Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I am a blogger, and I am pissed! #2

The first post in the series got a lot of comments and interactions. If you've not read the first post, you can check it out here. After going through all the reactions, as well as reading through and participating in discussions about the first post on a number of groups, I'd like to clarify something here. These posts are in no way a generalization, and I am definitely NOT saying that most authors are like this. It is a few who are doing these things, and many more who may be unaware how irksome these things are to bloggers.

My only hope here is that, authors can read these posts, and just learn something which may help in creating better relations between bloggers and authors. So, let's continue!


6. Put out a good book: I’ve read so many books with a great story that were in desperate need of an editor. Spelling mistakes, bad grammar, wrong usage of words, plot holes, missing words, bad formatting, you name it. I know good editors are costly and not every author can afford one. But, in that case get good beta readers, alpha readers or any readers to help you spot mistakes you can’t find. I really do hate giving a good book a bad rating. Another thing authors could do to make a great book would be to get a professional cover designer if they can’t do a great cover themselves. That is why I always ask for a book cover along with a review request. There have been so many books I have seen and ignored because of bad covers. I’ll never know if I missed reading a great book because of this. 
~Alexia: Ditto! I’m a cover whore! If the cover doesn’t attract my attention I usually don’t read the synopsis or for that matter the book.


7. Help the blogs in return: I’ve agreed to do that review, author interview or guest post? Great! All I ask in return is that authors promote THEIR posts on our blog. How hard is that? You can’t take out the time to promote your own post? I had a few authors who recommended me, and mentioned me as a helpful blogger to their networks. I just loved it and will now do anything for them. See how both of us benefit?
In a similar vein, being there to respond to comments on your posts is something I should not have to ask for, but I have learnt my lesson. I now don’t expect authors to stop by unless I badger them to take a look and reply.


8. “Demanding” reviews: So, I’ve accepted your book to review? That is great! But, did I tell you I have a long waitlist? One which can take months to get through? And, I do tend to move books up the queue once in a while? After telling authors all this, I still get messages from authors asking me why I am not getting to their book faster. I’ll be nice and reply to you the first time with my standard message to such emails, maybe a second time. But, after that, there is a very good chance I’ll just not review your book.
Here’s an incident with an author on Goodreads. For a little background, I had accepted this book in November and had told the author that I would be able to review it before the end of the year. I somehow forgot all about the book and the deadline passed. I know, big mistake. One, which I had not planned to commit. When the author messaged in late January asking me why I had not reviewed, I finally remembered the book and committed to get to it quickly, and told him I had a few books I needed to review before I could get to his book. When the author sent me a couple of more messages asking me when I would get to his book, and why I had not gotten to it yet, I just ended up deleting it. It might have been a book I would have loved, but now I will never know, and I do not regret it. Too many books, too little time.

9. Book pricing: OK, I know I am not the one who can tell an author what he should charge for his books. But, when I see an author selling their first and only book for $4.99 and more, I am not the one who will buy it. I know this has nothing to do with blogging, but I have a really good rant going so I thought I’d throw this one in as well.  The maximum I would pay to read a book by an unknown author is $2.99. Beyond this, it becomes too much of a risk. Also, the huge number of other authors for me to try out will lead me to ignore books beyond this price range. I’d however, pay more for subsequent books by an author I like.

And finally for today, the really big one!

10. Going to war: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, I’ve seen authors and bloggers warring everywhere. Why, you ask? Over 1-star reviews of course. Authors do not seem to realize how visible their actions are on the internet. They also don’t seem to realize that they need to act professionally everywhere, every little bit reflects on their books as well. One author left nasty comments on a blog which had posted a 1-star review. Another emailed all her friends and other contacts to go and down vote a review on Amazon. And the email got out into the public arena. Yet another abused a blogger on Twitter and Goodreads. What do you think happened? Word got out and these incidents went viral. Hundreds of people got so turned off, they bandied around the bloggers. There is no way an author can win a war against the readers. There is no clean exit here. And apologies don’t matter. 
~Alexia: I’ve heard authors say that negative reviews are good publicity as well. If you want an honest review then you have to accept any review. Look at the Fifty Shades of Grey commotion… the only reason I picked it up is because there were so many bad reviews as well as great reviews – I wanted to know what all the fuss is about!
I fully agree with what Ritesh has said, but in the same breath, bloggers should not be snarky towards an author in a review. Being rude and bashing them is not cool at all. You aren’t reviewing the author as a person, you are reviewing their book. I personally don’t post reviews on the blog that are 1 or 2 stars martinis, I’d rather email my review to the author and ask them if they would like me to post it or not, I’d tell them personally why I gave it a poor rating.
Just this past week, I came across a huge war started by an author due to the fact that reviews promised to him were not put up. I don’t have all the details, but after going through a few internet articles and blog posts, here’s the lowdown, as I get it. He fell in love with a debatably underage girl (and blogger) after lying to her about his age, and when she found out and broke it off with him, all hell broke loose. He put up a lot of posts ranting about the whole affair, and decided to put up a list of “bad bloggers” who had not reviewed his book after promising him to do so. The catch? There are some really well known bloggers on that list, and they say they never got a request from him. And, this is not really the problem. REALLY! The problem is the whole thing blew up in his face (now, why did he expect anything other than this to happen?), a lot of people got involved, and he went on the defensive … by degrading, abusing and threatening every person who left a comment on his posts.

