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Discussion Starter #1
My time-frame: December, the 26th after what Patty said about publishing over the holidays.

My situation: I'm two chapters from finishing my first draft of the first novel in a planned mystery series. I've outlined the first three. Two friends from college who I've edited for will edit for me in return. I've also exchanged emails with a graphic designer and they have the availability to accommodate me if I publish this year. I took a beginners marketing course this month and know enough to get my feet wet. It looks like I could make that December 26th date if I want to, but I'm in no rush. I have a day job, and I expect if I ever build to a position where I could leave my job for writing it will be a long, slow process. So publishing right this moment isn't necessary.

My concerns: There's always a lot of discouraging posts on this board about the reality of making it as a writer. This doesn't bother me. Reality checks are good, and I enjoy writing even if this doesn't end up being a career, it will be something that brings me joy, but what I'm aiming for right now is to launch a small business, take a serious shot, and see if I can make it happen. I know timing matters, but I also know good timing isn't a finite thing, it's different for every book and writer, and it's maybe even impossible to know for certain. However, there have been a lot of posts in the recent weeks about how right now is different, because of the state of the world, and while there's no way to know this, I'm inclined to believe it's possible.

My question: Is it true that now is different? Since I'm in no rush to publish, would it be wise to just keep writing, bank my manuscripts and wait for a return to normalcy before publishing? What would you do if you were starting out now, during a pandemic among other things, and knowing what you know?

P.S. Happy Halloween everybody!
 

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I publish each novel when it's ready. I pay no attention to seasonal ups or downs, elections or even the discovery of intelligent life on some other planet.

Bear in mind I've been doing this for 20+ years, I have almost 30 novels in print, and I'm a cynic.
 

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I'm publishing a holiday novella in December and generally like to have something in January for all the new kindles. Now is different because so many people have lost income. Books are entertainment. Kid's Christmas presents will come first, if at all possible. Even in my immediate family I have one member on furlough and one dropped to part-time. That's a lot of income vanished.
 

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Happy Halloween!

And, I mean, it's hard to know when things are going back to normal.  Things are weird right now, but who knows, it might still be crazy 6 months from now.  If you're not in a rush, then you could always wait until spring and then reevaluate.  Seeing how the pandemic plays out for a full year will give everyone a good idea of what will happen next.  Is 2021 more of the same?  Are things going back to normal?  We don't really know what the winter (heh, US winter) will be like, but after that things might be more predictable, for better or worse.

But I don't know.  My general thought is to just do a thing, but it is a weird year.  It might be worth just not thinking about it too much until everything is edited and the cover is done and you have a book all ready to go.  Because who knows what will happen between now and then?  Either way, I think you've got a great mindset on this.  If you keep on with the books and if you love doing it, then all the smaller decisions will end up favoring you.  Little things that help get your name out there will add up over time, but little things that slow you down will disappear over time.  Well, within reason anyways.  All I'm saying is, there might be a good logic in waiting, but there's nothing wrong with getting your work out there either.  No matter how you do it you will still end up in the same spot, mostly trying to figure out what to do next.

Anyways, hope it goes well!  It's always exciting to get a new book out there  :D
 

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Eargh.

"Normalcy" is not a legit word, so no.

Besides very immediate considerations, like days you know will  be disruptive, major holidays or events, nothing is ever "normal" and it just feels like more excuses. Was it you asking about astrology? Excuses, excuses. Quit making excuses. Publish the damn things.
 

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if you're serious about building a business, i find it hard to believe you're going to have a big enough platform & mailing list by dec 26 but maybe i'm not understanding something

maybe you've spent the past year or so platform building & so that isn't a concern

but if you've got no/minimal platform or list, yeah, throwing the book out there in 60 days is throwing it away unless you're amazingly lucky which almost no one is
 

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Your schedule seems a bit tight to me. I'm planning a mid-Dec release as well, but I already have a cover and am handing to editors next week. Everyone's different, of course, but it takes me an average of three months to release a book. One month to write a draft, another to send out beta reads (and give enough time for feedback), a last month to edit and proofread (and seek reviews). If you're not done with your manuscript yet, I'd consider a Jan, Feb or March release (Jan & feb tend to be good months for me, btw). Also, this is your first book. There's a lot of stuff that I just copy from prior books now that would take me much longer to figure out if it was my first book all over again.

