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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  About No Outward Sign

  About cybersecurity

  About publishing and marketing the book

  About the Web site

About No Outward Sign section

Q: Why a computer theme?

A: Technology has a dark side, like Jekyll and Hyde. The greater the good, the greater the potential harm. Bill thinks computer vulnerabilities are the new monster under the bed. This is a powerful tension driver that should resonate, especially with people who are wary of computers.

Q: Do readers have to be knowledgeable about computers or computer security?

A: Not at all. The book is for all ages and backgrounds, although computer techies might enjoy seeing how Bill explains technical concepts in ways that most great grandmothers can understand.

four generations

four generations

The book is for all ages

Q: Won’t the technical topic restrict readership?

A: The book is mainly being sold over the Internet, so that right away limits sales to maybe only 700 million potential buyers. Bummer. Anyone who can surf the web and read English can understand the book. Non-techies will like the book because it’s a page-turning story about interesting people. Techies will enjoy seeing how geek-speak is translated for general readership.

Q: Who did the book cover? What’s the story behind it?

No Outward Sign
(1,700 KB file) 

No Outward Sign book cover

A: The art is by Greg Spalenka. The title and lettering are by Jeff Burne. Bill found Greg over the Internet and believes Greg to be an artistic genius and one of the top cover-artists of our time. One of the first questions Greg asked about the cover was the mood to be evoked. Bill chose two moods: menace and romance. The faces on the cover are not based on photographs of models (as is often done for the covers of romance novels) but were crafted by Greg based on Bill’s detailed descriptions of the lead characters. The protagonist (Brent, in mid-screen) is fully immersed in the computer and the energy shooting up the top portion of the cover flows from his mind. The woman on the right is Paige, FBI agent; the woman on the left is Shahla, Iraqi expatriate. The energy flowing from Brent includes ones and zeroes, and if you look closely you’ll find a few distorted skeleton keys. The letters falling from the melting keyboard spell Lexor, the name of Brent’s cyber-rebel band. To our knowledge, Waldo is not hiding in the cover.


Q: Who did the portrait photograph of Bill on the back cover and did they stretch Bill’s face to make him appear slimmer?

A: The photo and digital touch-up were done by Dan Smith of Hill Signature Portraits in Great Falls, Virginia. It took 33 photos and lots of digital wizardry with Adobe PhotoShop, and this was the best Bill could be made to look. You have to see the real Bill to fully appreciate the extent of the photographer’s genius. Improvements to the natural Bill include added hair, removal of a few skin blotches and lines, removal of flashbulb glare, and the addition of a twinkle to each eye. The photo did not have to be stretched to make Bill appear thinner, as Bill has been known to do with his own digital pictures. Instead, Bill lost twenty pounds before being photographed, and has shed another twenty pounds since the photo so that his face now is almost anorexic — worse even than when he was porked out to full ripeness. Incidentally, Bill’s weight loss did not involve a vomitorium but can be traced directly to Suzanne Somers’ Eat, Cheat, And Melt The Fat Away, published by Crown Publishers. Where did he cheat? Somersizing does not allow wine.

 Bill Neugent
(1,029 KB file)

Bill Neugent photograph

Can a
photograph lie?

About Cybersecurity section

Q: Could the computer security failures in the book really happen?

A: Absolutely. Some already have. We’re the most technologically advanced nation in the world, and the most vulnerable. We’re sitting ducks. You read every day about amateur hackers, but not about the real threat of professionals, against whom our society is about as safe as beach cottages on a sand bar. See The Cybersecurity Story.

Q: Is the threat from cyberterrorism overblown?

A: Oh, yes, certainly. Techies such as Bill look and see a house made of straw. It’s hard for them to believe they shouldn’t worry about matches.

Terrorists might look at our national cyber vulnerabilities and say, “What’s the visual? Live computer, dead computer, they look alike. Boring. You can’t have TV news without a picture.”