After seeing this last incident, I really have to wonder why I even agree to look at indie books. I really wanted to put up a notice on the blog that I would not be accepting indie books, or authors anymore. I do not lose anything, there are tons of books out there for me to read and review. So tell me, who loses?

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So AUTHORS, what do you think? Do you think this is too harsh? Do you believe avoiding these 'pitfalls' would help you in getting a better 'hit rate' with bloggers?

And BLOGGERS, tell me if you've had similar experiences. Also, what is your biggest pet peeve regarding how authors approach you with review requests? Leave a comment below, and I could add it to my ever expanding list. Of course I'll give you due credit to bringing it to my attention and will add a link to your blog to the posts.

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26 comments:

  1. The saying... 'you live by the sword and you die by the sword' applies here. The very thing that is enabling the revolution in self-publishing... direct-to-market access to a global readership without a publisher or agent involved... is a gift of extraordinary value to indie authors and shouldn't be taken for granted. It wasn't too many years ago when the internet and social media weren't available for self promotion, and marketing a self-published book like a door-to-door salesman was the only choice and not a very profitable one. As an indie author myself I believe this opportunity is golden and requires a sacred trust between author and reader to preserve mutual respect. On a final note, I had my debut thriller, Tiger Paw professionally edited at considerable expense and intend to do that with every book in the future. I owe that to my readers.

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  2. Wow. I'm still recovering from the underage blogger affair . . . that's beyond inappropriate, and just damned creepy.

    I think you've made some good points in both posts. As you said, it's not a generalization, just a recap of some of the behaviours that you've become frustrated with. It's not just fair to point them out, it may help steer some authors (and bloggers) into tweaking their own behaviour.

    I've never been dragged into a war, and have been fortunate enough to avoid the more demanding authors. However, I have had more than one author, publicist, and book tour organizer completely ignore my review policy. I actually had an organizer invite me to join a tour group that hit EVERY SINGLE ONE of the genres I explicitly stated I WILL NOT review and NONE of the genres I DO review. What can you do but laugh?

    Like yourself, I ask is that authors check out my review policy, make sure their book is a good fit, send me a personalized email, and reciprocate by promoting the review. Do that, and I suspect we'll establish a great relationship.

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    1. I don't want to start a war, but she wasn't underage. I know this situation and have known about it since it originally occurred. While the age difference might be a bit creepy, again I say: she was NOT underage...

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  3. I might occasionally respond to a 4 or 5 star reviewer, but anything lower? Never. Regarding quality of the book - I've had my novel proofed by beta readers, then professionally edited. I've paid for a cover designer. I approach bloggers as I would literary agents - professionally. After that, the blogger, then the readers have to decide if my novel's worth their time.

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  4. First, I don't get the concept of just throwing a book up without editing and a decent cover. The only exception being if you decide to write short porn stories on Smashwords for .99. I would still edit them, but I wouldn't pay for a cover. And no, I'm not a porn writer on Smashwords; I just thought about it reading the post.

    I think writers just get very stressed about the whole promo business, and yes, reviews are part of the promo package. Not excusing bad behavior in any way, I just get the frustration. I would not worry about a bad review - I know it's one person's opinion of a book and all the classics have 1-star reviews. If I were ever to become a reviewer (no plans, too busy), I would do exactly what Alexia said about not immediately posting bad reviews.

    My own frustration is to do with a radio show I was on. I was promised a copy before it aired, and it's been a month now and I haven't received it. Similar to a review, it means a lot and I have sent a couple of polite follow-up emails, but sadly I think I'm out of luck. But no, I won't be going on a cyber-assault. Life's too short and I have better things to do.