You don't want to procrastinate, but you don't want to throw it out there. Find your balance. Only you'll know what'll work best. Good luck and congrats!

Answering the thread, I wouldn't try to find normal in this pandemic. It's not in your control, imo.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you to everyone for taking the time to reply!

Simon Haynes said:
I publish each novel when it's ready. I pay no attention to seasonal ups or downs, elections or even the discovery of intelligent life on some other planet.

Bear in mind I've been doing this for 20+ years, I have almost 30 novels in print, and I'm a cynic.
Thanks, Simon!

Melisse said:
I'm publishing a holiday novella in December and generally like to have something in January for all the new kindles. Now is different because so many people have lost income. Books are entertainment. Kid's Christmas presents will come first, if at all possible. Even in my immediate family I have one member on furlough and one dropped to part-time. That's a lot of income vanished.
This is what I'm concerned about. Some of the posts from fellow authors in Shane's "Hanging It Up" thread, among others, gave weight to the concern.

NikOK said:
Happy Halloween!

And, I mean, it's hard to know when things are going back to normal. Things are weird right now, but who knows, it might still be crazy 6 months from now. If you're not in a rush, then you could always wait until spring and then reevaluate. Seeing how the pandemic plays out for a full year will give everyone a good idea of what will happen next. Is 2021 more of the same? Are things going back to normal? We don't really know what the winter (heh, US winter) will be like, but after that things might be more predictable, for better or worse.

But I don't know. My general thought is to just do a thing, but it is a weird year. It might be worth just not thinking about it too much until everything is edited and the cover is done and you have a book all ready to go. Because who knows what will happen between now and then? Either way, I think you've got a great mindset on this. If you keep on with the books and if you love doing it, then all the smaller decisions will end up favoring you. Little things that help get your name out there will add up over time, but little things that slow you down will disappear over time. Well, within reason anyways. All I'm saying is, there might be a good logic in waiting, but there's nothing wrong with getting your work out there either. No matter how you do it you will still end up in the same spot, mostly trying to figure out what to do next.

Anyways, hope it goes well! It's always exciting to get a new book out there :D
Thanks, NikOK! You get it, even though you don't have a clear-cut answer it helps to at least have my concerns understood! It's not the first I've written but it's the first I'm publishing, so I'm nervous and excited.

Patty Jansen said:
Eargh.

"Normalcy" is not a legit word, so no.

Besides very immediate considerations, like days you know will be disruptive, major holidays or events, nothing is ever "normal" and it just feels like more excuses. Was it you asking about astrology? Excuses, excuses. Quit making excuses. Publish the damn things.
It wasn't me asking about astrology, but I did read that entire thread and wondered if I'd get a similar reply for this one. Honestly, I'm itching to rip off the band-aid and just publish, so your feedback lines up with that impulse.

alhawke said:
Your schedule seems a bit tight to me. I'm planning a mid-Dec release as well, but I already have a cover and am handing to editors next week. Everyone's different, of course, but it takes me an average of three months to release a book. One month to write a draft, another to send out beta reads (and give enough time for feedback), a last month to edit and proofread (and seek reviews). If you're not done with your manuscript yet, I'd consider a Jan, Feb or March release (Jan & feb tend to be good months for me, btw). Also, this is your first book. There's a lot of stuff that I just copy from prior books now that would take me much longer to figure out if it was my first book all over again.

You don't want to procrastinate, but you don't want to throw it out there. Find your balance. Only you'll know what'll work best. Good luck and congrats!

