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When online bookstores began to take off, Amazon quickly established itself as the biggest dealer in the field. Sure there were other bookstores, for example, Fishpond, but they paled beside the giant Amazon. We’re talking hard copy here.

When Amazon saw the trend towards e-books, it hopped right in and again established itself as the biggest retailer. Sure, there were other e-book distributors — Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others — but Amazon was the biggest. A huge industry sprang up. Writers could self-publish their books and put them on many different distribution platforms.

Looking good. Good for the writers, good for the e-book publishers and distributors. A nice competitive industry.

Then Amazon produced the Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers that enable users to shop for, download, browse and read e-books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media via wireless networking (source: Wikipedia). Amazon has now launched what it calls Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing  or Amazon KDP. With this, a writer can get his book published by Amazon and have it go directly to Kindle, which is grabbing a large share of the applications market with the introduction of its Kindle software for use on various platforms such as Microsoft Windows, iOS, Blackberry, MacOSX (10.5 onward, Intel only), Android, webOS and Windows Phone (source: Wikipedia).  The most recent refinement of all this is Amazon KDP Select.

Amazon KDP Select. This sounds good — until you read the small print in Amazon’s Terms and Conditions: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

To paraphrase this small print: While or the time your book is enrolled in the program, you must agree not to distribute or sell your book ANYWHERE ELSE. This includes your own personal blog or web site. Your title must be 100% exclusive to Amazon.

If you violate this at any point during the 3-month enrolment period, or you remove your book from the program so you can distribute it elsewhere, you risk forfeited earnings, delayed payments, a lien on future earnings – or getting kicked out of the Kindle Direct Publishing program altogether.

After the obligatory 3 months, your enrolment in the KDP Select continues unless you go through the process of opting out. Forget, and you’re up for another 3 months.

This forces the author to remove the book from sale from the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Smashwords and others, thereby causing the author to lose out on sales from competing retailers.

By withdrawing a title from any retailer, the author destroys any accrued sales ranking in their lists, making their book less visible and less discoverable should they reactivate distribution to competing retailers.

Do authors want to be totally dependent upon Amazon for sales? New writers are desperate; they will do almost anything to sell their books. And they know that with Amazon KDP, more customers are motivated to go straight to Amazon since Amazon has this exclusive content.

It’s a clever ploy on Amazon’s part. As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords says, The new Amazon KDP Select program look s like a predatory business practice (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-competitive_practices). Pretty soon, Amazon can use the opportunity to leverage their dominance as the world’s largest e-book retailer (and world’s largest payer to indie authors) to attain monopolistic advantage by effectively denying its competing retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony, etc) access to the books from indie authors.

Indies are the future of book publishing. In the US, in the last three months of 2010, Amazon’s sales of e-books surpassed that of paperbacks for the first time.

Think about this. It might pay indie authors to recognise that their long term interests are best served by having a competitive global ebook retailing ecosystem. Mark Coker recommends an author distribute their book to as many retailers as possible. Many ebook retailers, all working to attract readers to books, will surely serve indie authors better in the long run than a single retailer who can dictate all the terms.

But whoever thinks of the long run? The long run is everyone’s poor relation, doomed to be steamrollered by the bullies of expediency and money.

The contents of this blog are based on a blog by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. The original, more comprehensive article can be found at: blog.smashwords.com/2011/12/amazon-shows-predatory-spots-with-kdp.html

Next Week: A review of Australian author Michael Sala’s debut novel The Last Thread published by Affirm Press.

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With the rise of digital technology, mainstream publishers became deluged with manuscripts. Today, more and more emerging writers are taking to self-publishing as a way of getting their work out there. Below is one writer’s journey into publishing with the UK Arts Council funded site Youwrite on.  It’s a happy story.

Self-publishing with Youwriteon by guest blogger: Louise Forster

After 11 years I’ve finally cracked it, I’m published. Okay, not in the usual sense with an agent and publisher, but as a self-published writer. I’ll cut to the chase and give you the facts.