Bill thinks some terrorists are smarter than that. One of the benefits of cyberterrorism is that you don’t have to blow yourself up. That should count for something.

About No Outward Sign section

Q: Why did you decide to go print-on-demand? Isn’t there a second-class stigma associated with such self-publishing?

A: The book includes conflict with Iraq. Bill had to get it out while that story remained topical. Publication by a mainstream publisher could not have happened before 2004. Bill didn’t have that kind of time. Now that the Iraq war is ancient history, Bill is marketing the book as being about a cyberterrorist attack on the country.

Besides the above reason, Bill resented the idea of his fate as a writer resting in the hands of self-assigned gatekeepers such as literary agents. He thought, “Hey, this is my dream. I’m in charge.” Going print-on-demand put him on the playing field, able to let the readers decide what they want. Based on the brisk sales of the book, many readers are pleased with Bill's choice.

Rose (Bill’s grandmother),
Bill, and Bob

Rose (Bill’s grandmother), Bill, and Bob

Bill panders to his audience --
whatever it takes

Q: What are your marketing plans?

A: For starters, Bill's leveraged off his reputation as a top national guy in cybersecurity to obtain solid media coverage and book a string of keynote speeches. He's taken advantage of being an anomaly: a techie who's written a novel that makes techie concerns accessible to the general populace. He's also leveraged the U.S./Iraqi conflict. Beyond that, his plans are utterly shameless. Bill’s sense is that, the greater the marketing humiliation, the better the story for media coverage. Some of his gimmicks are:

The first hundred books printed are signed, dated, and numbered (1 to 100) and thus are limited-edition collectibles that will be worth a fortune when Bill becomes famous. Anyone who buys one of these babies has a vested interest in Bill’s success. Although he’s selling most of the limited-edition books at a discount, the first ten are going for more, including $1,000 for book 1 of 100. If any far-sighted investor buys that book, there's a news story. Bill is willing to accept an even higher offer, should there be a shrewd investor who sees the media possibilities.

Bill approached a local hotel and asked whether they would buy a copy of his book for each room if he featured them in the book.

To attract visitors to his web site, he posts free music that he’s written -- Tom Lehrer-style parodies.

Q: Where did you get your Business Cards?

A: Jill used Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100) to create the front of the card which consists of Bill's picture and his contact information. The back of the card features the No Outward Sign book cover. She sent both images to and online printing company and ordered 500 two-sided, laminated business cards for $295 (about 59 cents for each card).

Business Cards

Bill Neugent business card

Q: Where did you find your Postcards?

A: The front of the postcard features an image of the No Outward Sign book cover. Jill used Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100) to create the image for the back of the postcard which includes:

The book cover's watermark

Quotes from the experts ("Entertaining", "captivating," "thought provoking," and "hard to put down")

A short book description ("No Outward Sign tells the "riveting" and timely story of a man caught between two women and a nation struggling to balance national lawfulness with national survival.")

Bill's picture and contact information (Talecatcher™ URL, email address, and home address)

She sent both images to an online printing company and ordered 500 two-sided, laminated postcards for $268 (about 54 cents for each card).


Bill Neugent postcard

Q: How was Bill's life-size cutout figure made?

Bill Neugent
(2,385 KB file)

Bill Neugent Life-size Cutout

A: Dan Smith of Hill Signature Portraits in Great Falls, Virginia, used medium format (2-1/4x2-3/4) negative film and took approximately a dozen photos of Bill standing in front of a white backdrop. Bill and Jill selected their favorite image and Dan sent the corresponding negative to his lab for a high resolution scan. The art department at Hill Signature Portraits used Adobe Photoshop to enhance the scanned digital image. For example, they removed the glare from Bill's glasses, from the metal buckles on his suspenders, and on the book jacket. They even "ironed" Bill's trousers. Dan burned the final 76.4 MB image onto a CD. Jill then emailed the image to Marcus Pierce at Lifesize Greetings. Marcus was impressed with the fantastic quality of the image and commented that "It made our job very easy." To create Bill's life-size cutout figure, Marcus and his colleague Bob cut out and blew up Bill's photo in Photoshop, printed it on a wide format printer, mounted it and laminated it onto a piece of plastic, and then cut it out on a router.

