Friday, March 30, 2007

All About Book Promotion

<-- James Joyce, a man whose books need little promotion.

Book promotion is hard, believe me.

Whoosh Boom Splat - the Garage Warriors Guide to Projectile Shooters has been on sale since Tuesday and I'm happy to say, so far so good. The promotional video has, as they say, "gone viral" with about 24000 views on youtube since Tuesday. As I write this, it is ranked number 1873 of the 2 million plus books on Amazon, down from a ranking of 490 but still very good. If things stay on course, WBS will be a very successful book. If it does as well as Backyard Ballistics, I'd be very pleased.

Today, I'm in high dudgeon, up on my high horse, or as James Joyce wrote, I'm "all wind and piss like a tanyard cat." Here's my take, for writers and others interested in book marketing. Boy, do I have opinions.

To date, WBS has had very little radio, magazine, or television promotion. Normally, this would have been very disappointing, but after five books, I've figured out not to rely on my publisher for directing the promotion effort. It's got to come from the author.

I don't think book publishers have figured out what works in the online age yet.

Think about it. Hundreds of thousands of books come out every year. Publishers hire too few publicists for too many books. While this is drastically oversimplified, the publicists send thousands of promotional copies to the same set of book critics and producers at traditional media outlets like newspapers, radio stations, and television. These people get thousands of books and don't even look at most of them. They just trash them or give them to Todd, Boris, or Wilma in the mail room.
Virtually none get mentioned except for a few high profile picks. And even those that do get reviewed -- well, big deal (This may sound like heresy, but it's true). A mention of a book on local radio or in a newspaper column has little effect on sales. Full time authors need to sell thousands of books, not five or ten or even 25, which is about all you'll get from a local mention.

To my author friends, I say:
Your own personal efforts based on 'guerrilla' Internet marketing is the best method promoting your book. Any help you get from the publisher is gravy.

Here's what I did. First, I hooked up with some incredibly talented people to make a short video about the book. It's called "Bagel Boy." Then I told influential people about Bagel Boy .

Over time, it's been my great pleasure to get to know some great Internet insiders: bloggers, podcasters, and so forth.
Bagel Boy, and therefore Whoosh Boom Splat has been featured on the very top blogs in the world, Mark Frauenfelder's Boing Boing, Phil Torrone's Make: Blog, Noah Schactman's Danger Room, Kirsten Sandford's podcast This Week in Science, Popular Science's How 2.0, and a host of smaller but no less excellent ones such as Gareth Branwyn's Street Tech, the Daily DIY, Dick's Rocket Dungeon, and several others just as good but not named here.

Many authors can benefit from a well designed marketing plan that centers on the Internet. I'm should write an article this subject. Someday, maybe.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Whoosh Boom Splat - On Sale!

Hey there readers:

On Tuesday March 27, my new book Whoosh Boom Splat -- The Garage Warrior's Guide to Projectile Shooters goes on sale.

Check out Whoosh Boom Splat in action:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jeff Corwin meets Stampy

Jeff Corwin, my favorite TV naturalist since the recent demise of Steve Irwin, got crosswise with an elephant. The video is quite graphic, but luckily for him, the beast wasn't real serious about doing him harm.

The video of Corwin getting the raw end of the elephant encounter is here

In the course of researching sections of Whoosh Boom Splat - the Garage Warrior's Guide to Projectile Shooters, which is my new book, I came across several rather bizarre tales of human - elephant interaction. Two incidents in the USA particularly stand out. Both incidents culminate in the public execution of two elephants -- one by hanging and one by electrocution. Both tales are fascinating in a Chuck Shepard News of the Weird kind of way.

What the public, legal execution of the elephants Topsy and Mary has to do with projectile shooters is hard to explain, so, I won't try. Google "hanging elephant" or "electrocuted elephant" and you'll get the morbid details.