I published with YouWriteOn, a UK Arts funded site that anyone can join. Basically it works on a bartering system. You read someone’s work and, at random, someone reads yours. You receive reviews from cold readers who don’t know you. The down side is, sometimes you’ll get a reader who’s not familiar with your genre. Then you need to shrug and say to yourself, what the heck. Of course there are times when a reviewer will say, ‘I wouldn’t normally choose this genre and I almost deleted your piece, but I’m glad I didn’t because I really enjoyed it.’ Check them out at www.youwriteon.com. If the above doesn’t appeal to you, they also offer publishing without peer review at:  www.FeedARead.com

Nearly 2 years ago I paid £58.99 (A$89.77). With this fee I’m published, and printed by Lightning Source, who have Print on Demand (POD) facilities all over the world, including Melbourne (important for me, as I’m in Australia). My book is beautifully presented in paperback, glossy cover, good quality paper and lovely, easy-to-read font. Recently I paid £34.94 for 6 of my books in hard copy; that comes to about A$5.50 per book, and that includes postage!

My book is available on as many online stores you can think of and some you wouldn’t know existed, like www.flipkart.com  in India — I’m waiting for an Indian director to read FINDING VERONICA and love her so much he wants to turn it into a Bollywood movie! (Bring it on.)

INFO BELOW TAKEN FROM THE FeedARead SITE:

• It’s free to set-up your book for sale through FeedARead.com
• You set your own book price and royalty
• Full bookseller distribution service. You can also choose to make your book available via the major online outlets, including Amazon, and for major bookshops to order. The fees for this are as follows:

BOOKSELLER DISTRIBUTION SERVICE
UK Authors: £88
US Authors: $79
Australian Authors: $140
European Authors: E100
All other authors: £88 UK.

FeedARead’s distribution service places your book into the world’s most comprehensive distribution channel. With over 30,000 wholesalers, retailers and booksellers in over 100 countries your book will gain the maximum exposure possible in the market today. This includes your book being available to order through all of the following: Amazon and Barnes & Noble (US); Amazon, WHSmith and Waterstones (UK); Amazon Europe; and TheNile.com (Australia).

My book is also available on Kindle through Amazon. On 18 December I joined Amazon’s new program for Kindle users called Prime. It was a little scary, but looking into it, I discovered that subscribers to Prime pay $78.99 annually. This enables them to borrow 12 books per year from the Prime Kindle list. Why would readers want to go this library route when it actually costs more per book? It saves the reader from making PayPal transactions every time they want a new book. Amazon currently sets aside $500,000/month for distribution to authors. After the 90-day trial period, my book continues with Prime for another 90 days, and so on unless I inform them that I don’t want to continue. Every 90 days, I am given 5 days for promotion, during which your books are available for free, and I can choose the dates — which is most useful if you want to coordinate it with your local book launch and local PR. I had one on the 18th another on the 21st of December.  (Normally, the ebook sells for $2.99; I receive 70% of this. )

Your share of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% of $500,000 (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%); that is, $7,500 in December.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/KDPSelect

The sudden rise in sales happened AFTER I joined the KOLL. I believe that, had I not joined Prime, FINDING VERONICA would have been lost among the millions of books available. However to be fair, I have to say that I also began tweeting a few weeks ago as part of my PR program. Whether the suddden rise in my sales was due to twitter or to joining the KOLL, it’s simply too soon to know.

Whatever it is, it seems to be working!

 

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This isn’t going to be a blog about the meaning of life, a discourse in which I try to sell you my philosophy, all wrapped up in The Wonder of Me. Rather, it’s an overview of how and why I’m currently upping my profile on the web.

It’s all about book promotion.

As you might (or might not) know, I’ve a little freelance manuscript assessment business, specialising in the novel and the memoir. What I began to notice was that it was becoming so hard to get your first novel published by a large company in Australia that more and more emerging writers were taking to e book self-publishing or going with very small e book publishers who also had Print on Demand (POD) facilities in Australia. Urged on by cries that the internet was the coming thing, what with Kindle, etc. they were excited. Think of the size of the web! they said to me. Millions of people will see my book.

