1. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Managed Expectations in Publishing

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Edward G, Nov 8, 2010.

    As many of you know, Nathan Bransford, the literary agent at Curtis Brown, has jumped ship and is leaving publishing. The economy has wrecked publishing and that wreck goes all the way down to us new writers.

    Today, anyone can self-publish to Kindle. Anyone can get their book perfect bound through a POD publisher, but the bottom line remains: only books that are commercially viable will find traditional publishing, and only traditionally published books are likely to find any significant amount of readers.

    Even books that are traditionally published (novels, that is) rarely make any real money for the author, and if an author's first published novel doesn't do well, there's really no reason for a publisher to think their second novel will.

    For a publisher, it makes far greater sense to move towards a James Patterson paradigm where a team creates a novel in a coporate environment that includes marketers, ghost writers, proven formulas, stock characters, etc.

    It makes me wonder if the art of the novel as literature is essentially dead.

    Perhaps, as artists, it's time we re-evaluate what we expect to accomplish from writing a novel--manage our expectations is the new political buzz-phrase, I believe.

    Here are some of my managed expectations:

    Completely give up the idea of traditional publishing. There's no point in it anymore.

    Get your mind around the idea that pretty soon the only readers of literature will be other writers (just like with poetry). The rest of the fiction-reading public will be happy with James Patterson-esque novels.

    A few people reading your novel may be all you can ever hope to expect--there are simply too many books out there by too many authors to ever expect even a masterpeice to be recognized or stand out. In fact, the more masterful you are as an author, the less likely you may be to succeed in a Patterson Paradigm publishing world. I recently read an article where an agent said that agents who like good literature are at a disadvantage, because they often don't recognize the commercial novel as being viable.

    In order to be successful financially and have a lot of readers you will have to be a successful self-publisher. You will have to show a track record of sales that will attract a bigger publisher to take a chance on your novel--or for an agent to even read it for that matter. Unfortunately, most good authors are not good publishers. How could they be?

    Either enjoy the art of writing a good story as literature, and enjoy it for its own sake, or stop writing altogether. Ironically, in this brave new world, the short story may fair better. A collection of "award winning" short stories or novellas, may be the way to go. Stories that have already proven themselves in that regard can be put together into a book length product that may sell.
     
  2. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    I'm going to disagree with you there.

    It's like every other industry, (Movies, music and writing), each one is more and more accessible by the general public so the opportunities for greater profits are harder to come by. Therefore they have to hold back and only go for stuff that is commercially viable, or what'll make the greatest profit.

    If I wanted to I could buy a music program for a couple of hundred quid and create some electro-pop. It would sell and I might even get a couple of live shows out of it.

    I think what you're focused on is the money and the opportunities to become rich overnight. Most people who write do it because they have an idea that they want to express, if I could make a living out of it and pay the bills then that would be fantastic. The rich authors out there don't make thier money from selling shedloads of copies of thier book, but rather from the money they get from certain production studios to turn thier book into a movie. You may want to do a quick search online to find out how many books have been adapted into Hollywood films.
     
  3. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is the same with everything. 'the strong will survive and the weak will go to the wall'.
    Times are tough. Yes. But let's not get too despondent. One literary agent throwing in the towel, is not the end.
    Books are tactile they thereby have their place.
    Travelling showmen can trace their ancestors back to the middle ages, yet with the movie industry gaining ground in the 30/40s the cry went out among the the more negative showmen 'the business is finished-who wants to walk about in the open air, when they can sit inside a warm and cosy picture hall and watch the latest movies?'
    The showmen survived along with the movie industry.
    Then in the 50/60s came the real doom and gloom, TV, even the more positive showmen were shaken.
    After-all 'who wants to go around an open air fairground in all weathers when they can sit at home in a comfy armchair in front of a roaring fire, a box of chocs on their lap and watch TV'. Showmen are still on the roads to day, they have their place along with motion pictures and TV.
    Yes the publishing industry is having a tough time at the moment and their hey day may be over but, there is I believe a place for books for a long time to come.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or you can always learn the industry and self publish. Maybe it is time to end the snobbery towards it. Tout your own book, do library and school tours, arrange interviews etc Make it part of the job of being a writer.

    It is possible with hardwork to turn it into a success. Writers have achieved it before. Self publishing was how many writers of the classics made their way.
     
  5. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Completely untrue and not reflective of emerging sales - there is a change in trends - driven by the war between amazon and publishers leaving a chain of broken high st bookshops in it's wake.

    The technology is new - when it is at a point where it is established and there are precedents then there will be a changed but burgeoning economy for content creators.

    The future is in locked in proprietary formats such as ipad, alternative distribution methods and interactivity. The "recommended - you read this, you may like this" model is incredibly poweful.

