Tag Archives: science fiction

Selling Books at Conventions by Lydia Sherrier

Some authors have asked me before about how I sell so many books at conventions, so I thought I’d do a post here with some insights I’ve learned over the years for you all to pick through and see what might be helpful for you.

First of all, to understand my situation, I write a clean urban fantasy series that targets Harry Potter fans and cat-lovers (it has elements of cozy mystery and there’s a talking cat in it). So starting out I’m writing in a very popular genre targeting a very large fan base, so these methods aren’t necessarily going to get the same results as a book in some small niche genre.

Second of all, I’ve been publishing for 3 years and have 7 books out (5 in my main series, 2 spinoffs). When I first started and only had 2 books out, I still sold a lot of books comparatively, but keep in mind that the more books you have (specifically in the same series) the more books you will sell.

Third, I’m an extrovert, and have been selling things for a while. First it was Mary Kay, then it was art, now it’s books. There is a definite skill to engaging people face-to-face and pitching a product. If you aren’t an extrovert and you don’t like talking to people, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell books, but it does mean you will have to learn to put on your “engaging” face at an event and be willing to talk so that people have a reason to buy your books.

Okay, so keeping all that in mind, I just got back from the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention in Lexington Kentucky. It is a four-day convention, and this year they had about 20k people attending (which is down from 33k last year because the convention center is being renovated and has less space, but to my great surprise, I sold almost twice as many books this year as last year). In this weekend, with a total of 27 hours of convention time over four days, and with the help of my husband and one assistant, I sold 380 books for a gross profit of about $3800.

That is a lot of paperback books. How did I do it? Read on.

1. This is my third year at Lexington CC, and I’m a known entity there. A good third of my sales were from returning readers getting the next book/s in the series, and people who had seen me there previous years and finally decided now to buy a book. So, if you are just starting out, don’t feel bad if you don’t sell a lot of books. KEEP AT IT. Remember the law of 7 touches (it often takes a customer 7 exposures to a product before they buy, so the more you can get in front of eyes, the better).

2. I do a ton of bundle deals. Only about 10% of my sales were of just one book. Most of the sales were either the first two books (I do a 2 for $20 deal) or the first two books with my cat novella thrown in for $5 (so 3 books for $25). That is an easy deal for the customer, it is nice even numbers with clear savings (I have my individual book prices prominent so they can see how much they are saving with the deal). My other popular bundles are the 5 book series for $55, and all my books for $70 (though I don’t sell many full sets compared to just books 1 and 2). But a BIG help this year and upping my sales numbers was my novella about the talking cat in the series, which was normally $7 but I threw in for $5 if they bought any other book. First of all, my audience loves cats, and second, it is a very low amount to add on so it is easy to convince people to do it.

NOTE: I price all my books so that at a bundle discount, I’m making 50% profit (so sale cost is twice the cost of printing/shipping). That way when I do sell a few full price, I’m making some extra money, but if I do mostly bundle deals, I’m still able to profit and cover expenses.

3. I actively ask for sales. THIS IS HUGE! I. Ask. People. To. Buy. My. Books. I know that sounds super scary, or maybe super offensive and pushy, but if you do it right, you end up making a lot of people happy, and you make money. They key to this is asking questions to engage the con-goers passing your table and narrow down who is your target audience. Here’s my method. I could probably teach this method in a class and make a ton of money, but I just want to help other authors get the readers they deserve, so here it is free:

–1) Watch the crowd, and for anyone passing whose eyes linger on my table/banner more than a few seconds, I ask them “Hi there! Do you like to read?” (AND, anyone wearing fan material of my target genre, so people with Harry Potter t-shirts, robes, cosplay, etc as an example. I’ve also gotten good over the years at figuring out what my target audience looks like in terms of gender/age range/what type of clothes they wear, so I can usually spot them in a crowd. If that sounds creepy, it isn’t, I promise, it’s just paying attention over hundreds and hundreds of customer interactions).