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    1. From my experiences with working with authors, there are three reasons their books haven't been edited.
      1) they can't afford a professional editor. This is why I, and another friend of mine who is also an editor, offer barter services.
      2) they have had friends/family/co-workers, etc. "edit" it for them and think that is good enough. Maybe if said person/people have the necessary training, but I've edited a book that was already gone over by 5 people, including an English teacher, and still found it full of problems.
      3) they are in a hurry to get their book out because they just know it's wonderful. This is something I recently ran into, and when I received the copy to edit, it wasn't even ready for me. It desperately needed a content editor first, so I sent them off. We'll see how that goes.

      I agree with you that a lot of it is frustration - it's hard to maintain the schedule you had originally wanted when you have to rely on other people getting through things, too; but it pays to be patient, and it pays to take those steps. In my editing guidelines, I recommend that the author works with a writing group, has at least one beta reader, and has the work content edited before it is sent to me, and then after I'm done with it, if they can, they have it proofread one more time by another set of fresh eyes.

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  5. Well, I agree with everything that you've said but I do have one question. The price of books.
    For starters, I didn't even know reviewers paid for books so they could read and review them. If I trust the reviewer, and Alexia will agree it me here, I'll give it out for free.
    To the question, you say you won't pay over $2.99 to read a book. Why?
    My first book started, and stil is selling for $5.99 and that is because my publisher put it as that price. Not all authors have a say in how much their books sell for.
    I had one woman review my first book on amazon, stating that she had a problem with the price and even though the book was well written and yada yada yada, she wasn't going to bother with the next ones. All because of the price that was out of my control. That's hardly fair really.
    Is your opinion on the book price still the same when it comes to authors who are with publishers?
    Hugs

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    1. Natalie, this price is more to do with unknown indie authors. If one of my friends recommends a book to me, the price does not matter. But, I will also not pay more than the paperback price for kindle books. I'd rather not read it. Also, bloggers read for pleasure, we do not only read to review books. Just saying :P
      But you have to agree, price of a book plays a big role in trying out new authors.

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  6. In all things, reviewing books being only one of them, I believe it is wrong to punish a whole group because of the behaviour of a nutcase or a fanatic minority. It's like telling a class of kids their year end trip is cancelled because one student misbehaves. Kick that student out and have the class trip.

    In this case the guy is a predator and a bully. Did you not pick up on that when you found out he was going after underage girls? THAT is the real issue here. Not that someone acted out in revenge. This guy is a menace to society, not only to bloggers.

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  7. I'm a little self published author myself, and honestly, I would not blame you for saying no to indies after some of the behavior I've seen. Or any book reviewer for that matter. But I hope you don't because there are plenty of indies and self published authors who act professionally (I have the occasional sarcasm and snark, but for the most part, try to act pro.) Saying no to all indies leaves those and me without a chance to prove ourselves.

    In response to Sabrynne's comment about authors getting stressed. Yup, it can be very stressful, but I agree that's no excuse for me to act like a child. All these incidents of authors behaving badly only strengthen my resolve to keep my emotions in check.

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  8. I've been blogging for a year and a half and have posted a few reviews. I hand pick all the books I review, which means I don't accept requests. In all that time, I haven't had a problem with a commenter, so I'm either lucky or I'm not popular enough to bother. However, if I did run into someone who tried to make my life hell, I just might stop blogging all together...or set up shop somewhere else if I couldn't block them and ignore their emails. Life's too short for that shit.

    As for not promoting their own post on your website...? That sounds crazy. Each time I appear on someone else's site I blog about it and post notices to my Facebook accounts, anything to get people over there to read. Writers who don't are loosing missing the point. I feel the same way about popping in throughout the day I'm featured to comment on the comments. It's a no-brainer...oh, yeah...brains seem to be in short supply these days.

    The only thing I disagree with is the price of a new writer's first book...unless it's short (shorter than 80,000 words). My first (and only; next one due out in September) is $4.99. To sell it for less would devalue it. It's 127,000 words long. I worked on if for about five years (more in a way), had two beta readers go through it and paid a professional editor to edit it. I believe in my book, and it has sold at that price. That doesn't mean I won't put it on sale for a short time when the second book in the series comes out, but it won't stay discounted forever.

    Book pricing can be extreme (from free to more than ten dollars). I believe somewhere in the middle is the happy medium for a quality novel.

    I love the bargain bin, too, but if a book appeals to me, I'm willing to pay more and have paid more for a book I never heard of before by an author I don't know.

    However, all writers who want their books reviewed should provide free copies.

    I feel reviews are for readers, not writers, so I don't comment at all unless I asked for the review.