Corwin's pachyderm nemesis apparently doesn't have a name already, so I'm going to call him "Stampy."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My new book Whoosh Boom Splat - The Garage Warrior's Guide to Projectile Devices comes out next Tuesday (March 27). I plan to describe it fully in the days to come. It's a neat book and is similar to Backyard Ballistics (my first book) but with all new projects - including how to make and use your own blowgun.

That projects is roughly based on the yagua blowgun. After researching and building numerous such devices I can tell you that blowguns are amazing devices with an interesting history. As much as I like them, building them and especially using them is not for everybody, but those who enjoy a challenge will find it engaging.

Simple blowguns were used by prehistoric hunters to bring down small game. There are many references to breath-powered shooters by classical Roman and Greek historians. In fact, they were used all over the ancient world. There is a long and quite rich history of blowgun use, especially in places such as Japan, pre-Columbian America, the Pacific islands and of course, the Amazon rainforest,.

The hunter in the picture above is a Brazilian Indian and comes from a nineteenth century woodcut. He is holding a blowgun called a zarabatana. Here's info on the blowgun:

A short passage on Amazon blowgun construction from a travel diary-like book by a college professor from Ohio ("Don't Drink The Water," by Ida May Sonntag - 1980). She details her experiences during vacations and sabbatical leaves:

"The people along the river are largely of Indian descent. I was able to barter for a Zarabatana (blowgun) with a member of the Maku tribe. This weapon is a simple yet precise hunting instrument. Only small game is hunted and contrary to popular belief is not used for warfare. The shaft is made of pachuiba (palmwood) while the mouthpiece is made of Brazilwood attached with a tree resin. Dart cases are made of woven palm strips and the darts are made of palmwood with wild kapok cotton stabilizers. With practice the Indians can hit small birds at 100 ft."

For more info on Whoosh Boom Splat and blowpipes, zarabantana, fukiya, yagua, and other blowguns click on the Amazon link for located to the side of this blog. It provides information and does not obligate you to buy anything.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Places to Drive Fast

There is a controversy a'brewin in Germany about speed limits on the Autobahn. Seems that German Porshe and BMW owners do not want keep all those horses under their hood tethered to a mere 80 miles per hour, when they're used to going, say 170. As anybody with a high cylinder index will tell you, if you've got the cylinders, you want to use them.

What can they do?

As a service to them and all other speed lovers, here's Bill's list of places you can drive fast, legally.


  • 80 mph in West Texas (yee-hah!)
  • 80 mph (approx) in most of Eastern Europe - Poland, Slovenia, Romania, etc

Less Slow:
  • 95 mph on portions of the Italian Autostrade
  • 100 mph on portions of the Austria Autobahn

Road in Nepal -->

Not Slow: Places without limits
  • German Autobahn
  • Unposted areas on the Isle of Man
  • Unposted areas in Nepal
( But I can't really imagine driving all that fast in Nepal, given all the yak-cart traffic slowing you down.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Telsa Down Under

<- "Eye of Sauron"

I've said many times that some of the very best tinkerers in the world live Down Under in Australia and New Zealand.

There's a particularly strong group of high voltage enthusiasts who build a number of off-the-wall things.

I found a particularly creative coiler's site called "Telsa Down Under." Check out the neat pix posted of his "rotating coil breakout point" Tesla Coil. The site owner, a Western Australian named Peter, provides a bunch of cool slides including his "Tesla Coil auto theft preventer."

What is a Tesla Coil?
The following is taken from the Tesla coil mailing list at
A tesla coil is a resonant air core
transformer. It is used to produce high voltages (around 200 Kilovolts on up) at
high frequencies (around 500KHz and lower). It was named after its inventor,
Nikola Tesla.

The tesla coil is not like most transformers that you may be familiar
with. The "standard" transformer uses magnetic fields that are contained in an
iron core. These fields transfer the electrical energy from one coil to the
other. The voltage gain or loss is governed strictly by the ratio of turns
between the coils.

