Author Interview: Romance Author Meka James (Plus a Lovely Giveaway!)

taken from Twitter

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for joining me on this fabulous Monday! Today I interviewed romance author Meka James. She’s been publishing since 2014 and has lots of experience in the industry. Grab a cup of coffee and listen in as she tells us about her experiences with indie publishing and dipping her toes in the water of traditional publishing, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the blog post!


You have furbabies, real babies, and a husband. How do you find time to write books and keep up with a blog, too?

**Well, my real babies are older. My youngest is 10, that means they are way more self-sufficient which leaves me time. Plus they are at the age where mom isn’t as “cool” to hang out with. (sad face LOL). As for the husband, he works during the day which also means I have time on my hands. The furbabies sleep 95% of the day. hahaha 

You’re a part of the #turtlewriters on Twitter.  What are the benefits to writing and publishing slowly? Are there any negatives?

**Taking your time benefits because it’s less stressful. I’m slow and a pantser so I need to let the story form as I’m writing it. It works for me, but everyone’s process is different. The biggest downside would be just keeping relevant. We all know the struggles to find (and keep) readers so the longer you go between releases, the more chances you have in people losing interest in your writing. 

You’re a hybrid author, meaning you are both traditionally published and self-published. How did you decide to go this route? Will you look for a book deal in the future?

**I started out team Indie. When I began writing it was always my first choice. I joined up with a group of ladies on Twitter in maybe 2013/2014 and at the time I was the only one in the group not in the query trenches. So one year I decided to do a what the hell, and see what it was all about. I wrote the story Being Neighborly with the intent to sub it to Carina for their dirty bits line. Anything Once (Limitless Publishing) I wrote with the intent to just randomly sub it places never stressing too much if it didn’t get picked up because as I said, going Indie was always the option for me with any book. I do have ideas of subbing again but only to help with some of the cost associated with self-publishing. Between covers and editing, it gets pricey as you know, so letting a press handle that would be nice. 

You genre-hop and write everything from twisted fairytales to erotica. How does this affect your marketing and establishing a brand?

**hahaha I’m supposed to have a brand? LOL no but in all seriousness I write what I feel like. I mean the one thing that stays consistent is that the stories will be character based and steamy. I do feel like I’m coming into my own now and have a direction. I stick with contemporary and play with tropes. I like to think my characters all end up being down to earth with problems and situations readers can relate to. That I *hope* will be my brand.

You’ve played with Amazon ads and have participated in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Ad Profit Challenge, something I’ve written about here on the blog. How was your experience? Do you have any quick do’s and don’ts for our readers?

**Well, Bryan’s great. He hands out the information in easy to understand ways. I appreciate that. However, I’m nowhere near fully understanding how it all works and how to make what I sell actually sell! LOL I guess my best advice is to stick with it. Keep trying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and that goes with learning the marketing aspects as well as the writing.

You attended RWA in 2019 in NYC. Can you give our readers some advice on what to expect at a huge conference like that and how to maximize your time and funds? I hope one day we can attend them in person again!

**Oh boy! First, expect to be overwhelmed. Seriously, if you’re not a crowd/people person you need to be ready for the onslaught. It’s a lot. The old RWA offered up a lot of classes, some that conflicted, so plan (not my strong suit) so you can know what you want to attend. Also, don’t go too starry eyed over all the free books at the signings. Seriously I did that at my first convention in Denver and ended up having to pay a weight overage fee on my bag. LOL Don’t be me. But have fun. Yes you’re there to network, but also just enjoy the time. Don’t let it be stressful and think you have to be doing something every minute. Downtime is important. 

You’re involved in an anthology! Congratulations! That’s so cool, and the proceeds go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which is doubly cool. Besides giving back, how is being in an anthology beneficial to your writer platform and career?

**This will be my first anthology and I’m hoping that it will get my name out there to more readers. That is always the goal, to find new people that may enjoy my work. By teaming up with 28 (I think) other authors, that’s a lot of potential for new readers to read me and hopefully go buy through my backlist.

Did you borrow a book from your already-published collection, or did you write something new?

**The story in the anthology is new. It’s a short only about 6k in length.

That’s great! I’ll be sure to look for it!
You’ve just released two novellas related to the novella published by Carina. How did your launches go? I know every time I publish a book I make a new mistake. When it comes to launches what would you do differently? What worked well?

**Same. Honestly with each release I feel like I’m starting from scratch. The only thing I do consistently is post teasers on social media. I have gotten away from a lot of paid promotions for launches. I mean I’ve had some success with blog tours, and I still like them to help get reviews, but sometimes it can be hit or miss. So far I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly well during a launch. They’ve all had the same sort of lukewarm reception, but I keep chugging along. At this point, I do what I’m comfortable with which is mostly the teasers. I know a lot of people don’t think social media sells books, but for me it does. 

taken from Instagram
taken from Instagram

What’s next for you in the next six months? What are you working on now?

**I am currently working on my first *planned* series that I’m hoping to publish next year. They are a small town romance that follows three friends, all now in their forties who are falling in love. Like with my Desert Rose novellas, each will have a trope featured.
Book 1: Second Chance
Book 2: May/December
Book 3: Enemies-to-lovers.
I’m also hoping to put out another novella by the end of the year, but that is mostly me being way too confident in my slow writing self. LOL But it goes back to the relevancy thing. My last book was published in May, the idea I won’t have another until 2021 is a little nerve-wracking, but sometimes it is what it is. 

I did that, too. I released a standalone novel in May of 2019, then didn’t have anything until January of 2020, and I’ll be doing something similar–I won’t have anything to release until probably next year but like you said, it is what it is.

Thanks for taking the time, Meka! Good luck with your new series!


After I gave Meka her questions, she blogged about her experience with AUDIO! I didn’t want to bother her with more questions, but you can read about her experience on her blog. Click on the picture and pick up some tips to see if audio is right for you!


Meka is really sweet and agreed to do a giveaway. She’s giving away either an ebook copy or an audio copy of Being Hospitable. Also, since I’m hosting, I’m throwing in a $25.00 gift card to Amazon so you can buy more books! Click the link to enter and good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f2ad9b1e25/?


