My first job in book publishing

(This post really should be subtitled ‘How Bloomsbury Publishing marketed a title so well that I was compelled to write about it!’ Read on and you’ll understand why.)

My publisher Charlotte Harper of Editia is located in Canberra so it’s not that often we see each other in person. Last week we spent some time together and she passed along a package sent to me via her office.

In a time of digital publishing, digital marketing, digital everything, what I love is the targeted marketing of a Bloomsbury’s title. 

The parcel was beautifully wrapped with a tag on the outside:



On opening the parcel there was a book proof. Ok, at this stage you may be thinking – ho-hum, what’s the interest in that? But wait, there’s more….

The proof for My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (release date June 2014) came with a personalised letter. While I may deduct small points for the fact that they spelt my surname McGuire instead of Maguire, I’m awarding bonus points for the content of the letter that came from Alexandra Pringle, Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing.

The letter starts out:

“You always remember your first job – your first step into the world of publishing. Reading this wonderful memoir, My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff – her account of her first job for an old-established literary agency in New York in the 1990s – I was transported back to 1978.”


The letter then continues with a personal story of Alexandra’s first job in publishing when she was 24 years old. She captures so perfectly the experience of a young worker (or as she explains her job, “Office Slave”) and the menial tasks, along with a few mishaps.

The letter says:

“We know that you are fully-fledged in the world of publishing now
and that’s why we wanted to share this with you!”.

Ok, how do they know that? As far as I know, no friends or former colleagues work at Bloomsbury. Someone has done their homework! And I like that. It makes me feel that this has been really well targeted and it’s personal.

Another thing I really loved?

“Here is a proof to enjoy, to cherish, to share – and to take you back.”

Now let’s just focus on the ‘share’ bit of that sentence.

Bloomsbury have included in the proof a ‘Pay it Forward’ concept along with a library-like card no less for people to sign and date!



Will I do that? Hell yes! I will absolutely be reading this book, filling out the card, and passing it along to someone else to read. Preferably someone who has worked in publishing! And I hope they ‘Pay it Forward’ by loving the concept as much as I do.

Now do you see why this post should be called ‘How Bloomsbury compelled me to write about My Salinger Year because they marketed the book so well!’

Have I read it? I’ve started but I’m not through it yet. But that is, only because I have a pile of ‘To Be Read’ March release books by some of my favourite Australian authors. Will I keep reading My Salinger Year? Of course, I’m loving it. But before I read a word did I expect to like it? Absolutely. That is already half the battle won.

I am enjoying hearing of Joanna’s start at her first job. She captures perfectly the uncertainty of the newly employed and the absolute lack of knowledge of what others assume to be basic tasks. It  reminded me of my very first job (not in publishing) and how embarrassingly bad I was at typing letters. On typewriters, with carbon paper to create copies. Yes, that’s how long ago it was! But it also reminded me of being in senior management positions and helping work experience people work use the photocopier. For instance, when you place a manuscript into the automatic feeder it’s important to have the paper facing in the right direction if you don’t want a whole ream of blank paper to be copied.

So apart from compelling me to write this post and promote their book, Bloomsbury also made me think about my first job in publishing!

But they also have made me think about the way that books are marketed in the digital age, and how in this instance the memoir was targeted so well.

This form of targeted marketing is not always possible from a cost perspective. I know that. Someone had to research the mailing list, find out who had a history in publishing. Someone had to hand write the ‘Pay it Forward’ cards, stick a small envelope to the inside of the proof, nicely wrap the book with the tag on the outside and post it. All of this on the off chance that someone like me would want to write about My Salinger Year.

But the result is the marketing worked. It elicited an emotion in me that a Netgalley proof just won’t do. Before starting to read the book, the presentation and thoughtfulness  stirred some desire to write about it.

Such manual labour intensive marketing effort makes me question – in the digital age – how best should publishers and authors promote their books?

This has been the eternal question for writers and publishers – the most brilliant book in the world by an unknown or mid-list author won’t sell unless people know about it.

But lets focus on the fact that Bloomsbury has not only made me want to write about their promotion but also transported me back to my first job in publishing.