    This is an exciting time for all writers. The future IS in self publishing (if you can get your head around the new methods of marketing), 360 agent deals, alternative presentation (audiobook growth is at a phenomenal rate),

    I'm more sympathetic to your argument that the novella will exceed the novel as they're quicker to prepare and release - but you may find that novels become episodic in nature.
     
  6. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Disagree all you want. What difference does it make? I'm not saying that to be hostile, but only to show that we can agree or disagree, hope, strive, try, learn, grow, etc., and yet the publishing industry remains in shambles, and that affects new writers.

    Okay. And yet that's exactly what I'm trying to say as well. That's the point.


    I'm still waiting for the part where you and I disagree. I hope most writers do write for the joy of it and the art of it, because otherwise, there's no reason to write.

    I don't see how anything you just said in disagreement with what I wrote is actually in disagreement with what I wrote. What you have said is exactly the point I'm trying to make.
     
  7. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Are you reading any of the news regarding the publishing industry? They're laying off people in droves. They (the traditional publishing industry) can't make a buck anymore. There are no such thing as midlist authors anymore.


    I must say, you sound delusional. You sound like you are making up fictional history to soothe what you know is true: The game is over. And you know what game I mean, all authors know it; it's the Stephen King Dream: you write a horrid story and throw it in the garbage, but your spouse pulls it out and insists you send it out to publishers, and someone out there loves it and makes a hit movie out of it, i.e., "Carrie."

    The Stephen King Dream we all opperate according to (And who hasn't read King's book, "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft"?) is over. The world has changed.


    I don't know who the "showmen" are supposed to be that have survived Movies, TV, Vido Games, and the Internet, but putting that aside for the moment, let me ask you: What do you think an unpublished, new author should do? What do you think they can expect?
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This doesn't mean that traditional publishing is a bad idea or that novels are dead. Even in this bad economy people are buying books. It's just that they're more selective about what they buy.
     
  9. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    First off, sorry for all the multiple posts; I just realized we can multiquote here. I'm new.

    Now, I hear you. And what you say is correct, but it's one thing to do that with non-fiction and another thing to do it with fiction. Fiction writers can't really sell their own work--it doesn't work.

    The more the writer tries to sell his or her own fiction, the less appealing that fiction seems to be. Fiction has no inherent value the way non-fiction does, so you can't appeal, as an author, to, for instance, the money a person will save by reading your book, or the thing they will learn.

    Fiction requires third-party publishing to produce the buzz that makes people want to read it in numbers large enough to make it commercially viable.

    Having said all that, you kind of make my point: James Patterson essentially is self-published. He is the owner of the company that makes his book through a team approach.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    > For a publisher, it makes far greater sense to move towards a James
    > Patterson paradigm where a team creates a novel in a coporate
    > environment that includes marketers, ghost writers, proven formulas,
    > stock characters, etc.

    But if a big team and market research guaranteed that a work would catch the imagination of the public and get lots of sales, surely every movie from every major studio would succeed? And they don't. It's not a guarantee.

    Authors spend thousands of unpaid hours getting to that ready-to-submit manuscript, and hundreds or thousands of authors provide publishers with hundreds or thousands of manuscripts to choose from. Heck, they even pay the postage.

    Those ghost writers, on the other hand, are going to be billing by the hour to create each and every work, and so is every other member of the team. So it seems to me that this team approach would just result in paying more salaries for a no-more-certain rate of success.

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another approach is to give away the contents of the book for free, and charge for related goods and services (like merchandise, autographed copies and public performances). That strategy seems to be working for many music artists, but is untried among writers.
     
  12. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    it's interesting that you talk about the music indsutry. The changes that are happening in the publishing industry are the same changes that happened there 10 years ago - and from which it's just recovering.

    There are a lot of bright sparks out there who are turning a profit, but sure the days of limousine trips and cocaine mountains are all but over for everyone except your lady gaga types.

    I worked on a single recently with a big artist and she was the first major artist to give her music away on a torrent site (mininova). As a result the sales were the biggest from an independant record label. It does work, to a certain degree - but only if you have an established fan base.

    For publishing there are revenue streams in licensing, movie rights, merchandising (in the case of franchises) but artists need large amounts of free capital to kick start it - and the opportunities for these franchises are small. You can only have that success (in the case of star wars for example) once or twice a generation.

    If anything the merchandising opportunities for something like fantasy far exceed that of music. But you'll need to tie up with some good production facilities and outlets. It['s a big undertaking.
     
  13. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    You contradict yourself later when talking about James patterson. He is in effect selling his own works of fiction. Please back up the last statememt with more evidence, instead of asking us to believe it is so, just because you say it is so.

    By and large, movies are exactly the same as books, the same with music. They are all forms of entertainment, and cannot save you money, unless you pirate, but that's a whole other debate... that got deleted. :mad: Books as entertainment don't have intrinsic value, so why do we buy them in the first place? entertainment!

