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Celebrity

First-time novelists steel themselves for the painful silence that comes from being ignored. Bill’s armor didn’t prepare him for a Savannah visit that was a ticker-tape parade in every respect but the ticker-tape.

Savannah

The elegant lady draped in Spanish moss was as languorous as her name and at the same time suffused with the gritty determination of the river that flowed past. Whew. Okay, we got that sentence over with. Bill and Jill celebrated their twenty-second anniversary in the William Kehoe House, one of the stops on the historic city tour. They had only to crawl through a window in their room to reach their fine verandah, which looked down on Columbia Square. They chose not to rent a car and instead spent days exploring on foot the city’s squares and tree-lined streets.

CIO Summit Participants

CIO Summit Participants

Let's hope these people don't find out
Bill's not really that famous.

The Conference

The Government Chief Information Officer (CIO) Summit proved to be an exclusive, invitation-only conference organized by Federal Computer Week (FCW) Media Group. The event brought together 150 of the top people responsible for government technology planning at the federal, state, and local levels. Attendees were CIOs, deputy CIOs, directors of information technology, and other such bosses. Also in attendance were vendors, brought in for the invaluable service of funding the open bar. Allan Holmes, FCW editor in chief, presided over the affair with relaxed humor. Bill enjoyed the conference sessions, such as the read-out from the officials who managed the technology behind the investigation of the Washington D.C.-area sniper. Bill and Jill both enjoyed meeting such amazing folks as Lucy Cooley, Gene Estensen, Felix and Barbara Rausch, Gerry Rickoff, and Carla von Bernewitz.

The Signing

Bill and Jill set up shop in the room where the vendors had their booths. The book-signing table stood conveniently near the open bar. Boxes of Bill’s novel were stacked under the table. Bill realized with a start that these were the hardcover versions of his book—150 of them! Yikes. A line formed as people queued to pick up their copies and have them signed. Bill wondered: What if people didn’t want copies, even for free? That concern disappeared as the line held steady. Bill’s prior record at a book-signing had been 82 books. That record was left in the dust. After an hour of signing, many books remained, but the time had come for Bill’s talk.

Bill at CIO Summit Book Signing

Bill at CIO Summit Book Signing

Guess I'll just have to risk
repetitive-motion injury.

Bill Speaking at CIO Summit

Bill Speaking at CIO Summit

Who knew cyberterrorism could be fun?

The Speech

Bill gave the closing after-dinner keynote in a pier-level room overlooking the Savannah River. Throughout the meal, a projector beamed the notice of Bill’s upcoming talk to a large screen at one end of the room. Gerry Rickoff told Bill afterwards that he’d had deep concerns about the slides. “PowerPoint makes me glaze over,” he said. Good thing he didn’t know in advance that Bill had 105 slides. Really. Actually, he’d planned on using 115 slides but decided that was too many. Jill circled to the back of the room as Bill spoke. Half an hour later, as the 150 attendees gave their final applause, a fellow in back said to the man next to him, “That was a good talk.” A week later Bill received a call from a conference organizer for another conference, who called to book Bill as a keynoter. She told him one of the attendees at the Summit had characterized Bill as “just this side of Johnny Carson.” Bill suspects she had age in mind.

Another Signing

After the talk, Bill and Jill returned to their book-signing zone. Another line formed for copies of the novel. Steve Cooper, the new CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, worked his cell phone in the line, but still picked up his copy of the book. Bill’s note thanked him for taking on such a daunting job. Vendors from the show swarmed to get copies for their colleagues who had left. Three vendors picked up copies for their CEOs. Bill took satisfaction in penning a note to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, thanking Ellison for his work on behalf of privacy. Bill had in mind a comment Ellison had once made, something along the lines of, “You don’t have any privacy. Get used to it.” The vendors had taken a liking to Bill for putting in a good word for their products that he knew and liked. One vendor said response at their booth had been lackluster until Bill explained the merits of their product—after his talk, curious officials queued up at the vendor’s booth. Bill had intended only to give the vendors fair credit for their good work. The vendors seemed instead to view this as a new partnership. One presented Bill with a leather journal signed by the vendor’s booth-people. Another gave him a pen that doubled as a laser pointer. From another came a glitzy mug. Bill’s brother John is in the bicycle industry, where such trade show gifts are called “schwag.”

Follow-Up

For a week after the conference, Bill’s Amazon sale rank hovered around 35,000, not materially different from the week leading up to the conference. Bill then sent an individual email note to every attendee from the Summit. His note informed each that a sanitized version of his slides (absent copyright-protected images) had been posted on the Summit web site. The note also offered Bill’s services as a speaker on cyberterrorism and noted that forty percent discounts were available on bulk buys of the novel. Bill also sent email notes to senior managers in his company informing them of customers he’d briefed at the Summit. Finally, he arranged for his company to post on the corporation’s internal web site a news story of his success at the Summit. Probably because of the email campaign and news story, a burst of sales lowered Bill’s sales rank to 6,500 for several days before the rank eased back up to 30,000. Other follow-ups included an offer (accepted) to do another conference keynote and a number of other possible speaking engagements. Best were notes from CIOs who read and enjoyed the book. One posted a quote from the book on his personal web site. Overall, a fine experience.

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Updated: 19-Oct-2005