Hmmm, said I to myself. (Perhaps this is the place to admit that I have a streak of cynicism in my makeup. Well hidden, but it’s there.) Back to the point. Most of these writers had little coverage on the net, and the results of their digiPOD publishing ventures were extremely disappointing, to say the least. As the assessor/mentor, the one who had held their hands through all the rewrites, and who had kept in touch with them afterwards to see how this wondrous new digiPOD sally turned out, I was one of the first to hear the cries of disappointment and disillusion.

I felt for them. What to do?

I’m so old I can remember the time in Australia when all you had to do was write out your novel in longhand on a block of foolscap, pay a typist to type it up for you, send it off to a publisher and Bob’s your uncle — you’d be a published author in no time. This doesn’t happen anymore. But the ease and low cost of digiPOD publishing with such sites as the UK Council of the Arts funded Youwrite on, is persuading emerging writers that this is the new, modern book explosion. Just put up your website, and watch the sales roll in.

Ho.

As I was pondering this dilemma, the flyer for Sam Borrett’s social media networking seminar fell into my letterbox. I’m now sallying forth into what feels to me like The Wilderness of Zin. (This phrase, which I’d give my eye teeth to have written, is the name of a paper written by Leonard Woolley and T E Lawrence for the British Museum in 1914 — Lawrence later achieved fame as Lawrence of Arabia, for his part in raising the Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI.) The wails of the disappointed writers have woken me from my happy delusion that all the internet was good for was research and email, and putting up pictures of you with your new hair colour. So here I am, floundering about the wilderness, trying to discover things I can take back home to help those emerging writers.

Will I find anything that can help them? It’s too soon to know. But tell you what: I’m fascinated. There’s definitely something out there.

Wish me luck.

Danielle

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And now we come to …

ANOTHER WRITER’S JOURNEY or The Writing Game, as far as I’ve got: Chris Shaw

The writing

I was working in the UK as a locum pharmacist (2001-2002) with Rebecca, my newish wife. The idea was to spend some quality time with aging parents (94 and 92), earn some good money and travel around.

It was a stressful time, primarily because of the weekly change of location, staff and corporate rules. However, it was because of this stress that I was stimulated to write newsletters to friends back in OZ. On my return, I combined them and came up with 40,000 words! To someone who writes addresses on postcards in very large print to avoid having to write much text, this came as a ‘Damascus’ moment for me.

Something funny happened in bed one night, involving our three cats and, with Rebecca’s encouragement, I wrote about it. The premise was that, ‘I never let the truth stand in the way of a good story’! Encouraged by the pleasure of the writing process, I wrote twenty- five stories over about four years, which doesn’t sound much, but it was an infinite increase from my one postcard per decade.

I sent these off to Danielle, who encouraged me to ditch seven and self-publish the remaining eighteen, which became, It’s All Relative: stories to shorten your travel time.

The learning curve took off at that point and continues its exponential growth to this day. I’m still learning a craft that will entertain me for the years I have left — who knows, maybe I can increase the smiles on our planet by one or two.

Agents and Publishers

I didn’t even look for an agent or a publisher, (why do those words bring Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons to mind?) The impression I get from all the talk around me is that agents and large publishers have enjoyed success in a long, easy market, to the point where they have become very selective and picky. It reminds me of the stockbroking market, where those in the know prosper, and there are very few surprises.

However, e-books may well be their Global Financial Crisis! This whole book market is in a state of revolution, and since my Rebecca has bought an iPad, I get a better picture of where the trend is taking authors. The jury remains out and vacillating, however.

I decided to self-publish.

Self-publishing

I had a series of three editors who gave the general impression they would have preferred cutting the complete works of Shakespeare into its component letters, rather than editing my little tome. However, I found an enthusiastic printer who produced 200 copies for me. I now have about 5 left.