Answering the thread, I wouldn't try to find normal in this pandemic. It's not in your control, imo.
Yeah, you're right, it is tight, I might not make it, but that's okay. No one's waiting for my book, I'm starting from scratch and can publish whenever I'm done. I am eager to get going though.

I've read a lot of horror stories about netgalley. How would you go about getting reviews as a first timer? I was planning on just a slow organic trickle from people who click on my ads, buy it, and then the small percentage that eventually would get around to it. Is that a bad strategy?
 

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I'm going to agree with the "publish when it's ready, and don't worry about anything else" idea. We don't know what it'll be like this year compared to others, but I'd publish when I was happy with my product. FWIW, my best months are always November and December (and that does include many paperbacks), but some of my best days are at Holiday time (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labor Day, Memorial Day).
 

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I wouldn't publish a new book this coming week, nor bother advertising existing books.
 

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Bite the Dusty said:
I've read a lot of horror stories about netgalley. How would you go about getting reviews as a first timer? I was planning on just a slow organic trickle from people who click on my ads, buy it, and then the small percentage that eventually would get around to it. Is that a bad strategy?
The horror stories about netgalley are quite accurate. You can peruse through some of my reviews to get an idea. Just run a search for the one stars :) Or take a look at the average reviews on their site. They're averaging 3 on many books which is not very good for Amazon and very dangerous for Indies. I get their reviewer's philosophy, but for marketing your indie book with the few reviews we can garner, it can hurt you. To be fair, one of the not-so-favorable reviews was very helpful at the start of my launch for one of my books. They are also thorough. I used them for three books. I won't use them anymore.

I use my newsletter and Booksprout. If you have the time for a future book, I definitely recommend Hidden Gems. But Hidden Gems is a year out to reserve currently.
 

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Regarding organic reviews: Organically, or from ads, you're not going to get a lot of reviews and it's going to take a lot of time to accrue. Try to get a few honest reviews by, or around, your publish date to generate interest and move the book forward. Send out ARCs a couple weeks before release.
 

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Don't wait long. I think if you want to do this as a career you need to think long term about what it takes to make a living as a self pub writer, and usually a large back catalogue (ten to thirty books) is what guarantees a livable income. I think people who are holding off on publishing now miss the opportunity to build their back catalogue now, so when things return to 'normalcy', a new strong release can lead to many more sells of their other books. My latest release in the middle of last month has almost made four figures. And there were a few books in my back cat from when I started out that only made two figures, but after the people who liked my new release purchased my older books, the sells of all those books combined made me four figures.
 

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It'd likely take a year to get most people vaccinated in most countries, and that's only after a vaccine ultimately proves successful which is no sure bet. We might be dealing with the pandemic for a while longer yet.

And, economic and societal tumult and political polarization, etc isn't going away any time soon, regardless of viruses or elections... that is, barring an invasion by a crazy-powerful, yet benevolent alien race (hey, it's 2020, you never know!).

So, you may as well forge ahead with whatever you're planning on doing because at this point it looks like the world's going to be bonkers from here to eternity. I suppose that's always been the the case, really.
 

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I wouldn’t publish around nov 3, but otherwise, you’re fine. My readers tell me they want escapist fiction more than ever. Particularly feel good fiction.
 

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If I were you, I'd wait to publish book one until you've got book two at least drafted. These things ALWAYS take longer than you think they will and delays tend to gain speed like snowball rolling downhill, just getting bigger and bigger. Then you've lost all of your hard-won momentum. Since you have a day job and are willing to build slowly, rushing is a really bad idea because it increases the likelihood of critical mistakes.

People are pretty good at planning for failure, but nobody ever plans for success. What happens if this book does do well and you have nothing else loaded up? I can tell you from experience that watching your earnings decay as you get further from your last launch will likely lead to cutting corners on your next release because you need to GET IT OUT NOW. Planning will lead to better results. I launched a new penname this year that has done really well and part of the reason why is that I'm just now enacting plans that I made a year ago. So I was able to book Hidden Gems (a big reason that I'm approaching 200 reviews on my "debut" just 60 days after it launched) and start making connections with other authors. Networking is invaluable for platform building. Having a handful of other authors willing to put your book in their newsletters or let you join in multiauthor promo is great way to market without breaking the bank. You won't get rich off one book, but a good plan can make one book profitable even with an ad spend. Some of the money I made on that book is being reinvested into launching the next one.

