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Author Topic: Crowdfunding: Some break from always reading about Amazon's E-book Dominance  (Read 1642 times)
Paul Keith
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« on: October 21, 2011, 10:20:51 PM »

Short Story:

Pubslush. New "Not Self-Publishing" 10 page only submission crowdfunding service/charity.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weX2OD6A7HM" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weX2OD6A7HM</a>

Url: http://www.pubslush.com/

Their words:

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While we are honored by the comparison­, Kickstarte­r is primarily a crowd funding platform. PUBSLUSH on the other hand is a publisher and non profit that uses crowd funding as the first step in the publicatio­n process to source new writing talent. Also, in regards to the comparison to self publishing­, PUBSLUSH is actually a full service publisher, and really the opposite of self publishing­: we never ask the author to pay any money, ever. Self publishing implies that an author can publish a book themself. With PUBSLUSH, our model requires 2,000 unique supporters­, other than the author, to publish a book. In this way, we use crowd sourcing to gauge a market, and to benefit the author by establishi­ng an audience before the book is even published. This also allows quality content to emerge organicall­y, which is one of the major issues of self publishing­. When a book is published through PUBSLUSH, it is sold in printed and digital form. We believe printed books and a presence in bookstores are still an important part of an author’s success.

Medium Story:

Drama at Huffington: http://www.huffingtonpost...sh-inkubate_n_997068.html

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Books by debut authors even with a major publishing house rarely--if ever sell even 1000 copies let alone 2000 copies. Anyone trying this is wasting their time.

I'm puzzled as to why agents or editors would be willing to pay just to negotiate with a writer. That hasn't been clearly explained.

I really want to like these two sites, but the value to writers hasn't been well-expla­ined here yet. Why not just self-publi­sh, promote the heck out of your book and have real, actual sales to show an agent or editor? I love the charity aspect of pubslush, but as a reader, I'm going to want to read that book now, not commit myself to a purchase that I might not remember months or years in the future. Why should I come here when I can go to Amazon or any number of other sites and buy a perfectly good book I can read now?

I wish these folks well; I don't want to crush their hopes (and if they've gotten this far, this isn't even a 10% chance of rain on their parade day). I'm just thinking they might want to have some answers to these questions when someone like me comes along and asks them.

You've hit the nail on the head, zingdaddy.

Unless your'e an already establishe­d, best selling author, no publisher or agent of good repute would pay a third party web site to negotiate with you, the writer. And the concept that publishers and authors would pay to read author samples is ludicrous.

This of course may change in the future, but the future isn't here yet, especially with these two sites mentioned in the article. Though things sound rosy when you read their pitches, neither site appears to be run by anyone with profession­al publishing experience­. They cannot point to any successes coming from their "services" (though part of that does come from now new they are). And they apparently don't answer direct questions either. They just want writers to blindly sign up with them.

That in itself should be a red flag. But when they also lock up their writers' properties for periods of time, that makes the author lose precious time when they could be out shopping for a legitimate publishing deal.

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as a reader, why would I come here and wait for a book, when I can go to Amazon and get a book now? Don't those writers also have dreams of success? I've bought several self-publi­shed Kindle books and been very happy with them.

Yes, there's a long grocery list of things to do when self-publi­shing, it can eat gobs of time and money, but it doesn't have to, or people wouldn't do it.

Frankly, I think the big win idea here is the charity angle. There are already other platforms that help writers market themselves­, loads of blogs and books and other support. iUniverse and LuLu are only two examples.

It's the charity idea here that's fresh and in my book (excuse the pun) a big win. In my humble, personal opinion, I think you could do better to expand and work with that. The coming generation­s are really going to be suffering in terms of education, so all writers and the whole publishing industry have a vested interest in making sure that not only can people read and have access to books, but that they also love reading.

Pubslush sounds great, except for the copyright aspect. What happens if I get a copyright and someone in New Zealand steals the story. I can't fly there to get the thief prosecuted­. I was a blogger on the San Diego Reader website for three years. Many people had their stories swiped; one guy one a writing contest and then didn't get the prize because the story was stolen and posted on another website. I'm am extremely wary about letting my hard work getting that kind of exposure without payment first.


