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Hits and Misses

Who can tell what will hit or miss? This is a tale of June strikeouts and home runs, of chip shots and long shots, with analysis that might lead to more extra-base hits.

Bill’s 3 June press release on the Treasure Hunt generated lots of hits on TaleCatcher.com, but few book sales. One hit came from within his own company, where the press release was spotted by folks who monitor the news wires. The release triggered a chain of events that result in NO OUTWARD SIGN being the summer selection of the MITRE Knowledge Management book club, which numbers fifteen people.

Another interesting connection came through an article by Christina Dyrness in the 18 June issue of The News & Observer of Raleigh, Her article lead off with a two-paragraph advertisement for NO OUTWARD SIGN, apparently drawn from the original 28 February press release for the book. The article was further distributed by InfoSec news distribution service, which in the past had garnered substantial sales. This follow-on distribution resulted in no sales blip on Amazon.com. However, the article also quoted Bill Chu, chairman of the department of software and information systems at University of North Carolina (UNC)-Charlotte, on his efforts to build its cybersecurity research program. Soon after the article was released, UNC contacted our Bill to arrange for him to give a keynote speech at their annual security symposium. They also plan to purchase 250 copies of NO OUTWARD SIGN for conference attendees! Not a bad result, though a circuitous one.

Meanwhile, Bill had sent over a hundred follow-up notes to attendees at the Government Chief Information Officer Summit and finally received a request to give the same talk. The request came from a local VeriSign office, along with a request to buy twenty books in advance. Decent. A good example for others to follow.

Bill at NDU

Bill at NDU

The month ended with three back-to-back talks, the first at National Defense University’s Marshall Hall, which overlooks the college ambience of Fort McNair in Washington D.C. Bill was the guest of CDR Chuck Livingston, who had for the occasion gathered together the Homeland Security and Critical Systems Technologies classes within the Information Resources Management College. Bill gave his cyberterrorism talk to thirty attentive students and received an invitation to give another talk. Not an appropriate forum to sell books, though.

The next day Bill was led by Jason Reicks through intense security onto Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California. Bill met Chuck Hartwig, the Deputy Director of information technology, and also Barry Hess, the boss of cybersecurity. Over a hundred engineers from Sandia Livermore and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories heard Bill give his cyberterrorism speech. The speech was well received, but Bill spent so much time afterwards dawdling with Chuck and Barry that when he got to his book signing table there was no one left. At least Barry bought a book. If there were to be only one sale, best that it be to the local cybersecurity boss.

By the next day Bill had learned his lesson. Before his speech at the Hilton San Francisco, he set up his book-signing table in the break room of the Department of Veterans Affairs annual cybersecurity conference. The table featured advertising signs and three copies of NO OUTWARD SIGN, along with a note that the books would be available at a discount price at 9:00 AM. At 8:00 AM, Bill gave a keynote speech on countering insider threat to six hundred cybersecurity professionals. The speech went well. Bill finished his talk with two shameless marketing slides The first slide read, “Sometimes the best way to raise cybersecurity awareness is not to tell people what to do but to show them what will happen if they don’t.” The second read “ Sample testimonial for NO OUTWARD SIGN” and included portions of an outrageously positive review the department’s cybersecurity czar had posted to Amazon.com.

The talk on countering insider threats seemed a bit dry to Bill, although he’d beefed it up with humorous slides to counter the in-depth technical aspects of the brief. Basically, the crowd of techies loved the details. After the brief, he paused briefly to talk with local seniors on the way out, but he kept on course to the book-signing table, where dozens of people were waiting. Yikes. Bill knew in an instant that he didn’t have enough books, and the problem grew worse as people asked to buy three or four copies. When there were no more books, Bill offered the same discount price for a signed copy and gave an email address where he could be reached.

Factors that made a difference in the success of the Veterans Affairs signing:

The book signing table had been set up in advance, in the conference break area, to put the idea into peoples’ heads in a location many people would notice.

The conference coordinator, in introducing Bill’s talk, held up a copy of NO OUTWARD SIGN, said he’d already bought his, and announced that a book signing would follow the talk.

Bill’s talk had both humor and high-level profundities and also detailed technical insights that satisfied the cravings of the deeply technical crowd.

The talk concluded with a strong testimonial for the book from the department’s cyber czar, the senior manager responsible for most of the participants.

The sold-out signing closed the month on a high, as did the remarkable UNC request for 250 books. The buzz is on.

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Updated: 19-Oct-2005