Follow Meka:

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Blog

Thanks for reading! Until next time!


Starting At Zero

Hello, and welcome to August! I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and sane. A lot of things are up in the air right now, but I did want to talk about one thing that’s been on my mind. I joined a Facebook Group for Amazon ads. Most of the members are holdovers from the Ad Profit Challenge that Bryan Cohen hosted last month. But I did notice a common theme.

Lots of us are starting at zero.

We all start at zero. Even Steven King started at zero, submitting stories through snail mail, hoping a magazine would publish his work. It’s a little hard to believe that huge writers like King and Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman, and others started at a typewriter or computer, stared at a blank page, and started writing their books for no one but themselves.

These days starting at zero doesn’t seem so daunting. There are writing groups, publishing groups, publishing conferences, virtual conferences, Zoom rooms, Facebook rooms, and more. Writers have a million places to share links and drive traffic to their book, blog, or social media sites. But even if you have a hundred people starting from zero around you, you’re still in it yourself, and when you feel like you can’t make any traction, that journey seems very lonely.

What’s even worse is starting from zero means you’re probably making mistakes that you don’t know you’re making. Mistakes that could effect you and your business for years to come. Some things can be fixed like a bad cover, some might take longer, like re-editing a poorly written book. One of my biggest is no newsletter.

But there is a ton of information at your disposal, and David Gaughran has helped with that. In his new course, Staring From Zero, he talks you through what you need to do to get your book published, and published well so it sells. The course is free, and I’m half-way through it. It’s a great resource, even for those who have been around for a little while. Things change, and David provides information that’s relevant as of July 2020. I would sign up and watch the videos. He gives you two free ebooks also, and all you need is a little time to make your books better. He doesn’t even try to sell you anything!

I’m enjoying the course so far, and because of Bryan’s Amazon Ads Profit Challenge, I’ve done some of David’s suggestions already for some of my books. What I need to do is take a couple hours and do all the things so I can give my books the best chance of selling as I can.

If only selling your book were as easy as writing it!

Click on the photo for the website to get started! Tell me what you think

Photo taken from David’s Facebook Page

Buzzword: Relevancy

taken from Merriam-Webster.com

Every industry has their buzzwords. Some come and stick around forever, some go in the blink of an eye, some are adopted because they’re trendy, some because an industry leader comes out with a book or a TED talk and they introduce the word and everyone starts using it to sound cool.

If you’re clued in to the independent-publishing industry, you might have heard a new buzzword within those circles:

Relevancy

taken from Merriam-Webster.com

In a webinar with Mark Dawson and Janet Margot, Janet used the word several times while talking about Amazon Ads. This isn’t the webinar I’m referring to, as that replay has expired, but this is something similar with Janet, Mark, and Craig Martelle in a video they did for the 20booksto50k group.

Bryan Cohen also adopted the word in the new Amazon Ads profit challenge I’m participating in right now.

And David Gaughran, in an interview on the Six Figure Author podcast, bandied the word about as well.

Relevancy.

It’s a good word. I try to keep my blog posts on this writing/publishing/marketing blog relevant to the audience I’m cultivating. Not many of my readers would appreciate it if all of a sudden I started blogging about the benefits of going barefoot, or why I love living in the Midwest. One too many and my subscribers would start dropping off.

But why is the word suddenly everywhere and how does it pertain to our books?

It starts with the book itself — maybe before you begin to write it. The tropes should be relevant to your genre. The elements such as world building, magical systems, setting, and character arcs should be relevant. I love this quote by someone in one of my Facebook groups:

No one likes to hear genre advice. People write whatever they want without regard to where their book would be placed on a bookshelf because for us indies, there rarely is a real bookshelf for us in a bookstore. But as I take ads course after ads course, the lack of genre bites a lot of people in the butt. They can’t find relevant categories in which to place their books. After you’ve written it, published it, and thrown money at it, it’s a little late to realize that, yeah?

Book cover needs to be relevant to the genre. Such as in romance. As an example, if the couple has all their clothes on, that could indicate the book is sweet romance instead of steamy. If your couple is fully-clothed but they have more sex than bunnies, you run the risk of angering a lot of readers and that could come through in poor reviews.

When you publish and you enter the seven keywords into your metadata (you can use more than that, separate them with a semicolon), those need to be relevant so Amazon knows what your book is about and they can properly steer the right readers toward it. (Trust me, they want to sell your book just as much as you do.)

The categories you choose should be relevant to your book. That makes it easier is for readers when they search books they’re in the mood for. Some scammers will place their books in far-off categories because it takes only a couple of sales to reach bestseller status. If I were to place All of Nothing in say, a self-help category, or gardening, because Jax happens to buy Raven a plant, would that help sales? Possibly gardeners read romance, but placing a book in a category that’s not relevant will eventually do more harm than good, and could make Amazon mad at you.

If you do all that, your book will be relevant to the audience you want to read your book and your ads will be a lot more successful when you’re advertising to the right readers.

If the keywords (for Amazon) and target audience (for Facebook) you choose for ads are relevant, clicks will be cheaper and sales will be higher. If you don’t set up your ads so they are shown to the right readers, it’s like Coke showing ads to a diabetic. It wastes add dollars and wastes both parties’ time. The sugary beverage isn’t relevant to a person who can’t drink it.


This isn’t new information and I know plenty of writers buck the system, and that’s fine. I find it amusing when authors taking ad classes say their book can fit into several genres and they don’t know which categories to choose for their ads. Your book can’t be all things to all readers. The more you drill down who your reader is, the easier time you’ll have marketing your book.

Make a list of relevant comp authors. Those authors are your squad. Those books would sit next to yours at the bookstore. Their readers are your readers.

I have an AS degree in Human Resources, and HR professionals love buzzwords so it was fun for me to all of a sudden hear this word tossed around over and over again in the indie community. It’s a new way of saying what we already know:

What are your thoughts on relevancy? How have you made your book relevant to your genre? How can you fix it if you haven’t? Change your keywords in KDP? Swap out covers? Maybe add a subtitle? Make a list of comp authors and titles for ads?

