The Future is Assured

1992 marked the most creative year in the legacy of the Waite Group Press. This is when our business pulled out from the slow lane and entered the computer book freeway. While we had no speeding tickets in 1990 with just one book, in 1991 we produced 4 books. But in 1992 we took on the challenge of producing 11 unique and high quality computer books (hyperbolic growth).

  • Master C++: Let the PC Teach You C
  • Visual Basic How To
  • Windows API Bible
  • Workout C
  • Image Lab
  • Multimedia Creations
  • Windows Programming Primer Plus
  • Fractals for Windows
  • Virtual Reality Playhouse
  • Windows API Bible
  • Object-Oriented Programming in Microsoft C++

We were simultaneously committed to put out titles for Howard Sams, but this number was beginning to dwindle as Sams recognized Waite Group Press as a legitimate competitor. During the 1992 season, we followed Master C with a similar book on C++, Master C++, as this language began to take over the C market.

But it was Visual Basic How To that emerged as our gigantic hit. This title was based on a new language from Microsoft. VB 1.0 inspired me as much, if not more, than HyperTalk had on the Macintosh. What spurred me on was when I encountered a masterful programmer named Zane Tomas. Zane conveyed VB secrets to me, and soon we had another bestseller. Our earlier programming books had done well, and this prepared fertile ground for the VB title.

Moreover, the “How To” nomenclature captivated readers since it implied “we have the answers” in a succinct text presentation. Today the “How To” moniker has become legion. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that someone must craft a new approach and pitch first.

But this was only one in a season of calculated risks.

Microsoft Windows was just gaining a foothold. We decided to risk attempting the documentation of the Windows application-programming interface, the set of functions that Microsoft makes available to third-party developers. The result: Jim Conger’s Windows API Bible. The choice of title was a risk, but we had used the keyword “Bible” before. The book touted a $40 cover price, an outrageous sum for this period in time! But the book did boast over 1000 print pages. The cover price was necessary if we were to hope to see a profit. Our decisions proved to be well tuned. We could not print enough copies to meet market demand. Our group sold over $100,000 in rights sales to Japan alone! In addition, author Jim Conger bought a new home with his royalty.

No one had ever put an entire program inside of a book, but our group pioneered the practice when we bundled a low cost C Compiler (Power C) with a book, Workout C. The concept? To parallel aerobic exercise with a programming language. We followed with a content-rich title containing a collection of shareware and freeware programs for the graphics experimenter. The book Image Lab offered graphics file viewing, image conversion, paint programs, fractals, ray tracing, and thus allowed every kind of image alchemy.

Multimedia Creations was our foray into the world of CD-ROMs, followed by Jim Conger’s Windows Programming Primer. Finally, we produced a new Fractal book, this time for the Windows platform: Fractals for Windows. Our group-–now numbering 10 employees–closed the year with sales of over $2,000,000. We all believed ourselves to be on a rapid ascent to the Computer Book Himalayas.

1992 was also the year that IDG launched its “…for Dummies” series, while Ziff Davis Press first offered its “How it Works” series. The smart money was on Ziff Davis, who had the necessary monetary reserves to fund a bold new initiative such as this. No one gave a second thought to IDG whose “Kodak yellow” book jackets looked like reconstituted Cliff Notes when they first hit the shelves. So much for history!

Today Ziff Davis Press is no more. IDG become a $400M mega-gorilla, even if it did ultimately oversell its product and assume the branding identity Hungry Minds. Today it is owned by John Wiley Press.