The original cover of the first (and what just about everyone believed to be possibly the last) edition of DOS For Dummies. Written in May of 1991 and published that fall, the original print-run was 5000 copies .
They sold out in a week.
When the editor phoned in November, it was on its 3rd printing and they wanted to know if I had any corrections. Eventually the book ended up selling over 1,000,000 copies and was translated into over 27 foreign languages.
Common questions and their answers:
Q: Did you think of the title DOS For Dummies?
A: No. The publisher approached me with that title. I had previously submitted a proposal for The Idiot's Guide to DOS. That was essentially the same outline I used for DOS For Dummies, save that editor Michael McCarthy suggested I change from a tutorial format to a reference.
There has been some debate about who "originally" thought of the title. Most of it is myth . The title DOS for Dummies has been around forever; most computer publishers used that name to describe their low-end DOS book. IDG was the first publisher to have the guts to actually use the title.
Q: Did you ever think it would be so successful?
A: Never. I was thinking it would sell a few thousand copies, maybe. Then after six months, we were sure the novelty factor would wear out. It didn't. My only regret is that the publisher didn't bump up the price and do several dozen editions to make more money. Indeed, for the longest time DOS For Dummies had a price point of $16.99 while other For Dummies titles were being sold for $19.99.
Q: Were the cartoons your idea?
A: No, the publisher insisted on the cartoons. After my 18 months experience working for CompuSoft Publishing, I had grown to dislike cartoons as many readers complained about them. But I relented and let the cartoons in the book.
The publisher also informed me of the necessity of "icons" when I was working on Chapter 4 or so. But the chapter layout with sections and bullet-points and Part of Tens were all my ideas.
Q: Did you write every for Dummies book?
A: No. Only those with my names on them. Even today I still get e-mail from people who think I wrote "Whatever" for Dummies.
Q: Are you rich?
A: I am rich because I have four sons who love me. If you are so lucky, then you should consider yourself rich as well.
Q: Do you own IDG Books?
A: No. IDG Books decided to become a "dot com" company in 2000, just as the Wall Street dot-com bubble was bursting. They renamed themselves "Hungry Minds," and traded on the NASDAQ market. Their logo was a flying pig.
The move to go public proved disastrous as Hungry Minds spent all of their cash (I heard $150 million) buying imprints (Fromers, Cliff Notes) from other publishers. That decision bankrupted the company, which was purchased by John Wiley & Sons in September of 2001. Today, For Dummies is a division of Wiley.