–2) If they answer yes (which most do), I ask them if they like magical adventure, snarky humor, and talking cats (which are three “keywords” for my books, that is three things about them that my target audience like, so if you like them, you are probably my target audience). If they seem at all interested, I do one of three things:

–3a) Only slightly interested and looking like they want an excuse to keep walking, I hand them one of my flyers which is a picture of my book on the front and a blurb on the back, and say something like “Here, take one of my flyers, we’ll be here all weekend if you decide you’d like some really fun books signed by the author herself!”

3b) Somewhat interested but looking like they could easily move on if given a reason, I hand them one of my books turned so the back synopsis is facing them and say “great! well if you like those things you’d probably enjoy my books, would you like to read the back of the first one to see what it is about?” VERY FEW PEOPLE say no when you hand them something, so it is a great way to get them interested without seeming pushy salesy. This is also a GREAT method for introverts or people who are shy about talking/selling, you let your book do the talking for you.

3c) Looking excited and interested in the books (this is a fair number of people, especially when I mention a talking cat). For these people I give them my 15-20 second elevator pitch for the series and then hand them my first book and say 3b) because that gets the product in their hands and gets them thinking about buying.

–4) After they have read the back of the book, unless they ask a question and start engaging me themselves, I ask them “Does that sound like something you think you’d enjoy? Or “Does that sound like a fun story?” If they say yes, I go straight into pointing out my bundle deals. If they seem skeptical, I mention that the books are great for fans of things like Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, etc, and probe them a bit to find out what kind of books they like to read, looking for a way to relate that to my books (if applicable) so they can form a good comparison in their mind. Then I say something like “if you’re interested in taking home some books, I have these special bundle deals this weekend” and let them know about how they can save money while getting a fun book they will really enjoy.

Selling books is all about identifying your target audience, hooking them with “keywords” showing them they will enjoy what is in your books, then showing them the value they will get when they buy (a great story and book sales/bundles), as well as overcoming objections (taking card as well as cash, emphasizing the value of a signed paperback copy vs. getting an ebook online, etc).

4. This is sort of already covered in my selling method of #3, but UPSELL UPSELL UPSELL!!! No matter what they say they’d like to buy, always ask for that next sale up. So if they want Book 1, mention the value of getting Books 1 and 2 for $20, since “you know you’ll want the next book as soon as you’re done with the first” and “why torture yourself and make yourself wait for the next book” etc. Don’t be pushy, just make sure they are aware of the sale they are passing up on. At least half of my sales come from upselling. This is basic marketing, I’m not reinventing the wheel or anything. You know how at fast food places they always ask what else you want? And they always ask if you want to make it a supersize meal? That’s up-selling.

5. I have really pretty covers. Many, many people stop because my covers are colorful and eye-catching. I did my research of my target market, looked at bestselling books in my genre on Amazon, and hired a professional cover designer. I also put my book covers on all my banners, which can be seen from a ways away.

6. I buy TWO artist tables right beside each other (I’m in the artist section at conventions, I rarely buy the big 10X10 booths because that is extra space I don’t need and it puts me among comic book and toy sellers instead of among the artists and crafters where people are looking to buy indie type stuff.) That gives me enough space for all my books AND gives me space for two people to be selling books at the same time. I always do shows with either me and my husband, or us two plus a helper, sometimes two helpers so we can all get more breaks. You can only sell so many items an hour, so having two people pitching/engaging the crowd at the same time doubles the amount you can sell.

——–

So there you go. That is all after, of course, I know I’ve written a good book that my target audience loves to read. Obviously some of the things I do won’t work for you, or you’ll have to adjust it to fit your books/situation. But everything I do is based on basic marketing strategies.

If you have any questions about anything I mentioned above, or other questions about how I do shows, feel free to ask in the comments. As long as you know your target audience, know what makes them tick, and you are willing to engage the people walking by your table, you can sell a good number of books. Good luck!