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  9. I'm with you. The drama with that crazy author put me off as well. I hardly accept indie books, unless they're ones that sound really appealing to me. Recently, I got a request for a book to be reviewed and I e-mailed them back saying I'm not accepting any review books right now. He e-mailed me back a couple of days later and said he has an interview/guest post ready and would love to be featured on my blog as I can't review his book right now.
    The thing with me is, I don't review all the books I get. I've made that clear in my review policy. Sometimes, I start reading a book and I just can't get into it and I don't bother trying to force myself. So I reply back to this author saying I'd be happy to feature him and he sends me a review copy of his book when I didn't ask for it, which, I guess is kind of sweet but I already told him I didn't want it then he says 'for whenever you'll review it'...but u know with that crazy author guy, I'm a little on my guard here so I said look, I may not review your book at all as my pile's full and the books that're already on my TBR list take precedence (you know, just to make it clear) and he gets back to me saying yeah yeah, review it by August, September of even November, it's totally cool. But I'm still kind of annoyed, maybe it's just me? Because really, I don't want to be sent a book which I didn't agree to take on and then automatically be expected to review it. On top of that, I'll be questioned when I don't.

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  10. As an indie author who tries very hard to be professional to bloggers and all readers, I find it incredibly discouraging when a few out of line and unprofessional indie authors ruin the chances of us getting reviewers, especially for the authors who are professional. I have tons of respect of reviewers as they do us a huge favour by not only reviewing the book, but giving us essentially free publicity. Yes, bad reviews are hard to take. But that comes with the territory of putting out books out there for the world to see. Not everyone is going to like your book and that's a fact you have too face when you publish it. We have this amazing freedom to publish whenever we want, but there is a responsibility with that- to put out a good quality, well-written, well-edited and well-formatted book. Just because we CAN publish anything doesn't mean we should. If someone alerts me to an error in my book, I fix it right away and review the rest of the book to make sure I didn't miss anything else. Readers are customers. Bloggers are fellow professionals and authors need to treat them as such. They take their personal time out of their day to read someone's book then take more time to write and post a review. That merits a lot of respect.

    So, no, this series is not too harsh. Many authors could learn something from reading this.

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    1. Bad reviews can even help a book sell. All depends on how the review is written and why someone did not like it. I've bought a few books after read the negative reviews as what they were complaining about is something I actually like in a book.

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  11. I agree with both posts. If we are careful to be professional in our workplace, why not be a professional author? The internet is not the place to get snide snarky and nasty, because what ever you put on the internet stays on the internet. No matter if you delete it, someone who is a skilled IT person can revive it.

    Oh and thanks to you I've made some changes in my review policy. I haven't reviewed many books yet, and probably will not, due to lack of time (I have a real job hovering in the back ground). But just in case I do I clearly stated my guidelines just in case.

    Yes, by all means, take your time and read at your own pace. I can't believe people think you have nothing better to do than read and review just their book. I shouldn't say that because I've worked with the public for years and I've seen and heard just about everything. Yes, the moxy is one of them. . . .

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  12. I have asked to do a number of reviews and I have been forthright in telling each author that I would like to but don't have the time. I write for an e-zine, have my own book to finish...have my own blogs, I'm swamped. I received understanding replies, thankfully, and the authors moved on. In the instance of one Indie writer, I did promise to review her book and feel hugely guilty that I have not yet made/had the time.

    As bloggers and writers of our own books, it is flattering that authors want ask us for reviews. On the other hand, perhaps they should read the bios of bloggers more carefully and see how they are engaged before they ask will nilly for a review.

    Regarding the reviews, there is an onging Linked In thread that has devoted hundreds of responses to carping, criticizing, haranguing and grousing about 1 star reviews and rotten reviewers. OMG. The authors (a number of them male, lolol) are so affronted it is laughable. So what? In a different vein, I know of one clever author created a Youtube video, used his granny, his kids and his wife to further decry his book and read the negative reviews (these were from highly visible newspapers that critiqued the latest published works and potential best sellers.). It was effectively funny. He took the great "curse" and made it into a boon. I thought the author ingenious. He got over himself and let it roll off his back which is not easy to do, but is a sure way to avoid stress, heart palpitations and stomach upsets.

    I agree with what you've said. There is always the thought to accept a few books to review. After all, do unto others?

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  13. Joined your blog via Google Friend Connect and Networked blogs. Would love a return of favor? Or not, as you wish. Thanks for your support. http://www.thefatandtheskinnyonwellness.com/2012/06/why-i-appreciate-anthony-bourdain-at.html

    Post on Anthony Bourdain...his books are fast reads, but he's not asking for anyone to review them. ;-)

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  14. Ritesh you are in big trouble with me if you decide to stop reviewing indie authors... think about it. LOL

    Yes some indie authors need to grow up and learn to act as professionals. I pity my clients when they call me upset about their latest bad review to which I respond "congratulations you've made it". I then recommend they go look up their favorite books and see how many bad reviews those books have, get over themselves, and get back to writing. Any author who does not expect to get at least 1 1-star review on their book is totally out of touch with reality.