The marketing was a challenge, although I thought I knew something about that through my work in small business. The money I threw at the project was what they call in the property business, ‘overcapitalising’!

The book cover was professionally designed, and I was very happy with it. The same logo was on 5,000 bookmarks, a big banner for signings, and on the back window of my 4WD. Then I got really creative and paid a professional actor to read the book to a professional sound engineer who put it on two CDs. He had a contact in Brisbane that ‘did’ me 500, in cases with a slick or printed insert in each, and had the CDs themselves printed. All very gung ho and swisho!

During the self-publishing process, understanding the language of the various agencies involved, with ISBNs, CIPs, galleys, colour bleeding and so on became an exciting learning curve too. You have to be tough and committed to search for, learn and incorporate all this stuff! (J. K. Rowling’s mega-success in the face of extraordinary odds may well be the ‘carrot’ for many of us!)

Marketing and Promotion

My book launch taught me a valuable lesson, namely: ‘Go and get some professional help at public speaking’. Fifty years of ducking and diving to avoid getting up on my hind legs in front of more than two people had given me a sense of false security. My launch in a hired hall had booze and nibbles, a PA system, and about 80 people — mostly friends who came for the free booze. I sold a handful of books but it was yet another financial failure.  Nice to catch up, though!

I’ve had some signings, put the book/CDs into a couple of bookstores and on my website, but haven’t worked very hard at it, to be honest. My deep-down feeling is that it was an apprenticeship exercise — but hey, I enjoyed it.

Finally, I retired from my profession, and sloughed off the odd fifty hours a week of slavery. So I’ve had some time to myself — what a dead-set luxury that is, after 56 years! I’ve learnt to operate the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner and how to wash up; I now cook about 50% of the meals – duties I take seriously, since Rebecca is still running her library.

I took a 6-week course on Public Speaking and Communication Skills, run by a highly experienced lady with a critical eye, and survived that. I also joined Book Creators Circle, an organisation that caters for ‘a soft landing for anyone with a passion for books’. Their members include writers, editors, publishers, designers, printers and book binders, so there’s no lack of expertise when you need it. Through this medium, I played Master of Ceremonies at the last Book Expo and have led speakers at our monthly gatherings. So my course has paid off handsomely — yes, I know, but not financially!

From May to September 2010, I threw down 100,000 words of a novel that seemed to come from nowhere. I’ve had it looked at, and have been told that while there is romance and war, I would have to pick a genre and stick with it. It will be called My Chocolate Soldier, and I’m struggling with it still. There’s some lovely stuff in it (I hope you understand that), and I’m very pleased with it, but it needs better organisation for a flowing story. I’m attached to it in the same way a mother is attached to a less than pretty child. More learning!

Meanwhile, I carried out a promise to myself to write a book called Hey Guys! Here’s How You get More Nooki! It’s a serious attempt to teach men what women need and want from a relationship, not what men think women want — having been through divorce and depression and the Victoria Cross level of courage to marry again, I think I’m qualified. But wait, there’s more! Being a pharmacist working in community pharmacy for forty years in the exclusive company of women, also gave me an edge. Add to that our second marriage, ‘built’ by Rebecca and I, which has lasted for twenty years with no arguments, and no cross words. THAT is my qualification for this current book!

Conclusions

Looking back through the whole experience, I’d rate Writing 1 out of 10 for difficulty; Agents and Publishing are 4 and 3 respectively, and Marketing, the remaining 2 — and if that doesn’t make 10, I’ll stick to fiction. That’s my take, but every writer’s different.

Whatever else you do, keep writing. Keep entertaining, making laughter and tears, fear and joy, and giving and receiving insights.

And keep smiling!

                                                                                                            Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw

I'm the one in the middle - "See No Evil".

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Shaune Lafferty Webb. Image supplied by Leslie Downie Photography, Noosaville. http://www.downiephotography.com.au

Back again, although it isn’t Sunday. Thought it might be interesting for writers out there struggling with writing their novel, memoirs, whatever, to learn of the experiences of two very different authors after their books were written.