Let me know!


Having Fun with Your Characters: Aesthetics

Sometimes I forget how much fun a writer can have with their characters. In the age of writing and publishing as quickly as possible, we forget that there is a lot we can do to help readers dive into the worlds we create and get to know the characters who live there.

I rarely do this because of the time it takes. Writing a character sheet or character interview isn’t too bad, but when you create an aesthetic you can drop down the rabbit hole of stock photos for days. There’s where I lose time, and eventually, if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll give up and I’m angry about all the time wasted.

But these days there are plenty of opportunities for you to share a character sheet/character interview/aesthetic/mood board, and I’m changing my mind about investing some time in doing this.

I also think that this can help me as a writer: dig deeper into character motivation, what drives them to do what they do, why they fight for what they fight for and get to know them for the simple pleasure that they are my creations.

You can share a character aesthetic on your FB author page, your blog, newsletter, bonus material for newsletter signups, or Instagram. Anyplace really, where readers may find joy in getting to know a bit more about the characters in their favorite books.

Using Canva, (look under elements and search grids) you can find an aesthetic grid where all you have to do is plug in the pictures. Save room in a box for a quote from your book that showcases your character’s true personality, or book’s release date, or other information you want to showcase.

You can also use Canva to make a character sheet and save it as a PNG or PDF but for today I’ll write into my blog post and use Canva to make Gage Davenport’s aesthetic.

Gage is my main male character in the second trilogy of my King’s Crossing Serial. Books 1-3 are for Zane and Stella, Books 4-6 are centered around Zane’s sister, Zarah, and her love interest, Gage. I love writing Gage. He’s mouthy, but so kind, and he loves Zarah from the second he sees her. Zarah has a lot of issues, though, and some baddies are after her, but there’s no better man to save her than Gage, a private investigator in business with his dad.


Gage Davenport

Age: 37
Occupation: PI in business with my dad
Lives in: King’s Crossing, Minnesota
Apartment or house: Apartment near the industrial park
Pets: A Husky/German Shepard named Baby
Favorite food: Anything that doesn’t give me heartburn
Vehicle: A brand-new truck that’s almost paid off
Love Interest: Don’t ask
Family: My parents are divorced. My half brother is deceased. My mother remarried to a guy who’s okay, but I’m not interested in forming much of a relationship with him.


Look, I only have time for a few words. I have to take Zarah back to her place, and you know how long of a drive that is. Two full hours on the road. The way there, I don’t mind so much, on the way back, I miss her like crazy, the pull of it stronger as the miles go by. Are we going to end up together? Doubtful. You know she’s rich, right? And I’m not. That usually doesn’t mix well. You’d look at me and think I don’t have any insecurities, but that’s a big one. That and I hate thinking about Pop not being around anymore. I got a lot of time before that happens, but Pop, Zarah, my dog, Baby, those are the big three in my life. Sorry, Mom. I know you miss me, but you’re only on my case because of what happened two years ago. Like I said, I gotta get going. These late nights are killing me. Ciao.

This didn’t take me as long as it could have. I used all Canva pictures because I’m not looking to make money off this aesthetic. Technically, they’re promoting my books, but I’m not using them for book covers. Like I’ve said in the past, I will always buy all my photos for my covers.

With this serial, I’m going to try to have more fun with it, take the time to post quotes and excerpts of all six books while I’m writing them, formatting them, etc. I don’t know if it will help with sales, but I’m going to do it because I love these characters, and I’m tired of writing book after book without taking the time to smell the roses, so to speak.

Do you make aesthetics for your books and characters? What do you do with them, and where do you share? Let me know!


How important is social media if you’re a writer? A published author weighs in.

I have a friend who constantly struggles with social media. She hates it, but not for the idea it’s a time-suck. For now we can all agree that with the JK Rowling stuff, the #publishingpaidme hashtag that’s gone crazy on Twitter, police brutality, COVID-19, and our president, things on social media are more than just a dumpster fire. It’s a raging, out-of-control forest fire. Think Australia. Really, let’s think about Australia since we haven’t heard anything about their fires in quite some time, but they’ll be dealing with damage control for years.

As a writer and author, we can agree that social media is a necessity. BUT as a writer and author, social media isn’t necessary in the way we’re told it is at the beginning of our careers. Namely, we need to be on social media to sell books. This is only partly true, and in the part of it that is true, it takes a lot of scrambling on our end to make it happen. In my 2020 predictions blog post from a few months back, I quoted Mark Coker (the founder of Smashwords) as saying that Amazon ads have stolen the writers’ platform. Why work for reach when you can buy it? Why work for reach when it’s EASIER to buy it? I know for the books I’ve sold in the past year, it’s due to buying ads on Amazon.

And yet. Is social media worthless?

Let’s take a look at social media from an author’s standpoint. Just a quick one, since I’ll start off by saying I’m not doing this but I know I should be. One of the only ways to use social media as an author is to set up a Facebook Author Page. (Ads aside since you need an author page if you want to run FB ads for your book.) The idea is having someplace for your readers to find you. Like your page. Interact with you. Some authors form groups instead of pages, but the downside to a group is that you’re constantly moderating and making sure posters are behaving. That doesn’t sound like fun (and a true time-suck), but an author page is doable. Especially since FB offers a scheduling option for your posts. A downside to this is you’re building your castle on someone else’s property. We know Zuckerberg changes his policies all the time and we’re told it’s better to send your readers to your website or newsletter. The problem with those two options is it’s harder to interact with you. So an FB author page is probably going to be the best thing you can do to use social media to help sell your books. Recommend books in the genre you write in. Host giveaways and post about your books. I’ve seen lots of robust FB author pages with lots of engagement. I don’t give my author page enough love but I should start.

Twitter is bad for selling books and I don’t promo on there. I follow a few industry leaders and retweet the articles I find useful to me. That’s about all I do.