***Addendum***

DO NOT STEAL CUSTOMERS FROM THE VENDORS ON EITHER SIDE OF YOU!! This is extremely rude and you wouldn’t want others to do it for you, so don’t do it to others. This is the exact reason why I try to make sure there is always a non-author vendor on either side of me so that I’m not directly competing with my neighbors. This is also why I prefer doing comic conventions as opposed to book fairs, where everyone else is selling books too. It just makes it easier to not accidentally steal a customer.

The way to avoid accidentally stealing customers is to make sure to wait until a person looks at your booth before engaging them. If someone is standing in front of your booth but looking at your neighbor’s booth, don’t say anything! Wait until they look your way. If they are standing in front of your neighbor’s booth and looking at yours, you might even want to wait until they are in your space before you speak, just to be safe.

Also, if you ARE around other authors and the person you are talking to happens to mention they like a genre you don’t sell, then immediately point them to your closest author neighbor who sells that genre. You might even ask the authors around you for some of their bookmarks so you can give them out to people who might like their books. Also, once you are done with your sale, you can tell your customer, oh by the way, if you like these sorts of books, you should totally also check out XYZ author over there because her books are also amazing!! This is NOT a zero sum game, readers love reading tons of books, and the more books they buy, the more books they will read (including yours). So support your fellow authors and share the love!

****Addendum #2****

Someone wrote how they have trouble asking for sales because they hate it when other people sell to them, and I thought my response might be helpful since it is a common problem:

I am the exact same way, I hate it when people try to sell me stuff! So look at it this way: if you follow my instructions, you will be weeding out the people who A) don’t like to read and B) don’t like reading your type of book (because you are fishing for what they like with your keywords and figuring out if they like reading your genre, etc). So if you get to the selling part, all you are doing is showing them the benefit and joy they will get from an awesome product that you can provide them.

Let me ask you this: you buy stuff you don’t need, right? Of course you do! You buy things for your enjoyment, things that will make you happy and bring you pleasure. Everyone does, and it is a good and right thing to do. It is good to find joy in life. So, why wouldn’t you encourage people to buy one of your books if you know it will bring them joy? That is why knowing your target audience is so important. I’m not “cold selling,” where I’m just trying to get everyone to buy my books regardless of whether or not I think they will like it. I KNOW my books are good, and I know the kind of reader who likes them, so when I find those readers, I do my best to encourage them to buy my books because I KNOW they will enjoy them. See? You are helping the reader find something they like and convincing them to pamper themselves a little. After all, it’s only $10-20 bucks, right? That’s like, a meal. Nobody’s life is going to be hurt if they splurge a little and get a good book that they are going to like.

Now, one thing that is hard to do is believing in your book and believing that it will bring your reader joy. I have imposter syndrome just as bad as the next author. I squirm inside every time I tell people my books are good and that they will enjoy them, and a little voice tells me “liar, your books suck and nobody should waste their money on them.” But, I have over 400 five-star reviews for my series between Amazon and Goodreads, and THAT MANY PEOPLE CAN’T ALL BE WRONG about my books being fun to read. So, instead of listening to that voice in my head, I smile and tell people they are great books and if they like XYZ (in my case Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Supernatural), then they will like my books too.

So, maybe you struggle with imposter syndrome and have trouble selling your books because deep down a voice is telling you your books aren’t good enough and no one should spend money on them? Only you can answer that question, but if that IS the case, that is certainly a hard struggle to overcome. You can do it though. You have to, and you will, because if you don’t believe in your books, nobody else will either.

BELIEVE IN YOUR BOOKS. BELIEVE IN YOU.

Award-winning and USA Today-bestselling author of magic, tea, and snark-filled fantasy, Lydia Sherrer knows the world is built on dreams and aims to add hers to the mix. When not writing she loves to play her ocarina (think Zelda), and also enjoys traditional archery, cosplay, larping, and art.