I would hold off publishing for a bit. Not because of what's happening in the world, but to give yourself a chance to get your ducks in a row. The Wish I'd Known for Writers podcast has a great episode on launch plans. Sara Rosette, one of the hosts, is a mystery author. That show is a good listen, in general. Newsletters aren't your only option. Although, I will tell you that building a pre-launch newsletter based on an extended sample of the book worked really well for me this year. You can do that for free with Story Origin or for a small fee with Bookfunnel by signing up for promos with other authors. Without some kind of platform, your book probably will be dead in the water. And by platform, I don't mean you have to be a celebrity or YouTuber. You need access to enough readers in your genre that you can point to the book in launch week so that it trains the algorithm enough that Amazon starts selling the book for you. It's going to cost you a bit to do this, either time or money and usually a combo of both, but it doesn't require fame. Then you need the next book available relatively soon after, I'd say three months at the most. Rinse. Repeat. Profit.
 

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Patty Jansen said:
Eargh.

"Normalcy" is not a legit word, so no.

Besides very immediate considerations, like days you know will be disruptive, major holidays or events, nothing is ever "normal" and it just feels like more excuses. Was it you asking about astrology? Excuses, excuses. Quit making excuses. Publish the damn things.
Yes, there's no normal, but there are trends. Most romance authors I know are not doing as well with their new releases or overall sales. Sales increased when quarantine started and fell once Zoom school started.

If you're target demographic is spending their reading time homeschooling their kids, you are going to struggle to get their attention.

I wouldn't necessarily wait for the pandemic to be over. But I'm holding some of my releases a little longer than I normally would. My last release was right on the money with its branding but it still underperfmormed significantly just compared to the previous book in the series, which was released in the summer. (The whole series has underperfmormed. Spin offitis or something else? I'm not sure. But this Oct release still performed worse than the pre homeschooling books).

If you want to start your business ASAP, especially if your audience is not a prime small children having demographic, I would pub sooner. If you want to wait until timing is better/don't need to push the books out, I would wait for the summer.

It's true that books can't make money sitting in your computer. But it's also true that books are only new once.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks everyone again for responding! You're giving me so much to consider, and even though I still feel torn about what to do, I'm more informed and I'm going to just keep writing while I figure it out.

Flying Pizza Pie said:
I'm going to agree with the "publish when it's ready, and don't worry about anything else" idea. We don't know what it'll be like this year compared to others, but I'd publish when I was happy with my product. FWIW, my best months are always November and December (and that does include many paperbacks), but some of my best days are at Holiday time (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labor Day, Memorial Day).
Thanks, Flying Pizza Pie!

alhawke said:
The horror stories about netgalley are quite accurate. You can peruse through some of my reviews to get an idea. Just run a search for the one stars :) Or take a look at the average reviews on their site. They're averaging 3 on many books which is not very good for Amazon and very dangerous for Indies. I get their reviewer's philosophy, but for marketing your indie book with the few reviews we can garner, it can hurt you. To be fair, one of the not-so-favorable reviews was very helpful at the start of my launch for one of my books. They are also thorough. I used them for three books. I won't use them anymore.

I use my newsletter and Booksprout. If you have the time for a future book, I definitely recommend Hidden Gems. But Hidden Gems is a year out to reserve currently.

