The Eighties was a renaissance in computer technology; opportunities poured from the minds of talented techies. I was now producing title ideas and manuscripts faster than my primary publisher Sams could produce.
I went to work to harness professors, friends, and family members to help me build an authoring group. Our focus? To specialize in producing friendly computer books of superior quality on CP/M, Basic, and Assembly Language, not to mention a new product called “DOS” from a modest firm in Seattle run by a guy named Bill
Surprisingly the 4-book deal I cut with McGraw-Hill did not cause Sams to lose faith in me, and along with the newly minted The Waite Group corporate name, it caused them to desire our books even more. To grease the wheel further, the revolving door of the Sams Editorial Director swung again and brought in Janet, a sophisticated woman from the United Kingdom. Janet was a breath of fresh air and saw a bright future for programming books. And because I was so productive, she realized it was an opportunity for Sams to produce many new titles by working with one man.
That year I visited Janet in Indianapolis, and she rolled out the reddest carpet I’d ever seen. It was clear Hosiers no longer ran Sams, and now Janet and I could collaborate on a more significant number of titles. I had one major request for Janet. Now that The Waite Group is established as a prolific writer’s group of high-quality computer books, I asked if our logo could be attached to the cover above the book’s title. Janet was initially surprised, but I reasoned this would establish a brand that could only help sell more books. She agreed.
Only years later would the publisher at Sams confide a sobering reality: our logo had served as a vital ‘stake in the ground,’ so readers began to think that I was the publisher only because our logo was more prominent than that of Sams.
A vital logo represented only part of the action phase of this period. During this time, I started to push the perimeter of what was acceptable for typical computer book titles. We hot-wired concepts phases such as “Soul” and “Bible” to computer topics. Imagine the flack I took from the US Bible belt when those first titles landed in distributors’ bins!
Computers had become my trade, but words were not enough.
I began to probe the challenges of programming itself, only to find both heart and head captured by a computer language known as Microsoft BASIC. I took a personal hand in authoring Basic Programming Primer with my friend Michael. Another great seller! I had arrived at a crossroads. I was now making enough money to quit my job as a tech writer and devote full-time to writing itself.
I became involved with the Pascal language and made a good friend of David Fox, who founded the first computer-learning center.
Pub Truth: I offered several publishers a Primer on the new C language, but all turned me down. The common refrain: “Too complicated,” “The only title on C now is by the creator of the language.” But for me, C checked all the boxes: it compiled tight machine code, was much more accessible than assembler, concise, and not as formal as Pascal, all perfect for building software. I sold Howard W. Sams on publishing my first book on the C language, C Primer Plus.
This was also the era in which we developed C Primer Plus. This title, now in its fifth Edition and authored by my two physics instructors and myself, emerged as a lasting success. We also produced a book on Unix in the Primer series.
In 1983 we delivered the following titles to Sams in record time. Note the new prefix to most books was The Waite Group.
- The Waite Group MS-DOS Bible
- The Waite Group Discovering MS-DOS
- CP/M Bible: The Authoritative Reference Guide to CP/M
- Soul of CP/M: How to use the hidden power of your CP/M system
- The Waite Group BASIC Programming Primer 2nd Edition
- The Waite Group UNIX System V Primer
- The Waite Group 88 IBM PC and PC Jr Logo Programs
- C Primer Plus
- Framework from the Ground Up