    This is false. In the age of the Internet, twitter, facebook, things can take a life of their own. There's the Streissand Effect, crowdsourcing, blogs, loads of ways that something can become inexplicably popular, without any activity on the content creator's part. There are hundreds of absolutely terrible ebooks on Amazon, people may buy them, and it may have the chance of becoming a cult classic, but that's like playing russian roulette, with the bullet as the prize.
     
  14. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    Well Edward G I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say. In your first post you generally say that no one's making money so we should all give up. When I disagree by saying the major money is made from selling the movie rights you seemingly agree with everything I say and comment that your still waiting for me to disagree.

    I don't want an argument but I've seen from your profile that you have tried and failed to get published. You got a dozen rejections and you gave up. I know it's hard to get a rejection letter, but I think if you were serious about getting published then you would have taken an honest look at your work and asked yourself if it was good enough.

    As well as that an average publisher and agent get thousands of manuscripts per year and only publish a handful of these, so somewhere amongst all of the rejections they will send back good stuff that could have sold well and made a fortune.

    As well as that you could also look at the opportunities of writing scripts for TV, movies and plays. In order to reach your goal you may have to take a job as a member of the production crew or write stuff that will be cheap to make, but still have a good quality feel about it. You may even have to take a media degree before anyone will look at your work.

    Don't give up just because you had a few rejections and don't assume that instant success and wealth will come to you overnight. It may take you 10-15 years of writing minor stuff before anyone gives you a chance at something bigger.
     
  15. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    In today’s economic climate things are tough for all industries; retail, the arts and entertainment, manufacturing, you name it. Many a household names as disappeared from the UK high streets; Woolworth, Littlewoods, C&A etc.
    The publishing industry is no exception to the economic situation. The added problem for publishers’ is the growth and development of technology. Times are tough and thereby challenging. It is up to us rise to the challenge and not to let despondency get in our way. Yes the publishing houses that are not strong financially may very well go under. But the strong will ‘ride the storm’.


    If I am making up fictional history then HELP! I must be delusional, for what I wrote about is my own heritage, my roots, my ancestry. Am I real? Am I here? Am I a figment of my own imagination? I hope not!

    I am not trying to soothe anything. There are problems no denying that but if we all give up then surely it will mean the end.

    No it is not and neither am I. I won’t go without putting up a fight.

    Anything I have thrown in the garbage remains in the garbage, of that, believe me, I have no delusions!

    The world is changing all the time, if it didn’t change we would all still be wearing animal skins and living in caves. The only thing we can be sure of is change.


    Think Buffalo Bill, Barnum and Bailey, Elizabethan strolling players, circuses, Punch and Judy, their legacy as it remains today (for more info. Sheffield university UK, fairground archives)

    They can expect and accept that they will need to work hard and do their very best if they want to get published. (No change there then)
    For anyone that is interested in writing for writing’s sake or for getting a point across ( not for payment or reward) there are more opportunities than ever before. This site (one of many) for instance, blogs, face book and twitters the list goes on.
     
  16. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    This is exactly what I'm talking about: the idea that if one is just good enough, they will rise to the top and be "published." Don't you get it, my friend? Even being published is nothing.

    Lot's of writers, even after reaching the holy grail of being "published" never go on to the dream of being "rich and published." And the midlist is decaying even as we speak.

    In other words, if from the get go your book doesn't have the potential for a popular movie, it's not worth publishing. Hemingway could not be published today. Do you get what I'm saying?

    It's not about being good or bad, it's about being trendy. And the way for publishers to be trendy is not by waiting for some unknown writer to appear and offer up a book that just so happens to capture what's going on in the world. Better to use the James Patterson approach. And the James Patterson approach is the end of the novel as art.

    So, where does that leave us? Self publishing to Kindle where, once we are finished, no one reads our book?

    The art of storytelling is alive and well. I believe the art of the novel is over with.
     
  17. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    What? James Patterson doesn't write novels, my friend. James Patterson is a frontman for a company that produces novels. Yes, his name is on the book. Yes, his picture is on the book; no, he did not write the book, but he does take the credit for coming up with the idea of the story. The book is written by a ghost writer in consultation with marketing experts.

    Don't tell me you didn't know this? James Patterson doesn't even try to hide this information. Hell, I learned it from one of his interviews.


    Is that the bottom line for the novel? Entertain the masses? Fine; then that's the death of the novel as art just as song lyrics by Van Halen represent the death of poetry.

    Why don't you wake up and smell the coffee?

    I agree.
     
  18. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    This is why I say the era of the short story and novella may be returning. A short story can be published all over the place and get wide readership. For instance, in writers groups or contests. All over the place, really, when you think about it. It's a way of building a fan base. And they can be published for free--no one has to buy your novel and actually read it. A short story can be read in the bathtub or in bed one night. That can create a hook, if the author is talented, and that hook can lead to movie deals or book-length collections.