I was 21 and I’d just moved from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney up to Palm Beach. I was looking for a job in North Sydney and not too focussed on what it may be. One day I saw an ad for a job as Assistant to a Publisher. Knowing nothing else about it, I knew I wanted the job, badly. That job changed my life because it set me on my career path.

It was in an old building* behind a petrol station in North Sydney working with small start-up within a magazine publishing company. Working for a kindly Publisher, I wasn’t in the hot and fast world of trade  – that came later. The book team was responsible for creating recipe and craft books with content initially mostly drawn from Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. The book-publishing arm was called Advertiser Books and in those heady days were the first books at the supermarket checkouts. They were running out the doors they sold so fast. With the company later purchased by Rupert’s Nephew (aka ‘The Man from Uncle’) it was rebranded Murdoch Magazines, with the publishing arm called Murdoch Books. We moved to a much slicker Artarmon office although I soon departed to live in Melbourne for four years. Of course times have changed, and now Murdoch Books has been acquired by Allen & Unwin.

My first job in publishing was to support the kindly Publisher and the nice Production Manager in mostly secretarial tasks. My joy was being able to work with the editor and (excitement) write captions and help with photography styling in minor ways. I loved dealing with every aspect of the publishing and creation process. I progressed through to Editorial Assistant and then, following the opportunity that arose, Production Co-ordinator. That set me on my path of working in production with jobs in business publishing and illustrated until I DID work in the hot and fast world of Trade Publishing. Books. Precious Books. (Cue Gollum speaking and substitute the books for the ring and you’ve more or less got it.)

In the book blurb for of My Salinger Year it talks about the ‘old fashioned world of publishing’. It reminded me that nowdays not all remember the days before digital layouts. A time when a concern when sending book boards with bromides to the filmhouse (remember them?) was the potential of a folio slipping if the wax melted in transit. Yes, there may be books out there with that quaintly old fashioned production issue. I remember when working at another illustrated publisher when we first started doing book layouts in house. Hell, I’ve been around so long I can remember the huge time savings when our office got a fax machine and we could deal with our overseas and interstate suppliers more easily. And for those of you who are too young to have lived through this time I can assure you that there was a lot less time wasted in the office because there WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA! But possibly a lot more consumption of cakes.

Through my career I’ve detoured at various times, away from book publishing, although I’ve always worked with content production. I’ve worked in the early days of online publishing and mobile content development – in a time when phones were only used for phone calls. I’ve project managed technical projects. I’ve developed a passion for crowdfunding and authored a book about it. Naturally enough, with my crowdfunding interest I pay particular attention to the books/publishing + crowdfunding space. But always I have one or more books on the go and feel very grateful to the writers who create the worlds I inhabit for a while. A long time ago I wrote about just why books are important to me and you can read about this here.

While working for that kindly publisher wasn’t my very first job, it was the job that changed my life. Before that I didn’t have any burning passion or career aspirations.  But the moment I started there I knew  publishing was my place.

Thanks Bloomsbury for taking me back!

My Salinger Year is a June 2014 release

* In a strange coincidence when that old building was redeveloped it was where my most recent job in publishing was located – at Random House Australia.

I have two questions and I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

  1. What was your first job in publishing (if you have worked in publishing)?
  2. What form of marketing books works for you as an author (if you are a writer) and a reader?

March 2014

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DIY Digital at NSW Writers’ Centre

NSW Writers' Centre

The wonderful people at the NSW Writers’ Centre are running a weekend workshop that I’m thrilled to be part of!

Join us for Digital DIY on the weekend of Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 November and hear from Linda Funnell, the person who draws this all together with NSW Writers’ Centre.

Want to take control of your publishing? Interested in ebooks? Unsure about Print-on-demand?

This two-day seminar covers the nuts and bolts of doing your own digital publishing, from identifying your audience to formats, uploads and promotion.

Convenor Linda Funnell has extensive experience as a publisher and will introduce you to the key points of taking a book to readers with a series of expert speakers including: Anna Maguire (@Digireado) on preparing your files and ebook production; David Henley on the possibilities of digital publishing; and author Walter Mason on the how to use social media effectively.