Q: Where did you buy your "Signed by Author" book stickers?

A. Jill bought Avery 8293 sticker labels ($16 for 400 1.5 inch circles) and downloaded the Avery 8293 template for Microsoft Word. She used Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100) to create the images which she inserted into the template and printed on the sticker labels.

Book Stickers

Signed by Author stickers

Q: Where did you buy your TaleCatcher™ chocolate coins?

A. Jill bought the chocolate coins (without labels) from Ethel M. She also bought Avery 8293 sticker labels ($16 for 400 1.5 inch circles) and downloaded the Avery 8293 template for Microsoft Word. She used Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100) to create the images which she inserted into the template and printed on the sticker labels.

Chocolate Coin Stickers

Chocolate Coin  stickers

Q: Where did you buy your TaleCatcher™ chocolate cigars?

Chocolate Cigar Band

Chocolate Cigar Band

A: After taste-testing three candidates, a chocolate cigar selection committee picked Ethel M Celebration Cigars (3 for $9.50). Jill used Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100) to create the cigar band image. She printed the image of the cigar band onto Avery Sticker Project Paper, covered the paper with a laminating sheet, cut the bands out, and wraped them around the chocolate cigars.

About the Web Site section

Q: Who is the webmaster and what tools were used?

A: Jill Neugent (Bill’s wife) is the webmaster. Her only prior experience with web design was as a Technology Teacher in Crossfield Elementary School (Herndon, VA), where she was also the school webmaster. At that time, she used Adobe GoLive for web development. For this site she uses Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX ($350). For photos she uses Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($100), For screen capture of images (e.g., TaleCatcher Newsletter) she uses Any Capture ($25). Jill has an M.Ed. in Instructional Technology (George Mason University) and twenty years of experience in the computer profession, so she’s acquainted with technology.

Q: What was involved in adding the search engine?

A: Jill initially installed a free CGI script, but found its search engine wasn't very powerful. After testing several other search engine tools, Jill selected FreeFind (free with ads, $5/month without ads) because it offers high speed, high availability, advanced site search technology. There are several versions of FreeFind (i.e., a free version that includes advertising with the search results and a range of monthly subscription versions with no advertising). Jill edited FreeFind's search panel HTML and added it to the TaleCatcher™ banner. She also used Dreamweaver MX to create a custom search results page.

Q: Who did the moving tail in the TaleCatcher logo?

A: That is an interesting story. Bill used Elance to release a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the animation. By the next morning, he had seven bids, all at $300, which is the least Elance allows for that type of job (this bid information is all publicly available on the Elance web site). One proposal outshone the others, a bid from NetE Solutions. These guys had actually done a quick mock-up of the animation in both .gif and .swf (Shockwave Flash) format. That's for free, as part of their proposal. Also, their animation portfolio (available at Elance.com) was by far the best among the bidders. So within a day of releasing the RFP, Bill had a draft product and an agreement with NetE for a final.

A few days later Bill received from NetE an improved version, but the changes were not to his taste. He sent NetE a bunch of comments and within a day had the final version you see on the home page of this site.

He had a choice of using either a 103K .gif file or a 32K .swf file, and chose the latter, due to its smaller size and the fact that he tried a wide range of browsers and found them all compatible with the Flash format. You hear so much about the high cost of web development. This is a counter-example -- an entire acquisition in a couple of days for a few hundred bucks. NetE walks on water.

By the way, the static logo was designed by Jill. Bill also used an Elance acquisition to solicit logo ideas, but did not receive any ideas that he fell in love with from any of the three winning bidders. Bill did not fault the bidders for failing to guess what he wanted when he did not know himself. Jill, however, being Bill’s wife, was able to either read his mind and figure out what he wanted or convince him of what she wanted. It is not allowed for husbands and wives to ponder on which of these two cases might have occurred.