This is the problem with ALL forms of self-publi­shing. You are now on the hook for everything­, which no legal team to back you up. What if someone in New Zealand sues YOU for copyright infringeme­nt? Even if you’re in the right, it could end up costing far more than the profits of your book to defend yourself.



Hi Mindy, PUBSLUSH agrees with this concern. This is one of the reasons we only ask for 10 pages to be posted as opposed to the whole book.

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First on Inkubate; why would agents pay to read submission­s? There are many writers fool enough to pay agents to read their stuff. Good agents most likely have more submission­s than they can cope with. Agents that do not are either bad agents or so new to the game that they are totally inexperien­ced or out of the loop - and therefor useless. I can only see a lowest common denominato­r win in this scenario unless I am missing something big.

On Pubslush, if I publish my novel on Kindle and convince 2000 people to buy it then I would already have earned $4186 (only ebooks, plus Createspac­e would earn me more) - with no further restrictio­ns. Plus readers would not have to wait, word of mouth would kick in and I would not be sitting on my hands waiting for the world to turn. It seems like a detour way to get me where I want to go.

Conclusion­, both Incubate and Slushpub MAY get me published, BUT there are more direct ways open to me that will guarantee that I get published.

What applicable­­, real world publishing experience do you, and your coworkers, have that you feel makes you qualified to offer this service? Why do you feel that locking an author up for four months is a good idea, when they could be going out and trying to get a real publishing deal? What title(s) and author(s) can you point out that you handle exclusivel­y, who have made any appreciabl­e amount of income with your methods, or who have gone on to a successful publishing deal with a reputable firm? Though you apparently do not charge authors for hosting samples on your site, do you plan on doing so in the future? What publisher(­­s) have you made deals with, who have agreed to pay money to read author samples on your site?
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I don't trust anything that is on the internet for self publishing or any site that demands exclusivit­y, which offers royalties. To me, this is similar to affiliate marketing on the web. Instead of adding a banner (free advertisin­g) on your website to receive a small commission­, you publish your content on someone else's site and if that site has high traffic, you 'may' receive a royalty.
These sorts of sites aim to manipulate impression­able writers who are largely ignorant of the industry and the pitfalls associated with internet based vanity publishing sites.

Epublishin­g is the last thing any writer should consider and if writers do self publish, those who do succeed usually have a good marketing plan (they actually get out there and distribute their books themselves­) Writers need to value their work first. You can't expect others to value the work unless you value your work first and no, there is no such thing as a free lunch (or free proofreadi­ng). People (especiall­y writers) need to realise that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

No guarantees­. You will quite likely end up with an assistant unless you know someone who knows someone, etc. You have to do your homework regardless­. Don't waste a busy publishing profession­al's time by sending them something they don't want or handle, or in a format they specifical­ly don't want to see. Go to your local library, read the current LMP (Literary Market Place) in the Reference section, as well as a current Writers Market Place (in the how-to section, or if too old, at a decent bookstore)­. Pick and choose your "targets" carefully.

To find an agent: http://www­.agentquer­y.com

To find a publisher: http://abs­olutewrite­.com/novel­s/ten_step­s.htm


Most agents have their correspond­ence managed by assistants­. Beside there is no way of knowing whether all work is screen by an assistant and if so, It's difficult to get work past an assistant and through to an agent. Even if you address it to an agent, it is likely to be screened. Some agents prefer to be given notice beforehand­. - it's a matter of asking or reading their submission guidelines beforehand­. You can try smaller literary agencies (that do not charge reading fees; you should never send your work to a lit agent who charges a reading fee - it's a scam). You can also address your submission directly to the agent that handles a particular genre. Most large publishing companies don't accept unsolicite­d manuscript­s.

Quote
As I noted above, the publishing houses REJECT 99% of everything that is submitted, even stuff sent in by an agent.

The reality is the book markets have changed dramatical­ly in the last ten years.