    And since when was 3-star meaning average such a bad thing? To me a 5-star book is one that is out-of-this world. I don't know how to rate books anymore. I need extra stars to be able to properly rate really out-of-this-world books because a "well written book without too many errors gets 5 stars".

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  15. I like to review indie authors, especially since I try to help them improve their skills. For me, even a 1-star review may be a "good" review if it teaches adequately. Though I prefer not to grant star ratings.
    If someone is kind enough to ask for my review -- I am not a well-known reviewer -- I will buy the book if the genre suits me. Nowadays I am asking authors I will review to please answer a few questions so I may add them to the review that will be posted on my blog. Whether they promote my blog... Well, I just expect some courtesy... Don't always receive it, though.

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  16. I just don't get it. I'm an indie author. I politely ask a reviewer to review my book by following their guidelines exactly. If they agree, I send them the book in whatever format they wish - and then I forget about it. If they choose to read, I'm grateful. If they choose to review, that's fab - but I would never ever nag or pester. Nor would I say anything about the review other than thank you.

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  17. I'm so sorry you've had bad experiences with indie authors. I'm an indie author, and I try my hardest to always be a professional--and that goes for covers, formatting, editing, and how I treat others. Respecting readers, reviewers, other authors--in other words, your fellow human beings--is the minimum I'd expect of any professional. The folks who don't behave that way are unfortunately tarring other indie authors with the same brush. It's so disappointing to me as an author to find an awesome book blogger who reviews my genre but no longer accepts indies. After hearing about your experiences, I can see why that happens.

    I really wish authors would grow up about 1 and 2 star reviews. *Not everyone will like the book.* Deal with it and try to learn from them. Think about all the times you hated something that everyone else loved. Should you change your opinion? Nope. It's your opinion. Reviews help convince people to try books, but they don't make or break them. Witness "Fifty Shades of Grey," which has an almost equal number of 5 star and 1 and 2 star reviews. Hasn't hurt its sales, has it?

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  18. First let me say I've read a great many indie books, but after getting so many requests from authors that didn't pay for editing on their books, I stopped. It was frustrating as a reviewer because I would get literally dozens and dozens of emails daily asking for a review, but 85% of the books had poor, if no editing. So I understand why you would say why bother with indie books when there's already plenty out there. That said those few authors that I read who took the time with their books and really put a lot of love into them, I ended up loving as well. I don't expect people to have flawless novels but it would be nice if they did have them looked at. Authors should just ignore 1 & 2 star reviews. Not everyone will like them and that seems to be a big issue. Then again I don't like reviewers who give low stars to authors for no reason. They should at least tell authors what they didn't like or why they gave them a low rating.

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  19. I think what it comes down to is this: if authors treat you like a professional adults, then you'll return the favor.

    I think book bloggers have a huge role to play in helping the casual reader figure out what to read next. You guys put the time, effort, and thought into crafting honest reviews, and the impact you guys can have on a book's publicity can be huge.

    Which is why I really hope that a few rude and immature authors don't ruin the field for indie authors everywhere. Great post, great points, but please don't give up on us indies!

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  20. I always post links on my twitter and facebook (and so far my blog as well) when I guest blog in any way. I don't know if I'd post every review I got on my blog because people would get sick of that, but I always post things on my twitter and facebook. It just seems obvious. Why did I want to be featured on their blog unless I wanted people to read it? LOL.

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  21. I agree with Alexia's statement that even negative reviews need to be respectful. If an author has taken the time to contact me and request that I review his or her book and I don't feel I can rate it at least a 3, I'll send the review directly to the author and offer to just post my rating and not the review. I have had about a 50% response to this; about half say go ahead and post the review and the other half say don't post the review. As long as the author has seen my comments, I'm okay with that; if someone asks me why I've rated it the way I have, I'll answer them.

    However, once I have posted a review, I will not change it at the author's request. The only time I did that was to add in a word that was missing, because the author wanted to use it in a quote and I needed to make sure the review matched (and was properly worded); since it didn't change the review or assessment, I was okay with that. The only reason this ever came up was my one truly negative interaction with an author, when I posted up a 5-star review but mentioned in the review that there was a couple major plot discrepancies. I loved the book, though, so left the rating at 5. The author first asked me to change it, then remove it, then finally tried to bribe me to take it down! O.o I was completely flabbergasted!

    Good posts; very important points.

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