Q: How did you convert your workshop slides (“Self-Publishing and Marketing Your Own Book in the Digital Age”) from PowerPoint to a .pdf file?

A: Jill used Pdf995 which is a fast, easy, and free way to save documents in the PDF file format. Once you download and install it on your computer, you can create PDF files by simply selecting the "print" command from any application. When the Print dialog box displays, you select Pdf995 instead of your default printer. You can view the resultant documents on any computer with an Adobe Acrobat Reader (free).

Q: What tools did you use to create your Sound Bites?

A: Jill purchased an inexpensive Radio Shack PC microphone and recorded music with the hardware (Sound Blaster Pro 16 sound chip) and software (Sound Recorder) that came free with the IBM ThinkPad. Unfortunately, the recorded sound quality was poor. Jill knew that one or more of the recording components had to be replaced. She also realized that Bill needed to record multiple tracks (e.g., separate tracks for vocal and guitar), which can't be done with Sound Recorder software. After some research at CompUSA and Circuit City, Jill purchased the Magix Music Maker 2004 deLuxe ($65) software to record, edit, and publish multi-track songs in several formats (e.g., mp3, wav, and ra). She also bought a Plantronics .Audio 60 PC Headset ($30) so Bill could listen to one track while recording another track. Although Music Maker improved recording capabilities, it didn't improve the sound quality, so Jill tried a few other microphones, including a unidirectional Karaoke mike and a multidirectional speaker mike. The results didn't improve. After further research on the Internet, Jill purchased an External SoundBlaster Extigy ($155) sound card, a Shure Vocal Microphone SM58 ($135), and a 20' microphone cord. Voila! Bill and Jill were in the Sound Bite business. :-)

Q: What has been visitor reaction to the site?

A: Excellent question. Since you asked, below are some of the unsolicited comments received.

“I just spent the past 30 minutes roaming through your home page. I love the beginnings with the tail in neugent ... I am very impressed.” Sheila Brand, Information Assurance Directorate, National Security Agency; Sheila lives in “a long and low manse” in Pikesville, MD.

“Just checked out your web site. I laughed - I cried. Jill is a genius! This is absolutely wonderful ... Can't wait to read the book.” Linda Cross, Cross Concepts -- A Writing Service for Leaders, Reston, VA.

“I've looked at your site, and all I can say is ...‘WOW!’" Alvin M. Hattal, Business Writer, Columnist, Nonfiction Author, Editorial Consultant, http://www.biz2bizwriter.com, Kirkland, WA.

“I checked out your website (which is terrific, by the way), and your family background and photos brought some memories to mind ... I even read your eulogy for your mother, which I enjoyed very much.” Pauline Hovey, freelance writer/technical editor, living in “beautiful” Barboursville, VA.

"REALLY nice tail wag, and truly wonderful web site!" Teresa Johnson, Stuttgart, Germany.

“Wow Bill, if you write as well as you write websites, the book has got to be funny, clever, intelligent, and iconoclastic. Got to get it.” Janet Lowenbach, Washington Reporter, FDA Webview, freelance writer/editor, Washington D.C.

“Terrific job you did ... I am impressed!” Barbara Mosgrave, Medical Writer, Fairfax County, VA.

“Wow, Bill -- awesome web site! And the shameless gimmickry is brilliant! Great ideas, and we can sense the energy.” John N. Oglesby, Manager, Strategic Technology Planning, International Paper; also the brilliant author of "Steps" in Pronto! Writings From Rome, and the as-yet unpublished work, May I Please Speak with Rebecca Charlotte?, Memphis, TN.

“...the website...is great. I just finished Bill's eulogy for his mother. Here I am on Sunday morn with laughter and tears in my eyes for a woman I never met. Now that's a great eulogy!!!!” Blair Reid, Librarian/Media Specialist, Oklahoma Middle School, Eldersburg, MD.


Updated: 04-Mar-2003