Instagram can be a fun place to hang out, but when you’re a writer, you get sucked into the social circle of other writers. So you’re not going to be selling books on there unless you can crack out of the writer/author bubble and find readers. I don’t post on Instagram with the idea I’m going to sell books. You can run ads on Instagram, but besides paying for exposure, I’ve never sold books buying ad space on Instagram. If you wanna see pictures of my cats, look me up.

So, social media isn’t the best for authors. Unless you’re into content marketing and you’re constantly posting snippets of your books. That might not be a valid option if you’re a slow writer, because by the time you release your book, you’ll have posted every single line already. It’s good for non-fiction. But I’m not a non-fiction writer, and I’m not an authority on anything, nor do I want to be.


So, what is social media good for if you can’t sell books?

This is where my friend, I think, throws the baby out with the bathwater when she cuts herself off from social media.

As a PUBLISHER, there are a ton of benefits of being online. Facebook is where I learn 99.9% of marketing and keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the industry. My friend says– and I’ve heard this from others too–is why would she need to know about marketing, publishing, or anything in-between if she doesn’t have books out? Isn’t writing the most important part of it?

Sure, you need to be writing to be a writer, to eventually be an author.

But.

What are you gonna do when you’re done with that book? How are you going to learn ads? How are you going to know where to promo your book? You’ve cut yourself off from marketing and publishing groups and now you don’t know what the current trends are. Best practices?

If you cut yourself off from author groups on FB, when you’re done with your book and you start up your social media again, you think you you’re just going to join these groups, guns blazing, demand answers to all your questions because you needed the answers yesterday because your book launches tomorrow and you don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen people do that in some of these groups. Some of them are met with kindness and people will walk these authors through what they’re doing to sell books. Many others, though, are ignored because it’s evident that they expect other people to do their work for them. Networking and keeping apprised of industry news is a process. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve said before that being an author/publisher is no different than other professions. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t keep up with the newest (and maybe better) treatments? Do you want your children to go to school and be taught by a teacher who doesn’t keep her certification up to date? Do you want to be represented by an attorney who doesn’t keep up with changes to the law? Maybe you don’t feel your publishing company is that important, but suddenly you’ll feel like it is when you want to buy promotions for your book and don’t know where to buy them. And even suckier, don’t know who to ask because you’ve taken yourself out of the game.

I LIKE knowing what’s going on with the publishing industry. I like keeping up with Amazon changes, new aggregators, what IngramSpark is doing. Even if I don’t need the information, I’ve been able to help others, and that’s what networking is all about. My blog would be pretty useless if I didn’t keep my head in the game and pass along information to you.


What are some of the best groups I’ve joined on Facebook?

  1. Six Figure Authors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/504063143655523/ It’s moderated by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and Jo Lallo. It accompanies their podcast by the same name, but you don’t have to listen to the podcast to benefit from the group. Though the podcast is awesome and a lot of the discussions are based on a podcast topic.
  2. Mark Dawson’s SPF Community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFsecretgroup/ I like this group because Mark Dawson is very protective of Amazon and won’t let anyone talk shit about them. Amazon did indie authors a great service with the Kindle, CreateSpace (back in the day) and KDP. I don’t know where indie publishing would be without them. I also just love the conversations on there about publishing and marketing.
  3. Level Up Romance Writers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LevelUpRomanceWriters/ Moderated by Dylann Crush, this group is for marketing romance. There are so many generous writers in that group, and it’s a place where I have started to post more and get to know people there.
  4. 20Booksto50k. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/ There are a lot of generous people here, too. They are more than happy to tell you how they are selling books. Craig Martelle is pretty strict with what is allowed and every post is moderated, but I mainly lurk and soak up information.
  5. Vellum Users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/VellumUsers/ I format my books (and sometimes for others) with Vellum. This group is for questions about the software if you run into an issue, or if you want to ask if something you want to do formatting-wise is available. Jody Skinner and Erica Alexander are in touch with Brad and Brad (the creators of Vellum) and they both know their stuff. I learn something new about software capability every day.
  6. Indie Cover Project. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20CoversTo50k/ I’ve gotten feedback about covers from here before. You can develop an eye just by looking at what other authors are doing with their covers and reading the suggestions and critiques. This is a great place for blurb help, too.
  7. Book Cover Design 101. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookcoverdesign101/ This is a great group if you want to learn tips on how to do your own covers. I find a lot of my fonts here when people post deals. There are wonderful people part of this group and very happy to help you if you have a technical question. Both this group and the Indie Cover Project can point you in the right direction if you want to order a premade or custom cover instead of doing your own.
  8. Launching Indie. https://www.facebook.com/groups/launchingindie/ Cecilia Mecca is amazing. She’s so generous and loves to know the best way to do anything with marketing. I heard her speak at the Sell More Books Show Summit last year.
  9. And no list is going to be complete without Bryan Cohen. Everything I learned about Amazon ads I learned from him. For free. I’m a member of The Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge and his other group, Selling for Authors.

There are other groups I’m a part of, about 40 if you want me to be honest, and not all of them have the same level of information as these do. I’m the most active in the ones listed above, when I’m on Facebook, at any rate.

My friend has told me she shies away from social media for mental health reasons. There’s not much I can say about that except I have told her in the past that if she’s having issues, to find help, like anyone should. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because of my carpal tunnel. If I’m online I like to make my time worth it either by blogging or if I’m on the computer at all, writing and editing my books.

When it comes to social media and your business, they go hand in hand whether you want to admit it or not. The main trouble I see a lot of writers have these days is separating their writer self from their author/publisher self. Engaging with writers while at the same time hoping to find readers. It doesn’t work like that. We tend to join a clique and follow that clique from platform to platform, but that’s not going to sell books.

I take social media for what it is. A place where I can network and find resources for my business.

And I hope you can, too.

Do you have a Facebook group you benefit from? Let me know. Have a thriving Facebook Author Page? Link it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!


2020 Indie Publishing Predictions Blog Series

2020 indie publishing predictions

Sometimes when you’re just beginning, you don’t pay attention to the world around you. You think most news doesn’t pertain to you, or if something cool is happening, you can’t participate anyway.