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Lydia was thoroughly corrupted by a deep love for its rolling countryside, despite the mosquitoes and hay fever. Having been instilled with a craving for literature early on, and her parents had to wrestle books away from her at the dinner table, and hide them from her so she would go to sleep at night. Though she graduated with a dual BA in Chinese and Arabic, after traveling the world she came home and decided to stay there. Currently residing in Louisville, KY, she is supported by her wonderful and creative husband and their two loud, but adorable, cats.

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Love, Lies & Hocus Pocus Book Cover

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome back to another Monday of Writers Links here on No Wasted Ink.  This week I have a nice assortment of general writing links plus a few articles about the science fiction genre and community.  Happy reading!

Does Fantasy Lit Have to Be Real to Be Fantastic?

LIZ BERRY AND MONA ARSHI IN CONVERSATION

The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones

Kelly Link’s Advice to Debut Authors: Writing is Terrible, Complaining About it Is Fine

5 Top Legal Issues for Authors and Self-Publishers

Writing Insights Part One: Becoming a Writer

Crash-Proofing Your Novel

How To Write A Synopsis For Your Novel

Power Couples in the World of Speculative Fiction: Jim Freund and Barbara Krasnoff

What is Folklore?

Flashfiction: Number Twenty-Three by Wendy Van Camp

Number Twenty-Three
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Gwendolyn tiptoed down a castle hallway, her flowing blue dress sweeping the floor. Strange white doors were set in the stone walls. Each wore a symbol: letters, numbers, or images.

She touched a glowing symbol.”Twenty-Three.” The door opened. She stepped into a blue light. Was this the answer to her forgotten mystery?

The world disintegrated in a shattering of shards.

Gwendolyn woke in a hospital bed. Her nurse detached the electrodes on her skullcap. “That is not it. We will try again in the morning.”

Would she ever find what they wanted? The nurse killed the lights and left her in darkness.


 

This is a 100-word microfiction written during an annual challenge for my science fiction and fantasy society.  The prompt was virtual reality.  This one bends the line between fantasy and science fiction.  Which genre would you choose for it?

Author Interview: Jennifer Arntson

Author Jennifer Arntson is a dreamer first, a writer second, and a sworn enemy of Caillou forever. Please give her a warm welcome to No Wasted Ink.

Author Jennifer ArntsonA typical day for me starts like any other: I rush kids off to school, feed the dog, and the such, but what happens after that can be just as random to me as it is for anyone else. Sure, I’ve got a laundry list of tasks to be completed, but there are times that list goes untouched because of rain, feral pigs, or the local wandering domesticated dog pack we call ‘the puppy squad.’ Why? Well, I live on 160-acre ranch in southern Texas. Did I start here? Nope. This summer I moved from the Pacific Northwest (Go Hawks!) to follow my dreams. As such, I hunt pecans, pigs, invasive species vegetation, and shade in the triple digit weather.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like so many other authors, I had a dream I couldn’t shake. I never thought it would turn into anything, honestly. Because I’m a list person, I thought if I wrote my ideas down I’d be able to forget about them and go on with my day. As I did, the story flowed from my mind, down my fingers, and into page after page on my computer. My mom called me one afternoon and asked what I was doing, and when I told her, she asked to read it. It wasn’t done of course, but I sent it to her anyway. She called a few hours later and asked, “Where’s the rest of it?” There was no more, though. “Then I’m hanging up. Go write more.” So, I guess you can say my mother made me do it.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Oh…the day I held my book in my hands. I still remember the smell of it. You know, that new book smell? It was like that only better. My name on the cover made my head spin. In fact, my husband recorded the moment I opened the proof copy (and posted it online, ergh) and I said, “It’s real.” That’s when I knew. Looking back on the whole experience, I realize I was a writer long before that. The moment I sat down at my computer was when I became a writer. Silly how we need proof.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My new release is the fourth book in the Scavenger Girl Series. Each of the novels follows a Scavenger named Una for a single season. She and her family have been convicted by the Authority and forced to live in the fringes of society, and as things change…so does she. When asked to describe the series I tell people it’s as if Twilight and Hunger Games had a baby delivered by Christian Grey, in a hospital run by Quentin Tarantino. While you won’t find vampires, shapeshifters, or child assassins, you will find a world that breaks the boundaries of traditional genres. Full of suspense and mystery, Una’s world is shrouded with classic dystopian elements and of course a bit of romance!