- Walmart is the largest physical store

- the rest of the book stores have disappeare­d. There are many communitie­s in the US with NO bookstore besides Walmart.

- Most book sales are now on-line with ebooks growing fast.

- Most agents are worthless in that they have only a slightly better chance of getting your book published than you do on your own.

- Even if you are a top seller author, publishing houses do very little marketing these days because the margins are so slim. Note that marketing costs are charged to the author and are paid BEFORE the author get one dime.The reality is if an author wants to sell books, they are going to have to do almost all the marketing themselves­.

As I also noted, the Author has to treat their work product like a small business and they will have to manage the marketing process like they would any product. A web site is only one piece of the marketing process, but it is a critical one.

Finally, the long read:

Content copy pasted from: (some links omitted)

http://accrispin.blogspot...11/09/pubslush-press.html

http://accrispin.blogspot...ubslush-press-update.html

From PUBSLUSH's FAQ page:

What is PUBSLUSH Press? PS Press (as we prefer to call ourselves) is a full service publishing platform that connects writers directly with their readers using social media. We operate like a traditional publishing house, except we let the reading public decide what gets published. Best of all, we give you the power to change lives. For every book purchased, we will donate a book to a child in need.

What this means, basically, is that PS functions rather like Kickstarter, Unbound, and other crowdsourced funding websites--except that instead of pledging cash, donors promise to buy books once they're published. Writers submit 10 pages plus a summary of their manuscripts to the PS website, where the submission is displayed for 120 days. Potential supporters can read the material and, if they like it, pledge their support--from $25 to receive physical and digital copies of the book, to $500 to receive the books plus a variety of perks such as a dedication and a copy of the original manuscript (you must submit your credit card information in order to make a pledge, but according to PS's FAQ, your card is only charged if the book is selected for publication). Once a book receives 2,000 supporters (though see below), PS will publish it, and pay $5,000 to the author (again, see below). There are no entry fees or other fees to participate in the site.

Leaving aside any reservations about the effectiveness of crowdsourcing as a way of locating quality material, and any doubts as to whether it's possible to convince 2,000 people to contribute $25 based on 10 pages of manuscript, and the silly "the traditional system is broken so we need a new process" stuff in the About Us section of PS's website, and concerns about PS's apparent use of spam-style emails to publicize its service and recruit aspiring authors...leaving aside all those things, PS seems like an interesting idea. Rather than focusing on funding the creative process--which then may or may not make it in the marketplace--PS cuts to the chase: book sales. Essentially, supporters are pre-ordering books, which means that any author who attains the publishing threshold is guaranteed at least 2,000 sales. Not too shabby, in an overstuffed book market, where sales for small press-published books often struggle to rise beyond low three figures. Plus, there's that $5,000 payment.

But--and you knew there would be a but, didn't you?--there are some unanswered questions, as well as a number of concerns.

- Who is PUBSLUSH Press? What experience does PS's staff have with publishing? There's no information whatever at the website. You thus have no assurance that your book will be competently edited, published, distributed, or marketed. Pre-sales or no, that's still a very important question. (A bit of digging yields this interview, which identifies PS's founders as Jesse Potash and Hellen Barbara, who say they have "extensive experience from a wide array of industries"--but not which ones.)

- If you submit to PS, you're done submitting, at least for a while. PS's Publication Agreement (PDF) --to whose terms you agree simply by uploading your submission--requires that for the 120 days you'll be on the PS site, you cannot submit to any other publisher or service similar to PS. If you submit while the site is still in beta, the 120 days extends from the website's official launch, not from your actual submission date. Do you really want to put your book on hold?

- While your submission is available on the PS website, PS promises that it will also (theoretically at least, since manuscript display websites haven't proven to be major magnet for editors) be available to publishing house editors. If a contract offer results, PS will "act as your agent to facilitate the contract." I could find nothing on the PS website, or in its Terms of Service (PDF), to indicate what that entails, or what sort of commission, if any, might be due. This needs some major clarification.