Maybe you feel ill-equipped to do anything with new information, so why bother to know it? Or you automatically think you’re not going to be able to afford it, because let’s face it, us indies don’t have a lot of money to put toward our books.

With indie publishing, something changes every second, and it’s hard to keep up, weed out the useless information from what could help you get ahead, and apply those things to your career.

This is the the first week of the second month of the New Year. 2020 predictions have come and gone, but we still have a full eleven months of the year to go, and as any pregnant woman knows, eleven months can be a long time, and lots can change.

So let’s not ignore the predictions of the indie publishing industry because there is a lot of time for some to pan out, and time for you to apply some of these tips to your own career if you’re so inclined.

Written Word Media put out its own predictions with some of the indie heavy-hitters weighing in, including but not limited to Michael Anderle, (creator of the 20booksto50k Facebook group and conference, not to mention head of his own publishing empire) Mark Lefebvre, Bryan Cohen, David Gaughran, and Mark Dawson.

Their predictions touch on audiobooks, author collaborations, pay-to-play marketing, and much more.

I’ll also be combining Mark Coker’s 2020 predictions for the indie-publishing industry. Founder of Smashwords, an e-book distributor and publisher, he weighs in on what he thinks is going to happen to the indie-publishing space, and his dire predictions when it comes to Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

I’ll be looking at these predictions through an emerging author’s eye. Remember from previous blog posts, Written Word Media classifies an emerging author as an author with six or less books in their backlast who makes less than 60k a year. Transparency–I made less than $2000 in 2019 with KDP, my short stint wide, and my paperbacks through IngramSpark.

As a beginning author, I’ll give you my opinion on what’s important and what you can put on the back burner in favor of writing more books. Which is usually a better choice.

When you don’t have much money to spend, you need to choose carefully where you throw your money. Not everything is of equal importance, and only when you’re near burnout do you realize how true this is.

Thanks for joining me on this next blog series. I’ll try to keep posting these on Mondays and continue giving you personal updates on Thursdays or Fridays. I haven’t had much to say on those days as you can just assume I’m plugging away at my wedding party series I’m finishing all that up so they are finally published, or working on book three of my first person trilogy.

In the back of my mind with all this going on, I’m wondering what I want to write next. I hate thinking that I’ll either write third person past stuff if my series sells well, or first person present stuff if my trilogy sells well. You should never write for money, and that is not something I want to encourage to my readers. But I have always had the opinion that you need to write what readers want, and it’s always the best when you can combine what you love to write with what readers love to read. In that sweet spot you’ll find your career. I have enjoyed writing first person present. I didn’t think I would, but it was a pleasant surprise. I am also only reading first person present books right now, so I don’t confused myself with other tenses.

Writing to Market

In these days of pay-to-play, I know books only sell as much as you market, and that is one of the predictions Written Word Media goes into that we’ll talk about.

So, sit back, relax, and don’t worry. You won’t need your sunglasses. According to Mark Coker, our futures aren’t that bright.

We’ll be exploring audiobooks first! See you then!


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Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday!

I usually don’t blog without something to say, but today finds me in a good mood, and I’m just going to ramble for a bit about what’s been going on with me.

We’re 21 days into 2020. How is that going for you? Have you started a new project? Wrapped up something you were working on? Or in some cases, just trying to get through day by day because work is a drag, or your spouse is in a bad mood all the time, or you have a sick pet, or a continually sick kid. There always seems to be something, and if you can find an hour to yourself to sip a cup of coffee and do something productive, that’s going to be a win. I’ve blogged before about winter putting me into a slump, but this week we’re supposed to have mild temps–20-30 degrees F, and in January in Minnesota, that’s pretty great. So I’m going to bundle up and make the most of it.

Coming soon!As far as writing news, my quartet is almost done. I’m waiting for book 4 to come so I can proof the proof. My “second set of eyes” finished with the last book as well, and I’ll be incorporating his findings as I proof.

Even though my response to the Booksprout Review Service was lukewarm and lackluster, it did make me think about what a book launch looks like without reviews. So, I published the paperbacks of the first three books in the series, (I’ll do the same with book four as soon as I’m done proofing it for typos one last time) and put up those books onto the service for reviews upon the ebook publication. Will it make a difference? I have no idea. There is a section for a message from you to the reviewer, so I did ask them to be honest with their overall impression, how they like the stories from one to the next, how they all fit together. I’m not sure if it will do any good–from what I hear, a lot of people who read ARCs for Booksprout are only in it for the free books, but it never hurts to ask.

Here are the four completed covers:

Do you know all brunet men with beards look the same?  There is one male model who gets around, and it’s tough finding men who look different. But I think these will be okay for small town, contemporary romance. I looked covers for the top 100 small town contemporary romances and there is no one “set” way those covers look. My books also have older characters, so having a hot 20-something couple on the cover wouldn’t suit, but I can’t have them all fully clothed either, because then they look too “sweet.” When I had clothed couples on my trilogy, they sent a lot of mixed messages, so I’ve learned to keep my men half naked to readers know to expect a little sex. It’s such a strange, weird balancing act when it comes to romance, genres, and the covers.

But I will be glad these are out and then I won’t have to bother you with my griping anymore. LOL

If you want ARCs of any or all the books, let me know. I have them in pdf, generic epub, and mobi. 


In other news, I finally started working on the third book of my first person present trilogy. I’m excited to launch that pen name, and if first person present stays hot, then I might be writing under that name for a while. These have younger characters, are grittier (Think 50 Shades of Grey or the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day but with a little less sex), and features a hot billionaire. The books take place in a fictional huge city that’s a cross among Savannah, Georgia, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and New York. Not as big as New York, and not detailed enough since I have never been there, but I wanted the vibe and the energy, at least.

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This is one of the posts that I did for my pen name’s author page on Facebook. I’ve been sharing pieces of the books along with a relevant stock photo and boosting those to get a little attention. I was careful when I picked out my targeting audience, and while my FB author page doesn’t have a lot of attention yet, I can shift my focus when my quartet is done.