This week’s author is Shaune Lafferty Webb, author of the speculative fiction novel Bus Stop on a  Strange Loop, published by Winterbourne Press. Next week – or maybe fortnight, depending on when he can bring himself to the task – it will be Chris Shaw, author and publisher of It’s All Relative, a collection of humourous short stories.  Both authors are based in Queensland, Australia.

And now to Shaune’s journey.

ONE WRITER’S JOURNEY

Five years ago, a change in circumstances offered me a rare opportunity: the chance to pursue an old dream. I wanted to be a writer … a writer with a published novel. I knew it would be a long road fraught with obstacles and blind turns. But I was prepared for the hard work; I could tackle the criticisms; and I’m nothing if not persistent. Finally, the writing was ‘finished’; I’d come to my first cross-road. Should I look for …

… an agent or a publisher?

A study of agents’ websites quickly led me to conclude that an agent was equally as difficult (impossible?) to snare as a publisher. Few invited new clients, certainly none I found encouraged writers of speculative fiction. So my course was set. I was off in search of a publisher.

Well, my quest degenerated into a frustrating and demoralising two-year process of submitting to every publisher I could find in Australia – and overseas – who was willing to look at unsolicited material. Sometimes I received a response; many times I did not. While the responses I did receive were polite and sometimes expressed interest in my work or complimented me on my writing style, my story was inevitably not what they were ’currently looking for’.

I’d hit another cross-road: what to do? If I were ever going to see my work published, it seemed the only direction left was Partnership Publishing, a phenomenally expensive gamble, which I did take but, for a number of reasons, elected not to pursue to completion. Was it worth the money? Not really. Did I learn anything from another editing experience? Yes: all constructive input refines writing skills. Would I do it again? No. However, a positive result of my investment was that I now had in my hands a professionally printed galley that I could send out for review.

Now there was a new obstacle in my path: I’d listened to my reviewers and refined my work accordingly, but I had already tried every publisher I could find. However, by a stroke of good fortune, Winterbourne Publishing had just opened its doors and it was a small publishing house geared strictly toward speculative fiction. You don’t find one of those every day. I submitted my manuscript yet again.

Not so fast. You thought I was going to say they accepted it, didn’t you? Afraid not. What they did offer me was the chance to work with them to revise it — one more time. After a brief fit of hysteria at the prospect of even more editing, I gratefully accepted the offer. Four months down the track my novel is out there for readers to buy from any on-line bookstore — if they happen to stumble across it, that is. Which leads us to …

… the marketing phase.

What can I say about marketing and self-promotion? Beyond expressing my sincere appreciation to my publisher who’s definitely given it all she’s got, not a lot that’s printable really. I have the website, but I am not a born blogger or social networker. I’m registered on Amazon as an author, but I don’t have a following or a bevy of enthusiasts ready and willing to promote my book. I’ve knocked on the doors of bookshops and been knocked back in return. Goodreads has brought my book to the public eye to some extent through their ‘give away’ program. But, as far as exposure goes, I haven’t even managed to scratch the surface.

I wouldn’t say that the writing was the easy part, but there is an element of satisfaction in putting images into words and in tying those words into a tale, that serves to offset the difficulty. Some writers might enjoy the hunt for a publisher or revel in the marketing scene. I’m not one of them. For me, there simply isn’t the slightest element of satisfaction in being repeatedly rejected or failing to succeed with a promotion.

Even a writer friend, who has managed to get her self-published books on the shelves of one of the major bookstores, has become dejected with the promotional phase of this business. Her book-signings have proven to be an expensive and unsuccessful approach. There might be a clever trick to marketing, but to date it continues to elude us both. So …

… was it worth it?

What were my expectations when I began this journey? To become famous and make a fortune with my writing? No, I wasn’t that unrealistic. To reach enough readers to make a living? Well, perhaps not a good one, but maybe if I were exceptionally lucky, I might bring in a little money. To attain just enough success to justify the selfishness of spending so much time writing? I’ll admit to that. Will it ever happen? No, I really don’t think so. Along every step of my journey, I doubted I’d ever really reach my goal.