- According to PS's FAQ, 2,000 supporters are need for publication. According to the Publication Agreement, the number is 2,500. PS is in beta, and I'm thinking this discrepancy is a startup glitch--but since submitting to PS constitutes automatic acceptance of all the terms of the Publication Agreement, this is something that really needs to be resolved.

- Another discrepancy: the royalties mentioned in PS's FAQ (35% for ebooks, 20% for direct sales, and 10% for trade sales) don't match the royalties in the Publication Agreement (40% for ebook sales, 25% for audio sales, 10% for trade sales, and 7% for direct and book club sales). Although royalties may be a moot point; see below.

And another discrepancy: Authors chosen for publication receive $5,000, a payment that PS's FAQ describes as an advance. Per Paragraph 5 of the Publication Agreement, however, the $5,000 is not an advance at all, but a publication bonus that "shall not be used as a credit against the royalties payable to Author pursuant to Paragraph 7 of this Agreement."

What does that mean? Well, according to Paragraph 7,  "Author shall not be entitled to royalties on the initial printing of the Work, and shall receive only the initial publication bonus set forth in Paragraph 5 with respect to income from the initial printing." Royalties become due only on subsequent printings.

This sounds horrible, but in some circumstances--theoretically, at least--could work out in the author's favor. Per the Publication Agreement, the initial printing is 2,500-3,000 copies (remember, most of those copies have been pre-sold). If the print run is 2,500 copies and your book retails for $12.99, your royalties (10% of list price) would have been $3,248, so you'd actually be $1,752 to the good.

It's a bit hard to see how this makes sense, from the publisher's standpoint. Of course, it's possible that when royalties do become due on subsequent printings, they will be withheld till the unearned balance of the bonus is recouped--there's nothing in the Publication Agreement to suggest this, but there's nothing to preclude it, either. Also, any author advantage disappears as cover prices rise--for instance, for a print run of 3,000 and a cover price of $18.99, royalties due would be $5,697, saving the publisher over $600. Keeping cover prices high, therefore, would seem to be to PS's benefit--if not to readers'.

- Again per Paragraph 7, authors receive royalties on electronic and audio versions of the book. Will those royalties be subject to the same first-printing embargo? The contract doesn't say. This is another issue that really needs to be clarified.

- Still in Paragraph 7: "Royalty rates are subject to modification by Publisher for administrative and financial reasons, at Publisher’s sole discretion, and royalty rates shall not be confirmed with respect to a particular Work until such date as Author is notified that its Work has been selected for publication." In other words, authors must agree on submission to a Publication Agreement that offers them no assurance as to what their royalties will actually be.

- These are far from the only issues with PS's Publication Agreement. It's a life-of-copyright agreement with a completely inadequate reversion clause ("out of print" isn't even rudimentarily defined; moreover, authors can't demand reversion until the book has been out of print for at least two years); there are sweeping claims on a wide range of subrights despite the lack of any evidence that PUBSLUSH is capable of exploiting them; there's an onerous competitive works clause; and there's an option clause that amounts to a perpetual option on sequels and related works. Moreover, because submitting to PS constitutes full agreement to all these terms, the author forfeits any possibility of negotiation.

- Did I mention that you bind yourself to all the terms of the Publication Agreement simply by submitting? Yes, I did, several times--but it's a point that bears repeating, especially since writers so often gloss over the fine print. In any situation where submission constitutes automatic agreement, you owe it to yourself to carefully consider what you are agreeing to, and whether you are willing to be bound by those terms if you're picked for publication.


- As I said above, I think PUBSLUSH is an interesting idea, and--except for the founders' possible lack of publishing experience--all the issues I've identified can be fixed pretty easily. However, PUBSLUSH has no track record at the moment. It's an unknown quantity. (As of this writing, only 2 of the 10 properties on PS's website have garnered any pledges, for a grand total of 7 supporters.) Given what it's asking authors to commit to, that constitutes a major risk. Do you want to be a guinea pig?

Comments:

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was one of those contacted by PS. It was indeed an intriguing concept, but as the old saying goes, "anything that seems too good to be true.... is." Time will be the tell-all.