    Think about it: if movies have been made from short stories or novellas, then why waste time on a novel? Almost every script ever made from a novel, by necessity shortens it to a novella.


    Good points, but it is still more efficient to get a roundtable of experts together to make a novel if you're a publisher. That novel will be created according to the latest marketing research, the latest publishing trends, and to the tastes of the movie producers. In fact, it will be better for everyone if the movie and novel are made together. Eventually, it will be better just to make the movie.

    Novels no longer justify their creation. They are too long, too boring, and nowdays too stupid for people to waste their time on. Not to mention the driving force is to make them sell for 3.99 on Kindle. No one has time anymore for a novel. There's the internet to search, facebook to keep up with, tweets to write, and games to play. A two hour movie is all anyone has the patience for.

    Novels are dead. Just like epic poems.

    Wake up and smell the coffee.
     
  19. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    So said the horsedrawn carriage dragshoe manufacturers.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But what percentage of authors _ever_ got rich from it, or even made all or most of their living from it? Is that really much of a change?

    ChickenFreak
     
  21. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Novellas and short stories are certainly easier, and therefore probably getting more popular, to read, but I think novels still have their place. One of the most lovely things about this modern age is that 'vintage' is the trendy thing right now, and with convergence of technology, 'vintage' is closer than ever - students I know are fiercely nostalgic about the 90's... the merry-go-round of outdated-to-retro is getting smaller and smaller. No one should ever underestimate people; they aren't getting stupider, just keeping up with the ebb and flow of trends. The novel will 'come back', all it will take is one definitive work that will tap into the public consciousness - it won't matter how long it is, just that it communicates with the population of one second into the future. Harry Potter triggered an explosion in youth fiction. Why can't this happen again? IMHO, I think the groundbreaking novel will come to us in ebook form, defining the format... or that could just be because I'm a bit obsessed with e-publishing at the minute... :rolleyes:
     
  22. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Where I'm coming from is that the new writer is going to have a increasingly hard time trying to get a novel published. No matter what they've written, the financial dynamics just aren't there in publishing to float a new author.

    Consider Stephen King's latest book of novellas, Full Dark, No Stars. In order to keep the hardback edition from falling off the face of the earth unsold, Scribner decides to make the e-book cost just a little more than the hardback--but the hardback is selling for $14 and some change. But $14 dollars has to be a loss for a hardback book. They're probably hoping to make it up with Kindle sales (That's the version I bought.).

    My point is this: even with the best possible selling book, the financial dynamics are falling apart. A new author wouldn't be worth the cost to edit and format the book and put it on Kindle, much less the advertising costs to push the book, given the sales they could generate.

    If the big hitters weren't still out there writing (King, Grisham, the Patterson company, Meyer, etc.), the fiction industry would have already collapsed.

    My contention is that we as new writers, or even midlist writers, are going to have to find another way to approach this game if we want to continue in the art of storytelling.
     
  23. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    Exactly the kindle sales make up for any loss in hardback (is it actually a loss at $14? certainly not the same for the UK - £14 maybe)....

    Actually - as shown by Brian Eno recently the way to do things is to increase the cost of physical products and make them limited edition - you're entering more into the art market there, but it's a big money spinner for bands (as long as they have a following).


    Changing yes, falling apart - no. Publishers (or more correctly agents) will become smaller, leaner operations, they'll get involved more and more with referring marketing and affiliation based sales. There will still be a place for physical products but e-sales will certainly account for the bulk of transactions.

    e-sales need to come down in price but slowly and not so as to devalue physical sales..

    Actually one of my biz colleagues came back from a "digital storytelling for ipad" seminar yesterday - and Penguin (via Puffin) have a competition to come up with ways of using the format for storytelling...
     
  24. PulpyNoir
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    PulpyNoir New Member

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    Much ado about nothing really. Honestly, if you want to be rich, become a banker. If you want to be famous, go on a killing spree.

    Otherwise, study the market trends, adjust your tactics, and write what you love. It's not like people are going to stop consuming stories because print books are no longer in fashion. If you think that self publishing is the way to go ... then do it.

    But angst'ing over the state of industry is useless. You could better spend your time actually writing stories and getting rejected like the rest of us. And when the next two dollar paycheck comes in the mail for a published story, we will cheer with you.
     
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  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    True PulpyNoir.

    The vast majority of fiction writers have never been rich. I suspect the majority can't even quit their day jobs unless they have other money coming in.

    There will be other Meyers, Kings, etc. who hit it out of the park, and maybe these will be fewer (I don't know), but for the vast majority of fiction writers, no matter how good, that kind of fame and fortune was never in the cards to begin with.

    Writers will have to adapt to the changing marketplace, no doubt. But I don't see novels disappearing as an art form by any stretch of the imagination.
     

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