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The Road to Zero Day: Publisher to Publication

February 14, 2011 | post a comment | Mark Russinovich

The Road to Zero Day: Publisher to Publication

(Continued from The Road to Zero Day: Agent to Publisher) I was hopeful that Zero Day might be published in 2009, but it wasn’t until March that the contract with Thomas Dunne Books was finalized and signed, and everyone tells me that it's at least a year from that time until publication. My editor told me that the book was going to be published in their spring 2010 catalog, which actually means publication in April or May.  Next, my editor suggested some changes. I made another revision, this one taking a little longer than the previous. He also recommended I begin getting “blurbs” for the book cover. Fortunately, I had a meeting with Bill Gates shortly after and asked him if he’d consider providing one. We’d met regularly since I started at Microsoft and often discussed computer security. I had told him about the book at our first meeting, so he was already aware of it. To my great amazement, he agreed. My meetings with Bill always seemed a little surreal, and I wondered if I was correctly interpreting reality when I walked out of his office that afternoon. I immediately sent him the manuscript and a few weeks later he sent the blurb you see on this site’s front page.

My next blurb came from Howard Schmidt, now cyber security coordinator for President Obama, who I was introduced to by a friend at Microsoft. Howard had started the Trustworthy Computing initiative at Microsoft in 2000 when computer security became a major focus for Microsoft, before going to work for the Bush administration as the President's post-9/11 cyber security advisor. He was running a cyber security consulting company based out of London, but happened to live nearby, so we arranged to have lunch. Zero Day reflected some of his major concerns about cyber security and he agreed to read it. A couple of weeks later he not only agreed to supply a blurb, but to write the book's forward, which was an unexpected and exciting bonus. Even more unexpected and exciting was that a week after he sent them to me, I read the news that he had been appointed to the Obama administration. His credentials, already impressive, had just gotten even more so.

In December 2009, my editor suggested I fly to New York City to have lunch with him, Thomas Dunne, and Ann, who would come in from Boston. The opportunity to meet with Tom was something I couldn’t pass up and New York is great to visit around Christmas, so I made a family holiday trip out of it. I took a cab to the restaurant where we had a great conversation over a couple of hours. Despite being an important figure in the publishing world, Tom didn’t seem in a hurry and never glanced at his watch. He told me how much he liked the book and was even looking forward to a sequel. Then he asked what goals I had for the book. I travel relatively frequently, so when writing I defined my metric of major success as seeing Zero Day in an airport bookstore. He liked the answer and said he would make that a goal for the marketing department. 

After lunch, we drove to the Flatiron building, a New York landmark, where St. Martin’s Press and Tom’s office are located. I got a quick tour and met some of the staff before departing. It was a fascinating peek into the world of New York City publishing and satisfying to have spent a leisurely lunch discussing novels and writing with a publishing luminary. 

I thought things were on track for the spring publication, which they call a “launch”. However, around February my editor told me that Tom felt that a few changes would greatly improve the book and strongly suggested that I make them. Fortunately, I agreed the suggestions would help and made another revision as quickly as possible, but it was clear that it meant the book wouldn’t be ready for a spring launch. Tom liked the changes and the new launch date of Fall 2010 was set. I wasn’t too disappointed by what I thought was just a few months of delay, but then found out that Fall launches occur in February or March of the following year. It seemed that the book would never get published.

Then, in the summer, John told me he was leaving Thomas Dunne to head Mulholland Books, Little, Brown’s new suspense imprint. Having an editor leave in the middle of a book project can spell the end of the book. Fortunately, another editor, Peter Joseph, jumped in and took over and kept it moving through the process. I can’t say that even after my experience that I understand the publishing industry, but I’m glad that people believed enough in the book to help it through to publication. 

Throughout the actual fall of 2010 we collected more blurbs. First, I got one from William Landay, author of an award-winning book, The Strangler, about mafia corruption in Boston in the 1960's during the time the Boston Strangler was active. I was really pleased to get one from an accomplished thriller novelist. Then my agent told me she'd gotten one from multiple New York Times bestseller Nelson DeMille. I was beyond thrilled. I felt that Zero Day was a decent book, but didn't really know how it would be received, especially by non-technical readers. Having these major novelists willing to associate their names with Zero Day was incredibly rewarding. I immediately sent him a thank you email and he replied that he'd really enjoyed the book. At that point I had both major technical and literary endorsements, which was more than I’d hoped for when I set out to write the book.

Also in the fall, I researched PR agencies to help me promote the book. After interviewing a few I settled on Phenix and Phenix. They specialize in books and have represented some of my favorite authors, including Ben Bova, who will be familiar to you if you’re a science fiction fan. I read a lot of his books growing up and his novella The Dueling Machine made an impression on me that lasts to this day. 

That brings us to now, about six years since I set out and within one month of the book's publication. The ride has been much, much longer than I expected, but I’m glad I listened to Ann and stuck with it. The feedback I’ve gotten from pre-publication reviews has exceeded my expectations and I’m hopeful that you also find Zero Day to be an exciting cyber-thriller!

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Mark Russinovich works at Microsoft in the Microsoft Azure product team as Chief Technology Officer. Read more...

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