Once more, all of us benefit from your sharp-eyed analysis. Thank you.

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Just to note, because it has been pointed out to me that this may be confusing: PS (as in PUBSLUSH Press) should not be confused with the very excellent PS Publishing, a UK-based publisher of speculative fiction.

If your that desperate to publish, put your book up on the Kindle or Nook store. Don't fall for these vanity publishers. Use services that have good reputations. And a known track record.

Thanks again Writers Beware for exposing these scams!


I reached out to pubslush directly because I had some concerns as well. They responded immediately and seem to be very legitimate. I don’t think scams often involve donating books to kids who need them. Probably not the right option for everyone but I’ve struggled to get my work read by an agent, let alone a publisher, so for me it's worth a shot. If anything, it's another venue to get some added attention for my book. Here’s to hoping!

Pubslush says:

Quote
First of all: we apologize profusely for the discrepancy between the publication agreement and FAQ that could be seen on our website until yesterday. We have since fixed the issue and the correct publication is now available to view on the site.

Just to clarify, we understand that our model may not be for everyone. We are merely attempting to offer an alternative medium for writers to be seen, heard and possibly published, while simultaneously promoting literacy for underprivileged children.

We chose the 120 day model because we think it is a reasonable amount of time for readers to gain momentum and get proper exposure without binding them for too long. The 120 day period of exclusive exposure begins from the day you submit.

In regards to the author’s rights of reversion, two years is standard in any publication agreement. The same thing goes for royalties being subject to modification; this is standard procedure.



We urge potential submitters to be aware that they are entering a legal agreement upon submitting. We are not trying to con you.

We encourage authors to remember that this is not self publishing, and while there is a risk of being a "guinea pig" we believe the potential reward is much greater.

We’d also like to remind you all that we have just launched. We are very interested in your feedback and comments. We want to cultivate community and communication and give voice to aspiring writers and readers. Please feel free to send any queries to hello@pubslush.com.

Blog writer reply to Pubslush:

I'd like to thank PUBSLUSH for commenting here, and for their willingness to make changes. I've received their email, but I haven't had a chance to go over the documentation they sent me yet; once I do, I'll post an update.

Just to note, though...PUBSLUSH said,

In regards to the author’s rights of reversion, two years is standard in any publication agreement. The same thing goes for royalties being subject to modification; this is standard procedure.

I'm sorry, but neither of these things is true. The author's right to request reversion should be triggered by the book going out of print (and "out of print" should be very specifically defined, but that's another issue). There shouldn't be a waiting period. I'm not saying that there aren't contracts that, like PUBSLUSH's, impose a waiting period--I've seen just about every crazy thing in contracts, so I rule nothing out. But this is most definitely not standard. To the contrary, it's a contract red flag.

As for royalties being subject to modification...you might find some provision for modification of specific royalties in a publishing contract--for instance, if you sign on for an ebook royalty of 20%, and the publisher subsequently raises its standard ebook royalty rate to 25%, your royalty rate would rise also. Or if the publisher decides to exercise a subsidiary right rather than licensing it to a third party, the contract may oblige author and publisher to come back to the negotiating table to figure out what royalties should be paid. But it truly is not standard for royalties to be modifiable at will, on a blanket basis. This would be a nightmare for authors, who would be forced to sign contracts without any assurance of what they would actually be paid. Again, a red flag.

Comments continued:

What the heck is the advantage to any publisher of sitting on rights to an out of print book for two years?
The same advantage as, when you don't want some piece of furniture or clothing, sticking it in your basement instead of giving it away or selling it. It doesn't cost you anything to hang onto it, and if you change your mind you still have it.

That sounds to me like what these guys are doing. They're ensuring that just in case one of their out-of-print authors, say, puts out a bestseller, they still hold the rights to the earlier book and can bring it back in print, to their benefit. I would never, ever sign a contract that was such a bad deal for me.

