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.
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.
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.