Regarding organic reviews: Organically, or from ads, you're not going to get a lot of reviews and it's going to take a lot of time to accrue. Try to get a few honest reviews by, or around, your publish date to generate interest and move the book forward. Send out ARCs a couple weeks before release.
This helps. I have no one to send arcs to, but I looked at Booksprout and Hidden Gems. It sounds like people don't bother to review anymore without incentive? I can't blame them. I've never reviewed anything, I either like it and want more or don't. I don't know why, but this is something hard for me to wrap my head around. It's a chicken or the egg type of situation. Everyone starts with nothing, right? So trying to start with something more than that sounds like spinning my wheels, but if there's a practical way to do it I know I should listen and learn. Ads were overwhelming until I took this intro class, and even though there's probably so much more to learn, I don't feel overwhelmed by the prospect anymore.

A friend of mine opened a brewery while I was in college, he just celebrated the five year anniversary on Friday. Him and his partners didn't pay themselves until the fourth year, stopped paying themselves this year to stay afloat, and are happy with what they are building, happy they didn't lose it all to circumstance. That's the mindset I have. It's tough to make anything fly, and luckily all I have to invest upfront pales in comparison to a physical location/physical product. No one asked for a new place to drink beer, or the type of beer they'd produce, they just signed a lease, got the permits/licensing, waited patiently through the crickets, and spent money on Facebook ads. Eventually the people came.

I think I've digested so much information over the years lurking that I'm unsure what's current. People used to do well without advertising, now they don't. I suppose having a bunch of reviews at launch is now necessary rather than ideal?

psnew said:
Don't wait long. I think if you want to do this as a career you need to think long term about what it takes to make a living as a self pub writer, and usually a large back catalogue (ten to thirty books) is what guarantees a livable income. I think people who are holding off on publishing now miss the opportunity to build their back catalogue now, so when things return to 'normalcy', a new strong release can lead to many more sells of their other books. My latest release in the middle of last month has almost made four figures. And there were a few books in my back cat from when I started out that only made two figures, but after the people who liked my new release purchased my older books, the sells of all those books combined made me four figures.
Thanks, psnew. This could be an opportunity, and that's not a bad way to look at it.

Corvid said:
It'd likely take a year to get most people vaccinated in most countries, and that's only after a vaccine ultimately proves successful which is no sure bet. We might be dealing with the pandemic for a while longer yet.

And, economic and societal tumult and political polarization, etc isn't going away any time soon, regardless of viruses or elections... that is, barring an invasion by a crazy-powerful, yet benevolent alien race (hey, it's 2020, you never know!).

So, you may as well forge ahead with whatever you're planning on doing because at this point it looks like the world's going to be bonkers from here to eternity. I suppose that's always been the the case, really.
I'd give aliens a go at this point, LOL.

That is part of my internal argument, it's already gone on longer than many people assumed it would, and no one knows.

Usedtoposthere said:
I wouldn't publish around nov 3, but otherwise, you're fine. My readers tell me they want escapist fiction more than ever. Particularly feel good fiction.
Your readers and I are on the same page, so that's nice to hear. I wish I had time to read something other than my own work right now.

stacia_s said:
If I were you, I'd wait to publish book one until you've got book two at least drafted. These things ALWAYS take longer than you think they will and delays tend to gain speed like snowball rolling downhill, just getting bigger and bigger. Then you've lost all of your hard-won momentum. Since you have a day job and are willing to build slowly, rushing is a really bad idea because it increases the likelihood of critical mistakes.

People are pretty good at planning for failure, but nobody ever plans for success. What happens if this book does do well and you have nothing else loaded up? I can tell you from experience that watching your earnings decay as you get further from your last launch will likely lead to cutting corners on your next release because you need to GET IT OUT NOW. Planning will lead to better results. I launched a new penname this year that has done really well and part of the reason why is that I'm just now enacting plans that I made a year ago. So I was able to book Hidden Gems (a big reason that I'm approaching 200 reviews on my "debut" just 60 days after it launched) and start making connections with other authors. Networking is invaluable for platform building. Having a handful of other authors willing to put your book in their newsletters or let you join in multiauthor promo is great way to market without breaking the bank. You won't get rich off one book, but a good plan can make one book profitable even with an ad spend. Some of the money I made on that book is being reinvested into launching the next one.