Quote
I've read through this and thank you for this posting! I was looking at PubSlush and considering them.
Having read through your post, it reminds me of another company that turned out to be a scam: American Book Publishing. I know a lot of authors and editors who are owed a lot of money by them - and that was seven years ago! If anyone is with this group and contact names keep changing, or if your contact comes down suddenly with a horrible disease, GET OUT! This could be them - again.

Pubslush Update:

PUBSLUSH contacted me soon after I put the post online, and we had a cordial email exchange. As a result, they've made some positive changes--but unfortunately a number of important issues remain unaddressed.

The discrepancies in the number of supporters required for publication, as well as in the royalty rates, have been resolved. A new publication agreement has been posted, (PDF) and the figures are now consistent with the information in PUBSLUSH's FAQ.

Authors' 120-day display commitment now extends from the date of submission (before, for authors who submitted while the site was still in beta, the clock didn't start ticking until the official launch).

The website's misleading characterization of the $5,000 publication bonus as an advance has been corrected.

I was also concerned by the fact that simply submitting to PUBSLUSH constitutes acceptance of the terms of its publishing agreement. That's not something PUBSLUSH seems to want to change, but they did tell me that they'll be re-desiging their submission page to make it clearer to authors that they're binding themselves to a legal agreement.

The publication agreement (though not the website) clarifies the circumstances under which PUBSLUSH will morph into writers' literary agent, and states a commission: 15%. This is good to know, but still a concern--there's an inherent conflict in a publisher also functioning as a writer's agent, possibly in what ought more properly to be a subrights licensing situation.

Unfortunately, also, PUBSLUSH doesn't seem to want to address the other contract issues I flagged. I'm particularly worried about the lack of an adequate rights reversion clause (not only is "out of print" not defined, books must be out of print for a full two years before authors can request return of rights; PUBSLUSH insists that "two years is standard in any publication agreement," but this is just not true); about the fact that royalty rates aren't fixed (they will be set only upon a work's selection for publication, which means that writers must bind themselves to a publication agreement with no idea of what they will actually be paid); and about the option clause's sweeping claim on sequels and related works.

Last but not least--and leaving aside all questions about the viability of the PUBSLUSH concept--I remain concerned about PUBSLUSH's staff's apparent lack of publishing industry experience.

PUBSLUSH's willingness to respond to criticism, and to put changes in place, is welcome and commendable. But there's still plenty here to suggest that writers should be cautious.

Follow-up comments:

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It seems rather humble of them to e-mail and implement the changes they saw in the blog post.

Not particularly safe, but humble.

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I don't understand why anyone interested in this wouldn't just use Kickstarter. Kickstarter's %age is one time only. All rights are yours, and you don't owe them anything, ever.

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Signing up for an unspecified royalty rate is not good. At all.

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FYI: Someone is apparently astroturfing Huffington Post re: Pubslush and Inkubate as well. I blogged about it today on mine:

http://thesentinelsson.bl...continues-to-sink-to.html

Original HP article at:

http://www.huffingtonpost...sh-inkubate_n_997068.html

Hey Ann and Victoria: It might be worth looking into Inkubate now as well. They are telling writer participants that they can get publishers and agents to actually pay to read samples posted there.

http://www.inkubate.com/

The hits just keep on coming.
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2011, 11:22:19 PM »

Hmm...

Just read their Online Publication Agreement and sections 4, 7, 8, 9, 15, and 16 are each raising one or more caution flags for me. Especially the final line at the end of the agreement:

By making a Submission, Author agrees to the terms of this Agreement as set forth herein.

This is pretty unusual for a publishing agreement. If you send them something it appears they consider you under contract with them? Really? Most publishing agreements I'm familiar with arrive in a Fedex pouch with one copy for you, and another to sign and return. There's nothing automatic anywhere. Signatures and hardcopy contracts are the rule - even for an e-book.

I'd be careful and get some professional legal advice before submitting.

But you should always do that no matter what contract you're getting into. That's just basic prudence and business sense.

There's a bit more I could probably say, but lets just leave it at that. Cool


« Last Edit: October 22, 2011, 05:46:58 AM by 40hz » Logged

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