Linda Funnell  talked to me about digital publishing and asked my opinion on a few questions:

  • How quickly is the digital publishing landscape changing? Is it getting easier for DIY authors?
  • What are the biggest challenges in publishing an ebook?
  • Which authors do I think have been successful in digitally self-publishing?

Digital DIY Funnell MaguireLinda also asked me what are my three top tips are for authors considering publishing digitally themselves.

My first tip was:
Read digitally! If you intend to publish an ebook then be aware of the reading experience. Download some reading apps onto your smart phone if you don’t have an iPad or eReader and read a recent release. If you’re printing a book then be clear on how publishers present their books.

You can read the rest of the article on the NSW Writers’ Centre blog here and book tickets to the event at the bottom of the page here.

What would be your top tip for authors who want to self publish?


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Authors and promotion – Open Access (Part 2)

I took so many notes at Open Access at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre for their day-long symposium I’ve had to publish a few posts! You can read Part 1 here.

Authors know they need to participate in marketing and promotion to help their book be found but can be lost knowing where to focus. Open Access bought together a range of authors, publishers, publicist and experts to share their knowledge and experience.

How Did You Sell That Book? Publicity Campaign Case Studies was another great session on the day as it gave participants an insight into how books are promoted. The panel featured author Chris Allen and his ‘Secret Social Marketing Weapon’, wife Sarah Allen along with Debbie Mcinnes, Director of DMCPRMedia and Management Consultant and author Andrew O’Keeffe.

Chris Allen described his author brand: Old School Action Thriller Comes of Age. He wanted to have a classic and contemporary look and based the brand around Intrepid – a black-ops Interpol sub-directorate in his novels – along with his surname. It works. Intrepid Allen.


Although Chris used to think of a blog as a bit daunting, he has seen it’s a conversation starter. Website, marketing and branding are important and Chris was probably signed with an agent partly because his presence was really well set up.

Chris has discovered that he’s really comfortable working in the visual side of social media and enjoys using Pinterest. When he’s working on a book, in creating a Pinterest board it becomes a scrapbook, an inspiration.  Chris Allen describes more in his blog post Pinning the Creative Writing Process.


Chris Allen is now published by Momentum, but previously had really good success self publishing. When it came time to design the covers they had ten different covers created and crowdsourced the final cover choice by Plan Big. I am interested in exploring more about how the crowd can help an author and may feature Plan Big in a future blog post.

When writing Hunter, Chris wrote on Facebook about seeking a name for the heroine. Put to the vote, the name Charlotte Rose Fleming fitted the bit perfectly, tying into his love of James Bond and 007! Engagement on social media is more important than numbers. That is really important to remember as so often as an author has to be focussed on numbers. How many books have sold? What sales channel is working best? Where are you building your network numbers? Remember though that numbers mean nothing without engagement on social media.


Sarah Allen made a really important point that I often forget – take a screenshot of everything! All the nice reviews you receive, or Facebook comments. And hustle to get reviews on every channel that your book is available. Sarah researched the bloggers that she wanted to review Defender and built relationships with them. Chris headed over the US and UK and as a result got a great range of interviews, reviews and guest posts.

Sarah shared her 7 Principles for Success when creating your author brand.


Sarah Allen sure has helped Chris. Not only did Momentum books sign him but they have also sold film and TV rights to US producers! Wow!

Don’t we ALL wish we had a secret weapon like Sarah Allen! Psst, you can too! Check out how to here.

Debbie Mcinnes, the Director of DMCPRMedia spoke next along with Andrew O’Keefe. Andrew first organised a book distributor for his novel The Boss and came to Debbie that way. Andrew had a long career in top-level human resources and Debbie could see that it would get to the general and business market and media. They started through traditional media. Andrew felt that it was really important to work with a quality publicist to see the project through.


As release of the book was before social media Debbie and Andrew worked out what would feed into traditional media. For instance there was a story in The Daily Telegraph that most people would sack their boss if they could. Debbie immediately sent out a press release referencing the story as a lead-in to the book. A perfect example of seizing the moment.

