Approaching 50 years old, authored, coauthored, or published over 100 books, I started questioning the future. Was I in my prime? Or at the end of my power curve? I wasn’t sure! The year 1995 would nevertheless surely emerge as the pivotal juncture of my career.
Virtual Reality was constantly in the news, and technologists saw it as how everyone would enjoy computers. We tied VR to programming at Waite Group with VR BASIC: The Virtual Reality World Maker Book. The book came with a scripting language with 55 statements and functions that allow the user to create CAD constructions, animate them and watch in 3D on the computer screen.
In the mid-1990s, perhaps foolishly, I put an ad in the personal section of the Pacific Sun newspaper seeking a meaningful relationship. I soon hooked up with a beautiful woman looking for a successful man in the tech field who had a dog. I was successful, had a Shar Pei, and soon met Monique at a tech fair in San Jose. She was a little young for me, but introduced me to Andre Lamothe, whom she said loved technology, had several degrees, and designed video games. I did like Andre, and while Monique faded, my friendship with Andre grew, and we are still good friends 25 years later. I recruited Andre to write a book that taught how to program video games in 3D, which was a huge undertaking. We called the book the Black Art of 3D Game Programming; it was THICK, required a high cover price, and was highly successful.
Why? I now headed up a company growing like a weed in an always wet rainforest, and I required help. Ill-equipped to direct the activities of 30 people, I hired a general manager. Charlie Drucker came on board with solid experience in the corporate world. I loved Charlie; he was the perfect GM! However, the choice angered my right-hand man, Scott Calamar, who would, in time, depart to start his own business. Personal dynamics can be challenging at a critical juncture or size transition, and the loss of Scott set me back. Charlie’s skill at managing the team and wise direction empowered me to focus on the product again.
But then we began to experience distributor-based limitations. Our books were not generating expected sales in the chains, the volume we needed to make profits. We appealed to them for a better rate so that we could direct more funding into advertising. No dice. Next, I appealed to our distributor PGW to give us a better deal on the royalty we paid them. I hit a stone wall.
Finally, in desperation, we considered a dynamic partnership with a more prominent publisher. The goal? To leverage a more significant entity to move our books into the chains in larger quantities. To my surprise, Charlie approached our biggest competitor—Macmillan—which now owned Sams. Sams responded positively: David Israel—the publisher of Macmillan, had always admired the imaginative titles of the Waite Group. He was “green” on the prospect of distributing of our book line but “double-green” on the possibility of purchasing Waite Group Press outright.
I had never anticipated such a direct offer!
1995 was the year I determined I wanted a child. Selling Waite Group appeared to be the logical life choice to empower my choice to start my own family. 1995 was also the year we created a New Media division (an imprint inside Waite Group Press) to address the reality that CD-ROM-based programs and courses were proving to stand as an increasing cornerstone of our business model.
- Certified Course in C
- Virtual BASIC
- Engines of Creation
- Photoshop Special Effects How To
- DOOM Construction Kit
- Black Art of 3D Game Programming
We had anticipated that our book sales at the chains would fall and our titles’ output had diminished. With shifting market realities before us, the prospect of a deal, with a capital “D,” with Macmillan was looking ever more attractive.