A tesla coil operates on another principle entirely. This principle is
called resonance, and is analogous to a fishing pole that you swing with a small
motion of your hand. If you move your hand back and forth a small amount at the
correct rate (frequency), the tip of the pole will whip wildly back and forth.
Same thing for a tesla coil. If you "swing" it at the right frequency, the
voltage at the top will rise and fall wildly.

Peter's site appears to be Australia's answer to Sam Barros Powerlabs site ( or the Make magazine blog ( There's info on projects including ionic lifters, radioactive materials, vortex cannons and more.

(Note to readers: There are plans for a DSW (Directed Smell Weapon) based on a vortex cannon in my new book, Whoosh Boom Splat which goes on sale March 27. More information to follow soon!)

I haven't had enough time to explore the site completely, but it definitely looks like it's worth taking some time to explore.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bull Run

Here's one of those weird "Connections"-style posts, where one event leads to another to another and so forth.

I was looking for idea fodder to write about tonight, so I googled the word "explosions" into the news search bar. I rarely do that, because most of the hits are about Iraq or other depressing stuff (I'm hoping to find stuff about less depressing explosions like say the now defunct Divine Strake project or Hawaiian volcanoes)

Anyway, among all the Algerian, Pakistani, and Slovakian carnage, there was a link to an article by Steven Cole Smith in the Orlando Sentinel panning an upcoming Spike TV show called "BullRun." An excerpt from Mr. Smith's article:

“Where reality meets the road,” says the promo for “Bullrun,” a television series that premieres March 13 of Spike, the cable network. And “4,000 miles, 12 teams, 1 winner.”

You know what this is about: A dozen teams on a banzai run across the country -- with one difference: the run is north to south, instead of the typical east to west. The winner gets $200,000. But it isn’t a race per se, because that would be wrong. Wrong, as in illegal, and the lawyers insist that a race, sponsored by a big TV network, would be a lawsuit waiting to happen when one of the bleary-eyed competitors T-bones a school bus full of nuns.

So in “Bullrun,” there are competitions. Such, as in the first episode, where you strap a big stick with spikes on either end, and drive fast through a parking lot, and try to use the spikes to break lit light bulbs. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds, especially when, at the end or every run, there’s an explosion! Well, it’s off in a field, but it’s an explosion nonetheless.

It's easy to imagine the production meeting. "This scene lacks something," one producer says.

"How about lots of explosions?" another one says.

"You can't go wrong with explosions," says a third producer, "because ovbiously, we are marketing this to idiots."

All this is under the supervision of Bill Goldberg, the professional wrestler, so you know what to expect there, too.

Okay, so thanks to a somewhat cranky Florida newspaper columnist, I now have a post about explosions. But hey, it also mentions Bill Goldberg, the professional wrestler. So what?

So this: I bought my house 22 years ago from Goldberg's sister. Yes, it's true. And my next door neighbors, Frank and Bev, who have lived in their house for far longer, tell me that they often saw her beefy younger brother in the house the family came to visit.

So, in the room in which I now type this blog, no doubt once slept the young, pre pro wrestling, pre Bullrun producing Bill Goldberg. So, that's my connection story.

No more posts this week, I'm off on vacation with the family.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rare Opportunity to Visit Livermore Lab's Site 300

The Site 300 Firing Facilities are part of Lawrence Livermore National Labs and are used for "hydrodynamic testing" of high explosives (HE). It's a high security, high energy kind of place and I'd imagine that it's not often open to the public.

<-- Site 300 Contained Firing Facility

There are observation posts near the firing facilities to spot people, animals, aircraft, and other things that might interfere with testing. Although the firing facilities continue to be principally used for nuclear weapons research, tests of conventional weapons are also conducted.

But evidently, a public relations concern has convinced the lab allow visitors inside Site 300 via public tours of the facility the first and third Fridays of this month. The first one begins at 10 a.m. Friday; reservations are required. Tour highlights include a view of the Contained Firing Facility, a look at the site’s environmental remediation facilities and wetlands and stops at observation points for wildlife and surrounding property.

I'd absolutely go to get a look if I didn't live 2000 miles away.