I would hold off publishing for a bit. Not because of what's happening in the world, but to give yourself a chance to get your ducks in a row. The Wish I'd Known for Writers podcast has a great episode on launch plans. Sara Rosette, one of the hosts, is a mystery author. That show is a good listen, in general. Newsletters aren't your only option. Although, I will tell you that building a pre-launch newsletter based on an extended sample of the book worked really well for me this year. You can do that for free with Story Origin or for a small fee with Bookfunnel by signing up for promos with other authors. Without some kind of platform, your book probably will be dead in the water. And by platform, I don't mean you have to be a celebrity or YouTuber. You need access to enough readers in your genre that you can point to the book in launch week so that it trains the algorithm enough that Amazon starts selling the book for you. It's going to cost you a bit to do this, either time or money and usually a combo of both, but it doesn't require fame. Then you need the next book available relatively soon after, I'd say three months at the most. Rinse. Repeat. Profit.
That's a strong argument and advice I can act on. Thanks for explaining what they might have meant by platform. That word gets thrown around by people my age frequently, and just as frequently it seems to have no tangible meaning. So not having a ton of reviews at launch of a debut is as much a problem as not advertising now? That's an unfortunate reality, but I'd rather know going in.

I'm going to check out that podcast and see what I can learn.

Crystal_ said:
Yes, there's no normal, but there are trends. Most romance authors I know are not doing as well with their new releases or overall sales. Sales increased when quarantine started and fell once Zoom school started.

If you're target demographic is spending their reading time homeschooling their kids, you are going to struggle to get their attention.

I wouldn't necessarily wait for the pandemic to be over. But I'm holding some of my releases a little longer than I normally would. My last release was right on the money with its branding but it still underperfmormed significantly just compared to the previous book in the series, which was released in the summer. (The whole series has underperfmormed. Spin offitis or something else? I'm not sure. But this Oct release still performed worse than the pre homeschooling books).

If you want to start your business ASAP, especially if your audience is not a prime small children having demographic, I would pub sooner. If you want to wait until timing is better/don't need to push the books out, I would wait for the summer.

It's true that books can't make money sitting in your computer. But it's also true that books are only new once.
Exactly my thinking. I'm more concerned with doing it right without losing myself in perfectionism, procrastination, or focusing on things I can't control. This is a gray area because while I can't control the state of the world, I can control my timing. Women are my target demo, so that's good info to have. You're at a point professionally I can't imagine being at, so your experience is validating the concern.
 

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Some prefer the method of putting everything out there as soon as it's done (you can't sell what's gathering dust on your computer). Others prefer to hold things back for the optimal time to release (it's only a new release once, don't waste that opportunity). 

I'm in the latter camp, carefully planning every launch, holding every series starter back until it's got a sequel ready to go, promo in place. That's worked for me all these years, so I stick with it.

There's no right or wrong here. Just whatever you feel increases your odds. Obviously, all of us feel our chosen method holds the best likelihood of success or we wouldn't do it, but I've seen people succeed going either route. At the end of the day, what suits you best may come down to your personality. Are you delaying because you've got a careful plan or because you're procrastinating? Will having one book out there light a fire under you to work fast on a sequel or will it lessen your motivation, ease your sense of urgency so that you write slower? If you take some extra time to prepare, will you use it well?

I'm less concerned about a return to normalcy, from a marketing perspective, because that's probably not coming any time soon. Anyway, there's always something, be it seasonal or whatever.
 

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The only thing I regret about self-pubbing is not starting sooner. This may differ genre to genre - I know apparently romance/erotica is very "hot new release" oriented - but the enormous advantage of ebooks is that you simply don't have to worry about backlist stock in the way that traditional print publishing does.

I have never, ever sold the most copies of a book in the month I've released it - I've sold the most copies after I've promoted it, or promoted the first in the series. And I suspect this would hold true for most newer/smaller name authors, as opposed to bigger name and more established authors.
 
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