When Andrew O’Keefe came to her with another book – Hardwired Humans – he already had the website and the audience. Dr Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee expert, was speaking with Andrew to business leaders when she was in Australia. Dr Goodall agreed to launch the book so the whole thing was a great package and assured of media attention.



If you are as curious about Hardwired Humans as I was, then Andrew has a brief clip to explain the concept! View it below or see it on YouTube.

Andrew imparted his advice when dealing with radio hosts or interviewers – respect them but be prepared that they may have have had time to have only the smallest understanding of your book. Publicists in-house at a publisher can be overworked (and probably underpaid) and – although we find it hard to accept – not every book is treated the same! Often it seems that the larger authors get all the focus and marketing dollars so as a first-time author be prepared to work with your publisher – if you have one.

For a great summary of the whole day you can read this post by Mary Carter who also attended. My last post in the series will cover off the conclusion to the Open Access symposium and detail some of the things learnt from the sessions Bringing Books & Readers Closer Together and Can Self Promotion be a Creative Act?

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Authors and promotion – Open Access (Part 1)

It was an invigorating day at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre for their day-long symposium Open Access – Selling Your Book in the Digital Age. Thanks to the Copyright Agency (CAL) for their support in making the day possible.

The focus was on how authors promote themselves in the digital age. The landscape is changing quite rapidly and the day bought together authors, marketing and publicity experts, publishers and industry professionals.

On Don’t Get Left on the Shelf I presented some of the concepts that would be expanded upon through the day. I spoke from two different points of view – as a trainer and teacher of authors and also as an author.


Sarah Allen was kind enough to write a blog post outlining most of my presentation.

Russian-Tapestry-Banafsheh SerovOn the panel with me was Banafsheh Serov, bookseller and author. It was fascinating to hear how she put so much effort to promoting her first book, a biography detailing life in Iran and why her family made the decision to leave. Originally self-publishing, Banafsheh attracted the interest of Hachette who published Under a Starless Sky and her more recent Russian Tapestry.  I’ve only just finished Russian Tapestry and found it engrossing and a wonderful glimpse into the life of those who lived through those times – including her husband’s family. Banafsheh is owner and manager of the independent chain of bookstores – Your Bookshop – so understands publishing from both sides.

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QR Codes Tell The Story

QR Codes Tell The StoryImagine strolling around a new city with a map (printed or available as a PDF) that allowed you to access stories related to the area you are exploring?

But not just a story. Each QR code will take you to a webpage where you can read the story and choose your own way to continue the story out of a few different options.

This is the idea behind a new Pozible campaign called Choose Your Adventure and one I think would be interesting to tourism boards as an intriguing way for visitors to discover new and ‘locals-only’ areas.

If you’re wondering what IS a QR code, then let me explain. The main image for the story demonstrates scanning a QR code with a smart phone. QR stands for Quick Response. Wikipedia can explain it further, but in relation to this project it requires a user to download a QR code scanner application. The QR code can “direct users to text, web content or other online information” as the Choose Your Adventure project by Em Craven describes. You can choose your adventure and move through the story via the QR codes – in the actual location.

But this isn’t the first project of this kind that Em Craven has done. Emily is an author and speaker and works as Digital Producer for if: Book Australia (the Institute for the Future of the Book). She also blogs about ebook and digital strategies so is well versed on experimentation and execution. Em has previously successfully crowdfunded – a wonderful photography gallery/charity trip project for Cambodian Children’s Trust.

Adelaide- ChooseYourOwnAdventure

Adelaide: Choose Your Adventure

In 2012, Em Craven organised a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ around Adelaide. Part of the Adelaide Festival, it was run during Writers’ Week and the QR codes were printed on posters around town. Naturally enough though, the vandals couldn’t leave them up there – spoilsports! Each adventure started from a central point and then the reader has the choice about what options to explore.

This was, Em Craven has said, the world’s first choose your own adventure event! You can read more about that project here. Continue reading

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CLICK on KIDS: Transmedia, Augmented Reality and Education

APA CLICKonKIDSIn my previous post about The Australian Publishers Association  Industry Seminar CLICK on KIDS: Children’s Digital Publishing Seminar I focussed on the presentation by Kristen McLean of Bookigee. It’s not surprising I loved Kristen’s presentation – she’s super smart, knows her stuff and shares information very well. Plus I’m a data nerd.


