The Million Dollar Deal

The personal computer boom had reached its peak in 1983.

I met a New York literary book agent named John Brockman. John took one look at my record of accomplishment 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 deal-maker. “Mitch, everything is image in this business,” John told me. So I got together all my authors, took a photo, and hired a friend to make me a brochure that showed off all our titles. John’s plan was to conduct an auction, sending out the brochure and copies of my books and giving publishers 24 hours to make their bids.

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 single 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.

  • BASIC Programming Primer for PC
  • Bluebook of Assembly Language
  • DOS Primer for PC
  • Pascal Primer
  • Assembly Language Primer for PC

There exists a peculiar kind of heaven where one’s head is capped by a halo, 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 own career efforts.

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