I’ve been thinking about what I want my pen name’s “brand” to be. Not with logos, or colors, or what her website looks like, but what she writes. Listening to author panels and getting feedback from my backlist under my own name has made me realize I need to stick with a theme. So my pen name’s theme is probably always going to be the big-city, rich lifestyle. And have the glitz and glamour of that life be the tie that binds my books.

Also, in taking a look at my other plots and characters’ backstories, I do know that a lot of the time a message I send to my readers is you need to be happy for yourself and with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. And another thing my characters find is when they fall in love, they find “family.” I try not to let that be too prominent, in the way falling in love with the perfect man saves the woman from a bleak and unhappy future, but as for the guy, too, finding a woman who will love him despite his flaws, or if he’s hurt her in the past, and building a foundation despite that hurt. How to turn those themes and feelings into marketing will be a different matter all together, but if a reader reads your books and the themes are similar they’ll connect the dots themselves and hopefully leave the reviews to reflect that, too.

I’ll be paying special attention to these covers to make sure that the feeling will travel across everything my pen name writes.

As for what I’m doing for the rest of my day, I wrote 7,000 words yesterday, and usually after a creative spurt like that I don’t get much done the next day.  I would still like to get a couple thousand in later, but I need to run to the grocery store, and tonight is movie night with my sister. We saw Uncut Gems–my pick–a couple weeks ago, and it was not to our liking, so it’s her pick now. I don’t know what we’ll see. Have you watched any good movies lately? I’ve been watching The Witcher at night, one episode, or half an episode, ever evening (I don’t have tolerance for much more TV than that). I tried reading the books a while back, but didn’t care for the 3rd person omniscient they’re written in. I might go back and try again, since I’m enjoying the show.

I hope you all are having a fantastic 2020 so far!


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Author integrity, where I’m at with my series, and what’s going on for the rest of the year.

Author integrity and what building a brand means.

I got some bad news this weekend. An author friend of mine, who has been saying (for quite a while now) she’s rewriting her first book posted on social media that she has decided not to. She’s rebranding, and the old book will be republished under her new pen name, cover, and reformatted interior. I was bummed, and I’m sure I’m not the only person she let down.

When we start building our businesses and start thinking about author brand, we think right away about our website, our logos, pen names, and everything in-between. But building a brand is more than the color palette we’re going to use on our website. Building a brand is letting readers (i.e. the public on social media) know who we are as people. Are we honest? Do we do what we say we’re going to do? Do we treat our peers with respect? Do we run our businesses with integrity? Do we have follow-through? I see plenty of authors who like to be jerks online. They say people are too sensitive, or people are too easily offended, and that gives them an excuse to say what they want without regards to other people’s feelings. I see authors publish without follow-through. We write the first book in a series or trilogy, publish it, then nothing. For years. Or authors who release less than stellar books and then get upset (sometimes online by way of responding!) when their reviews reflect that. That does not inspire loyalty from readers, and doing something like that won’t build a readership.

honest

Building a brand is showing people who we are. We want to inspire trust. We want readers to know that if they buy one of our books, they know what they are going to get. Quality. A good story. Authors like Stephen King and Nora Roberts are household names for a reason. Even big named indies like Melissa Foster and Mark Dawson have created brands that a lot of us can identify just by hearing their names. Their names bring to mind who they are as public figures and as authors.

You’ll lose readers if you aren’t kind and honest, don’t produce quality work, and don’t have follow-through. Keep your promises. Be a professional.

I love this quote by Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing:

integrity quote by rachel hollis

Your brand is your business, and your business will sell your books.

I wish my author friend well. I wish her lots of success.

If you’re interested in reading Rachel’s books, Girl, Wash Your Face is right here, and Girl, Stop Apologizing is right here.


Where I’m at with my A Rocky Point Wedding series.

I sent books one and two to the proofer/beta reader. He’s going to tell me how they sound and if there’re any typos. With these books I’m cutting out a couple of editing steps, but adding one I haven’t done for the past three books. This time I will proof the paperback proofs as they come in. Hopefully that will make up for the two I’m skipping.

I’m done editing book three. It’s sounds great, and the only thing I did so far is deleting sections that don’t fit/slow down the flow and finding typos. I must have been feeling good when I wrote this book, or I liked the characters a bit more, because this couple is punchier than the other two. Ivy’s got an attitude, and I like her very much. Here’s a small snippet of something I came across that made me laugh:

“You’re going on the sleigh ride with us, aren’t you? I don’t want you to be hungry, and there’s not enough time to go home first. Come on, we’re meeting in the dining room.”

He looked good in jeans and a dark blue sweater. His blonde hair glinted in the sunset sparkling in from the huge windows that overlooked the slopes. Logan had always hated his glasses, but Ivy liked them. They made him look smart and handsome.

That hadn’t changed.

“I can grab something in the kitchen. It’s where I take my breaks, anyway,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

Logan scowled.

Ivy enjoyed it.

He’d paid for her time; she didn’t have to make it easy on him.

He sighed. “Please?”

“Honey, don’t turn down the pleasure of this hunk’s company,” Lola said, nudging Ivy’s shoulder.

“You don’t even like men,” Ivy said.

“Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the finer of the species,” she said, winking a heavily made up eye with silver sparkly eye shadow and a million coats of mascara.

Ivy glared at Logan. “Fine, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.”

When she went to the stockroom for her jacket, she heard Lola say, “She’ll come around, honey. She doesn’t date much.”

“Much?” Logan asked, and he sounded way more interested than he should have been.

“Okay, none. She needs a little fun, and a little fun.”

Ivy could picture Lola leering.

“Oh, I’ve got that covered,” Logan said.

Dammit. He could charm an Eskimo into buying ice.

“That’s enough,” Ivy snapped, stomping out of the stockroom.

Lola whistled. “Honey, you ain’t got that covered enough.”

“I’ll keep working on it,” Logan said, laughing. He took her arm in a strong grip, and Ivy let him lead her out of the lounge.

Book four will take a little more work since I haven’t looked at it since finishing it a few weeks ago. The time away will help me find what needs fixing, but I doubt I’ll get it to the proofer before the holiday stuff kicks in.