What inspired you to write this book?

At first, I wanted to get it out of my head. Now, it’s as if the characters themselves want their story told. They won’t let me be until I do.

Do you have a specific writing style?

No, not really. My writing style is thinking things up and writing them down. I know I should have something eloquent about which author has inspired me, but that’s like saying which dish made me like the taste of food. All of it, none of it. Honestly, I write what I like to read. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to stay within a single genre.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Here’s a secret: This wasn’t the original title! My initial beta readers kept referring to Una as ‘that Scavenger Girl’ and it stuck. Since each book is about a season, we added that. In an effort for people to know what order to read them in, we put roman numerals on the cover and the rest fell together easily.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Many people say a person’s future is what they make of it, but that’s not always true. It’s also not the most important thing. Family, honesty, friendships…these are the true treasures worth pursuing.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Much of what you’ll read from any author is an amalgamation of their experiences, worldview, and assessment of things happening around them. While Scavenger Girl isn’t about a specific person or place, it is about the spirit and strength that we all share, and the parts of us we try so desperately to hide. I believe what we see in others is a product of their experiences and we judge it through a filter we’ve spent our whole lives creating. Perspective and grace go a long way.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’m a huge fan of fantasy, though I sometimes get bogged down in the details. In the last five years or so I’ve discovered some extremely talented indie authors that dance in multiple genres. They are the ones that gave me a long leash to explore. My love of reading flourished once I started writing. I started eating, breathing and sleeping books. I think the stories that took me out of my daily grind were best. Our world touched with a bit of magic…that’s what I like. Still, I’m looking for fairies (even though I’ve learned they are trouble!)

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I consider everyone I read to be a mentor. It’s funny…when you’re a writer, you’re not reading only to be entertained or to find an avenue for escape. When I read, I’m actively learning. What do I devour? What makes me wince? Is a turn of phrase they use to provide an essence I find missing in my work? Oh, that word is perfect; I’m going to use it. It is said that art inspires art. I now understand what that means.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My husband and I did. We have backgrounds in graphic art and prefer simple statements in creative communication. The standalones that are coming out this year have a bit of a different look, though.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep writing. Don’t listen to your doubt. Pay for a good proofreader.
I’ve been lucky to have a huge on-line support group of highly talented people. That has been the best gift, really. Early on I realized there are a lot of people out there willing to take advantage of new writers and the seasoned professionals I met through Facebook groups and the like, made all the difference.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I have nothing but gratitude for everyone who has invested in my work. As an author I know I’m asking for two of your most valuable resources: your time and your hard earned money. Because of that, I promise I will always provide you with my very best, and I will never forget that it is because of you that Una lives. Thank you for taking this journey with me!

Season of Atchem Book CoverJennifer Arntson
San Antonio, TX

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Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem

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Author Interview: Kai Wai Cheah

Author Kai Wai Cheah is Singapore’s first Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer.  I am quite honored to include him among our featured authors here on No Wasted Ink.

Author kai wai cheahI’m a Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer from Singapore, writing under the names Kai Wai Cheah and Kit Sun Cheah. While specializing in fantasy and science fiction, my personal writing preferences lean towards lean, dynamic and authentic, combining the finest traits of modern fiction and pulp stories from the early 20th century. I’m also a member of the PulpRev movement, which seeks to revolutionize fiction by gleaning lessons from the pulp masters of the past. Other than writing, I also enjoy reading, movies and gaming, and practice the Filipino martial art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at 12 years old because I was bored.

As a child, I was a bookworm. I routinely devoured books much more advanced for my age. Physics, biology and chemistry encyclopedias; folklore, myths and fairy tales (not the watered-down versions for modern children; but stories of good and evil and horror and bloodshed); books about the military, war, firearms and technology. I started reading adult novels in primary school, and never looked back.

