Michael Korda had an epiphany when he was in his 30s: He wasn't making the kind of money he felt he ought to make for the work he was doing.
It hits a lot of people, that feeling and like a lot of people, Korda grinched and groaned and mumbled about not being appreciated.
"I had been very successful for 10 years at Simon and Schuster, but I was very underpaid. I would get resentful but I was always put off from demanding more money because the people I was dealing with were much more sophisticated at saying 'no' than I was at demanding things."
Then it struck him: Nobody was going to take care of Michael Korda but Michael Korda.
"I insisted on having lunch with the chairman of the board and said, "You want me, you're going to have to pay." And they paid. I realized that I could have done it five years earlier, tripled or quadrupled my salary.
"I realized that I had been short-changing myself," he says, leaning back in a chair in his hotel room.
Michael Korda stopped shortchanging himself and became then Pied Piper of money and privilege.
At 44, he is vice president and editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster. He is the author of the best-selling book "Power." He edits Joan Didion, Carlos Castenada, Irving Wallace, Harold Robbins, Leonid Breshnev, Jimmy Carter, William Colby, John Mitchell and John Erhlichman, Rich people, powerful people, name writers. Obviously, he's a man to be reckoned with. So when he writes a book entitled "Success" people read it to find out how to make it.
It all sounds so simple. But you've got to follow Korda's rules. It's okay to be greedy, ambitious, out for No. 1, a winner, and, always, to be rich.
As a matter of fact, you have to be rich to start with. Michael Korda's books are written for the $25,000-or-over-class.
"If I have a market it's with people of both sexes from 20 to 40 who are making $5,000 to $10,000 less than they think they should be. To put it quite bluntly, I haven't the slightest idea how a blue-collar unionized worker thinks. They're programmed into hierarchal organizations."
For those who would fit the economic and demographic bills, Korda's got more rules.
In the regular business world, he recommends that a man wear a suit - a simple, single-breasted suit, either dark blue (the darker the better, says Korda) or dark gray.
Korda wears gray pants and a navy blazer so dark it seems black success I, failure.
White shirts are preferred and ties that are neither too thin nor too wide.
Again Author Korda follow's suit with his white shirt and tie that is neither very thin nor very wide. And his pocket silk is demure and contrasting, though complementing his tie.
Success, 2, failure 0.
As for shoes, Korda says they should be "minimal" as long as they are neat and polished. He's wearing a pair of black paten-leather Gucci loafers, not for status, mind you, but because "they never need polishing. A dash with a tissue makes them look neat."
Success, 3, failure 3.
Korda is intrepid in his recommendations, even for women. While omen can wear what they want, by and large, the women who get ahead dress "unobtrusively and conservatively."
The writer was unavoidably wearing the unobtrusive and conservative and no watch.
Kudos to the writer, Korda says. No watch, sign of a very successful person who doesn't have to worry about time.
During any interviews, Korda's theory runs, a person looks directly into the other person's eyes, directly and unflinchingly. During his interview, Michael Korda looks directly out the hotel window for an hour and a half.
Success, 3, Failure, 1.
It took Michael Korda a long time to get ahead of life. Though he's the scion of a famous, wealthy family (His father was Vincent Korda, an art director for such films as "The Thief of Baghdad" and "That Hamilton Woman." His mother was Gertrude Musgrove, a British stage and film actress.) Korda floundtred around in his early years. He came down from Oxford with a "pass" in Russian after a stint in Hungary during the 1956 Revolution attempting to be a foreign correspondent. He spent most of his time hungry, cold and running from the Russians. He still wanted to be a correspondent but "In my family, journalism wasn't regarded as respectable." Even then he knew how to get what he wanted. He landed a job on the London Financial Times through family friends Viscount Moor and Lord Brenden Bracken. After a year he got bored and quit.
He saw himself as "a journalist in the Evelyn Waugh tradition," and came to America to try out for Life magazine.
Life magazine wasn't interested, so Korda went to work for CBS in the storyreading department. "I had a talent for recognizing a good story from a bad story, but they soon dissolved the section."
So it was off to publishing, a field that a family friend, Lord George Wedenfield, told him to stay away from because "he said I'd never make any money in it." Shows you where a little advice'll get you.
He was scheduled for an interview at Simon and Schuster for a job as a assistant editor to Henry Simon. The day before the interview another man was hired for the position. Korda was told that he was the second choice for the job. The next day the man who was hired died of a heart attack and Korda got the job.
It was the late 1950s, he'd just gotten married and was making $85 a week reading the "sludge pile" of unsolicited manuscripts. He wrote memos and long detailed reports on each manuscripts. His desk faced a wall and almost nobody ever saw him.
One day the man who read Korda's memoes and reports, Robert Gottlieb, who was an editor then, stopped by his desk. He told Korda no one would ever see him unless he took his own fate in his hands.
Together they turned his desk around and Gottlieb, who is now president of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., told Korda that he would let him read the books that the company was publishing and write some catalog copy. Korda was on his way. From assistant editor, to editor to editor-in-chief in 10 years.
Korda is about to terminate his success story. He makes one quick check around the hotel room, dials the bell station and requests a bellhop to carry down his luggage. He palms a dollar bill into the man's hands, telling him the bags are to be put in a limousine that will be "waiting for Mr. Korda."
We sweep down the hall, through the lobby, and Korda offers the writer a ride before realizing that her office is across the street.
Korda ducks into his chauffeured limousine and settles back. He leaves just the way he says you should leave: with tips and service, in first class.
FInal score: Success, 4, failure 1.
The writer walks across the street just the way she always does. On the green light.