I’m not in any hurry to get these out. I did plan for book one to be released around Thanksgiving, and I don’t see that as an issue as long as everything stays on track. I don’t want to have too much time between releases, but my timing might just be a little off. It depends on how fast my proofer goes, as well.

A little side project.

I am doing a little side project to keep me sane while I edit. I write that in longhand at work then when I get tired of editing my wedding series, I transcribe what I have so I can start fresh the next day I work. It’s been working really well and will be the first book I’ve written completely in longhand.

It makes the editing tolerable, and I’m already 51,400 words in.  This is something I’m thinking of publishing under a pen name, and it won’t be out until my series is fully released. So maybe in the spring. I’m not sure. It’s already plotted out, and it will be a full-length novel trilogy.

It’s fun trying a new direction!


Thanks for stopping in. I’ll be talking about change and being in uncomfortable situations.

Have a productive weekend, everyone!

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A Rocky Point Wedding series update.

I haven’t posted an update for a while because well, there wasn’t much I could say besides, I’m writing.

But now I can at least announce I am done. I finished book four the other night, and while I did get a little teary-eyed, there is still much to do, and I’ll save the tears for when the last book is published. As authors, though, we know that we never really say goodbye to a book. There’s front and back matter updating, updating a cover if trends change or you decide you don’t like what you published, marketing, keyword updating, and all that other stuff you have to do to keep selling your babies. It’s not enough to hit publish, so while publishing them all will be a relief, I’ll hardly be slamming the door shut on them forever.

In total, I wrote 297,204 words. I started in December 2018, and tried to do as much as I could before the carpal tunnel surgery I had in January. I was out of commission for six weeks, but it should have been longer. My doctor gave me the okay to go back to work though, so did I make a mistake when I took that to mean “type my fingers off on this series”?  Probably. But the damage is done, and maybe I’ll always live with a little bit of pain in my left arm and hand. It is what it is.

I’m not going to add how many hours I spent on each file, it’s suffice enough to say that I plowed through four books in about 8 months.

I’ll be editing them now, starting with book one, taking notes making sure things stay consistent. I need to keep track of Autumn’s (my FMC in the last book) blog posts and write them . . . maybe as I edit since my mind will be in the story and I’ll have an easier time manufacturing those interviews.

I have a proofer/beta reader lined up as a fresh pair of eyes. He’s willing to read all four books, so that takes a load of worry off me. I don’t recommend publishing without some kind of feedback, and if you’re willing to beta any of my books, let me know!

I’ve been messing around with covers, and of course, they go through many many variations before I decide on the one I want to publish. I’m keeping my eyes on the top contemporary romances, but again, a lot of those romances are bad boy, tatted up dudes, and my small town romance series would not be a good fit for those types of covers. While All of Nothing has seen an uptick in KU reads since I changed the cover/blurb/keywords, an edgy cover only works if the book is . . . well, edgy.

This is what I have so far, and you can tell me if you like the concept:

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

The font is a placeholder font. Bad script font is bad, so I’ll be going through fonts. The titles for all four books are still up in the air, but it’s difficult to make up book covers without those elements.

Anyway, I just wanted to see if the overall effect works, and beside it not fitting in with the top 100 right now–which, I have to admit, is pretty important–I think it blends together. There are indie authors who do their covers like this. Melissa Foster and Zoe York are two that come to mind.

But I admit those are covers from books a few years ago, and both those authors have a backlist so extensive, I doubt they go back and redo covers to keep up with changing trends.

In that vein, I want to do mine right, so they have a bit of longevity as well, and I’ll get a few more opinions on the covers, too, before I decide anything. The point is, I’m working on them so I don’t get all cranky when my books are done and I have to pull four covers out of the air like magic.

Besides editing and working on the cover, there isn’t much else I can do with them. I’m hoping to start releasing them this winter, still in 2019, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m also 10,000 words into an experiment, and I’m excited. I’m not going to say anything more about it since the outcome of the experiment depends on me not divulging information about it. At any rate, it will give me something interesting to do on the days I need an editing break.


That is my update, and I can’t wait to share these books with you!

a rocky point wedding social media graphic

While you wait, look for my other books that are available in KU!

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Keywords for your books. What are they and how to find them.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about keywords. People may have differing opinions on where to find them, or how to use them, but one thing everyone can agree on is that they are pretty important. They help readers find your books, and in this age of publishing, our books need all the help they can get.

In this last mini-series post about how I revamped All of Nothing, I’m going to explore keywords and if I change anything in regards to my book’s keywords.  For a quick recap, if you want to read about how I changed the cover, you can click on the picture of the full wrap. (I still think it’s lovely!)

all of nothing second coverjpg

I also rewrote the blurb, and that garnered some interesting discussion. If you want to take a look at my process and how I did that, you can click here to read about editing the blurb.

So, keywords.

Like I said, I know next to nothing about keywords, so what are they, exactly?

According to an article on IngramSpark, keywords are “One or more words used to indicate the content of your book.” How do we choose the right ones?

The easiest, and cheapest (read, free) is searching on Amazon in the Kindle store. When you publish a book on Amazon, KDP gives you seven slots. That doesn’t mean that you are limited to seven words, and I only just learned this not long ago. (Evidence that you always need to keep learning because you don’t know what you don’t know, and something you learn in passing could change your whole life business.)

You can add more than one word to a space by separating words with semi colons or commas.

kdp keyword screen

It looks pretty intimidating, and if you look at this not even having one idea what to put there, the first thing you need to do is revisit the genre you’re writing in. There should be at least a few words that pop out at you, even if they’re generic and not that specific.

Anyway, so like I said in a previous post, I didn’t know bully romance was thing until recently, and it turned around the way I’m going to approach keywords and marketing for this book moving forward.

When you go to the Kindle Store (Dave Chesson of Publisher Rocket suggests using an incognito window for this) you can plug in some keywords and/or phrases to see what comes up.