One December morning, I found myself with nothing to do. The Primary School Leaving Examination was over; I was just killing time waiting for the results and my secondary school posting. I’d already read every book I had in the library. I decided I could write a book of my own. I fired up my computer, grabbed research material, and wrote the opening chapter of what would become a 300-page military science fiction epic.

The novel was also utterly terrible, but I kept writing and never looked back.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Shortly after beginning work on my novel, I decided it was something I wanted to do as a career. I began referring to myself as a writer at the age of 13, soon after completing the first draft of my first novel.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest published novel is titled Hammer of the Witches, the second novel of the Covenant Chronicles. The story follows deniable operator Luke Landon, who is tasked with investigating international vigilante network Hexenhammer to determine if it were responsible for a major terrorist attack on a refugee camp. However, he quickly discovers a conspiracy that will stop at nothing to rule the world. And behind that conspiracy is the Unmaker, a fallen angel who aims to drag all souls into the Void.

The Covenant Chronicles is one part spy thriller, one part dark fantasy, one part military science fiction, set in a world where magic and daimons exist, but not gods… until they awake.

What inspired you to write this book?

Like all my stories, inspiration came from many sources. The first major source came from the thriller authors I read in my youth: Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Daniel Silva, Greg Hurwitz and Stephen Hunter. Harry Turtledove showed me the possibilities that lay in the genre of alternate history, while Jim Butcher influenced my approach to worldbuilding and writing, and John Ringo introduced me to military science fiction. The physics-based magic of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir trilogy was a significant influence on the magic system of this series — but I also stole ideas from Dishonored, Final Fantasy, and Alan Wake.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style varies a lot. I find that it morphs to fit the kind of story I’m writing. The Covenant Chronicles series trends towards dark and introspective, with bouts of high-octane action; my upcoming A Song of Karma series is a little lighter and contains poetry; another story I’m working on focuses heavily on atmospherics and senses and technology. Other things like structure, dialogue, formatting also morph to fit them.

For the Covenant Chronicles, I’d like to think of it as what would happen if Tom Clancy and Larry Correia collaborated to write a futuristic urban fantasy series with strong espionage and counterterrorism elements.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Hexenhammer quite literally means ‘Hammer of the Witches’.

It’s also a reference to how the group (and Luke Landon) sees themselves: a hammer to crush the (metaphorical) witches threatening civilization.

A pity I couldn’t include a literal hammering, but that can wait for Book 4.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The entire series is a shadow war between good and evil — but the dividing line between the two quickly becomes blurred. To navigate these treacherous waters, and to keep his soul (and the souls of others) from falling into Hell, Luke Landon must develop a moral compass and stand true to his principles. I would like readers to understand the value of having firm ethical principles, of refusing to compromise with evil, and to understand that all actions have long-term repercussions.

A secondary message is that evil outcomes can arise from actions motivated by good intentions — and that good outcomes can also flow from evil actions.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, but I drew many plot elements and technologies from current affairs and modern-day developments. These include the European migrant crisis, quantum computing, brain implants, fake news, and more.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Everyone I mentioned above as inspirations. They bring different strengths to the table: prose, plotting, characters, research, worldbuilding, and more. I study their stories to improve my own.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I don’t have any mentors. However, I am studying the business practices of Silver Empire, Chris Kennedy, Nick Cole, and Jason Anspach. Marketing is one of my weaknesses. I think these authors and publishers have an excellent grasp of marketing, and there is much to learn from them in this regard.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Scott Vigil. I didn’t select the illustrator; Castalia House did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Don’t stop until you’re done. Then, write some more. This is the secret to achieving your writing goals, whatever they may be.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my books. Please look out for my upcoming stories Hollow City and Dungeon Samurai.

Hammer of the WitchesKai Wai Cheah
Singapore

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Hammer of the Witches

Cover Artist: Scott Vigil
Publisher: Castalia House

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