on the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. It was the first portable computer on the market, and they felt it had a promising future. I owned one and found it a big disappointment. I lost the fight, and the five books we published were total flops.

I wish I could have talked NAL out of publishing this series.