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You can see in this incognito window that I started searching enemies to lovers. But you can also see what comes up that could work as keywords as well. Enemies to lovers romance kindle books would be a good phrase to use. Add free if your book is wide and permafree. There might be other phrases in there that could work depending on what your story is about. Enemies with benefits doesn’t quite fit my book, so I’ll leave that alone. What else did I search for?

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I searched for alpha next thinking I could go into alpha romance, or alpha dark romance. Alpha male romance works, maybe if, it isn’t associated with shifter romance. When you click on it, what kind books do you find? Will your book fit in? When I click on Alpha Male Romance, some books that pop up that All of Nothing would fit in with, and that’s the goal, so we can add that to the list.

What else can we search for?

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I can go with the tried and true contemporary romance, but that is a generic term and using up a space in your keywords may not yield results. We can always keep it in mind though, and plug up a space if we happen to have room at the end of the experiment. Not to write off the list entirely, if you happen to have a new release, it might be worth adding.

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I went a bit further and added “rom” for romance, and nothing extraordinary popped up, but contemporary romance with sex was an interesting return. That seems to be quite specific considering Sweet/Clean romance is having it’s 15 minutes and doing well; this would set my book apart. The word “contemporary” takes up a lot of space though, so I’m going to try to narrow it down before resorting to using it.

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But if you look for kindle books, adding that your book is in Kindle Unlimited may not be a bad idea.

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But let’s keep trying to narrow it down. Jax in All of Nothing is a millionaire. I toned it down, didn’t make him a billionaire. Sorry, Jax. But looks like that search may have had a good return, and I could add millionaire romance, even millionaire romance alpha male. Lots of characters though, so we need to watch our words.

What else can we look for?

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Dark romance gives us some return. Bully romance dark romance pops out at me. But there are some that would be good to keep in mind for other standalone books down the road like mafia, books where the heroine has been kidnapped.  Jeez, these sub-sub-genres are something, aren’t they? What could I choose from the list? The bully romance dark romance for sure.

At this point I think I’m running out of search terms.

2019-08-13

Bully pulls up a lot of terms that don’t particularly fit my book either, like high school, college, or reverse harem. All of Nothing isn’t paranormal, so I think besides the top search term, there’s nothing we can take away from this list.

But I have a few characters left. What else can we look for? I tried bully sex, but those kinds of books I don’t need my book associated with, so we’ll skip that. (Yeah, it’s important to click, and find out what kinds of books are coming up in the search, too. Especially in romance there’s quality, and then there’s quality. I’m not going to call anything trashy as we all have our things.)

We haven’t tried the basic steamy romance and this is what we get:

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Not much comes up here, accept bully romance again, and that can’t be discounted. There are a few more genres that we’ll need to avoid, but the list is interesting, and it gives us something to play with.

This is the cheap and easy way to figure out a limited amount of keywords.

What’s important to note too, is that based on keywords, Amazon may slot your book into categories that are not available to choose from when you publish. If you have a category that you would like your book listed under, you can always email them. But that’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, even the sub, or sub-sub genres to help narrow down your audience.

It’s obvious that I didn’t have any of the correct keywords for All of Nothing, since Amazon has left it in the most boring and generic category of romance books. That doesn’t do me or sales any favors.

all of nothing rank

Pretty freaking embarrassing, if you ask me, and now that the cover, blurb, and keywords are fixed, I’m hoping that I’ll see some traction in the coming months.

What did I come up with for keywords then?

keywords KDP filled

I think I filled up the slots pretty well, and if my book starts selling, they give Amazon a few sub-genre categories to put my book into, too. I do have to warn you that even if you change your keywords, and you hit Publish thinking that they’ve been accepted, they may not be. I hit Publish after filling those spaces out, but I won’t know they’ve been approved for a little while. I may be able to edit this blog post to let you know if they have been, so I’ll keep my eye on my email to see if they publish the book or they flag any of these words.

Edited to add: They did accept all my keywords without a problem! 


What’s the deal with programs that will pull keywords for you if finding free keywords is so easy?

When you start using programs like Publisher Rocket (this isn’t an affiliate link–I get nothing for telling you about this program. All I know is Dave Chesson is a really nice guy and works hard keeping this software working and up to date) you’re looking for a lot of keywords . . . for ads. When you start looking for keywords for Amazon Ads keep in mind they give you room for 1,000 words. You need a lot of help coming up with that many words, and using a software that can scrape your words together for you can save you a lot of time.

Keywords can make a huge difference if your ad converts to clicks, and using keywords is a way to help with that. I barely dipped my toes in the water when it came to Amazon Ads way back when I was trying, and I wasn’t using a program like Publisher Rocket to choose keywords, either. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not utilizing all the space Amazon gives you.


 

So there you have it. How I revamped my book All of Nothing.

For some of you, this would include an edit as well, and if you want to learn more about relaunching your book, either read Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist (Write Faster, Write Smarter Book 6) by Chris Fox, or Ads for Authors Who Hate Math: Write Faster, Write Smarter.  In the latter book he goes a little into how much you should do to revamp your books (time vs. cost) so the ads work, because if anyone has heard Chris talk he is always very clear you need to start with a good product. (These aren’t affiliate links either, but I have read both of those books, and they are worth your time.)

Will all this work? Only time will tell. The cover is better, the blurb an improvement (I think, but that remains to be seen) and we’ll see if KDP approves my keywords and go from there. Could the book use an edit? In terms of getting better as a author, any past book an author writes won’t be as good as the newest release. That’s how it is, and I’m not going to stress about it. It’s a solid book in terms of plot and story. I’m sure it has its share of filler words, or a garbage word slipped by me here and there that I didn’t find and delete. But I did run it through a couple of betas who didn’t have anything bad to say, so I’ll take that as a small win and keep on going.

If you want more information about keywords, Dave Chesson has his own channel on YouTube, as well as Chris Fox. Taking time to listen to what these guys have to say is never a waste.

Thanks for reading!


If you want to know more about Dave and his thoughts on keywords and categories, you can listen to his interview with Joanna Penn here.

Here’s another article by the Book Designer on KDP keywords. Words Gone Wild: KDP Keywords Revisited


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