Then what of those fine notions about being prepared to work hard and take criticism? Ah, those aspects were under my control. As was persistence. But it seems even persistence only gets you so far. Maybe there are just too many writers out there — a lot of hopefuls in a time and place where there simply isn’t enough hope to go around. Some make it by luck. Most don’t.

I was lucky. Although I won’t make it big, I did reach a few people who seem to like my work. I guess you could say that I’m stuck in a ditch part way down the road. But by the look of things, the odds are against me ever finding a way to crawl out.

 Shaune Lafferty Webb

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Before we go any further, I suppose it would be a good idea to let you put a face to this writer, let you know who you’re dealing with, as it were.

This is one of the few photographs I have in which I look even halfway presentable. It was taken in Brisbane in 2010 (I know it’s almost seven years ago; I’m harder to photograph than a yeti) at the 50th reunion of agricultural scientists who graduated from Queensland University in years in ’58-’62 approximately.

What’s a person with a B. Agr. Sc. and a major in Plant Physiology doing writing fiction and editing/assessing manuscripts? It’s a l-o-n-g story …

For more, click on the About section above. For information about manuscript assessments or editing, please see: http://patrickdevalera.com

and click on Manuscript Development Services in the menu bar.

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Hi, I’m not really a blogger, I’m an old manuscript assessor, assessing mostly fiction. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of the things people in the game take for granted writers starting out simply don’t know – how wide should your margins be? Should you use double spacing or single? Where’s the best place to put the page numbers? What spelling should I follow? Oh and lots more.

So I thought I might lay out a few tips for those writing their first long work (and those writing short stories, let’s not forget them), be it fiction, non fiction or memoir. Every Sunday, I’ll try to put something here that I think might be helpful.

You want more information? Okay. (Sorry about the change in POV.)

DANIELLE de Valera’s father swore she was related on her mother’s side to Eamon de Valera, the controversial Irish politician — but he told some tall tales in his time, and this could be one of them. What we do know is that she was born in Sydney, 1938, educated Brisbane and Townsville. In 1959, she obtained a B Agr Sc. from the University of Queensland, worked as a botanist for a couple of years and later, as a copy-editor for The Jacaranda Press. A freelance manuscript assessor and fiction editor since 1992, she runs the Patrick de Valera Manuscript Appraisal Agency, where she helps aspiring writers to hone their work and ultimately get published. As well as this blog, she has another, more airy-fairy one at http:www.ecademy.com/blog/danielledevalera

A published author in her own right, in August 2011 her 108,000 word fiction manuscript SOME KIND OF ROMANTIC was one of 4 shortlisted for the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award. In 2012, it was short-listed in the UK for the Impress Prize. In 2001, with former client and cowriter Lucy Forster, whose rom-com novel FINDING ELIZABETH has just been released, she won the Australia & New Zealand-wide Emma Darcy Award for Romance Manuscript of the Year 2000 with FOUND: ONE LOVER. She has also won numerous awards for her short stories, which have been published in such diverse publications as PENTHOUSE, AUREALIS and the AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S WEEKLY, and are currently in six Australian anthologies. She is now revising her 70,000 word novel set in Mullumbimby and surrounds in 1986 — Byron Shire became the epicentre of the Australian dropout movement of the late ’70s, early ’80s, following the Nimbin Festival of 1973.

Most recent job: editing Allan Staines’  TO VANISH IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, soon to be released by Pinedale Press.

If you know someone who’s struggling with a long work, or even a short one, she can help them hone it to publication standards. If there’s no hope for it, she’ll tell them that, too, but in such a way that they won’t have to be scraped up off the floor and put together again by understanding friends and family. Her clients come from all over Australia, plus the UK and USA. You can email her at patrickdevalera@gmail.com, phone her at +61 0266803073, or text her at +61 466 013 199.

And remember: as the character Larry says in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN: ‘A writer writes, always.’

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