What I know very little about is how digital publishing is being utilised in schools. I know that education has embraced learning in a digital environment – but how? This post showcases some examples presented at CLICK on KIDS and they were pretty inspiring.


Weaving a StoryWorld Web

Cathie Howe, Professional Learning and Leadership Coordinator Manager, MacICT (Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre) talked about Transmedia storytelling in an Educational Context. She showed us Year 3 StoryWorlds, for Storm Boy by Colin Thiele.
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CLICK on KIDS: APA Children’s Digital Publishing Seminar

APA CLICKonKIDSThe Australian Publishers Association put on another great Industry Seminar with CLICK on KIDS: Children’s Digital Publishing Seminar.

You can see the entire outline here but on this post I am featuring the presentation by Kristen McLean.

I was particularly interested in the use of digital for educational purposes and will showcase some great examples of transmedia and augmented reality on my next post.


You may enjoy reading tweets from the day  that I Storified.

Insights from the US: sizing up the kids’ book market

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A Personal Publishing Story by Johanna Baker-Dowdell

I’m pleased to bring you a guest post by Johanna Baker-Dowdell of Strawberry Communications. Johanna and I connected online while she was in the process of funding her book for self-publishing. I followed her campaign with interest and stayed in touch. This is Johanna’s personal publishing story.


Johanna-Baker-DowdellWorking as a freelance journalist and blogger I never thought I would write a book, because I’m great at articles and posts 400 words or less. But here we are and I am talking to you about writing a book!

When I left full-time work to become a mum more than seven years ago I thought it would be nice to freelance while my son slept. Luckily for me I had some friends in the industry and they passed work my way. As I became more confident in my role as a mum and a freelancer I started writing more about my own experiences as a working mum, weaving my stories into conversational articles about time management, social media marketing and me time. These were well received and several people suggested I take the content and turn it into a book.

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Sydney Writers’ Festival 2013 – The Author as Everything

#SWF2013_ForestforTreesIt’s now over a month since the Sydney Writers’ Festival day long workshop prepared by NSW Writers’ Centre – Forest for the Trees. I wanted to post about the panel I facilitated, but it has been delayed because I was enjoying a lovely post-festival holiday on a tropical island!


The Author as everything

“Anna Maguire leads a conversation with self-published authors Chris AllenDionne Lister, and Elisabeth Storrs about how they manage to get their work published, printed and promoted while retaining their creative sprit.” Sydney Writers’ Festival program.

Firstly, can I just say what an absolute delight it was to have Dionne, Chris and Elisabeth on the panel! We had great email conversations up to the event and and thanks to them I felt as organised as it is possible to be. Although it can sometimes be a bit nerve-wracking talking to a large room full of people I can honestly say it was a lot of fun and we would have loved to have kept talking!

Secondly, kudos to NSW Writers’ Centre for organising a day on the state of publishing in 2013 and including a panel of self-publishers. We all know about the growth of this form of publishing and of course NSW Writers’ Centre run courses for those who wish to publish, both traditionally as well as delving down the digital path. If are you are a writer interested in finding out more, then I recommend the weekend workshop Digital DIY in November 2013. I’ll be speaking over the weekend, along with a great line up including Linda Funnell, David Henley and  Walter Mason.

If anyone needs the growth trend of indie publishing confirmed, then reading this post from industry heavyweight Mike Shatzkin should be of interest. One point in this article highlights the different paths possible when publishing:

The “Wool” deal, where Hugh Howey sold only print rights to Simon & Schuster, hasn’t really been replicated yet for anything else that big, but it will be. (Successful indie authors John Locke and Bella Andre have done different versions of the same trick.)  Extract from The Shatzkin Files

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Sydney Writers’ Festival 2013 – My Path Through with Forest with Emily Maguire

Forest for the Trees

#SWF2013_ForestforTreesThis is the second time this excellent workshop has been organised by the NSW Writers’ Centre and run at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I always find the sessions talking about the life of the writer very interesting. So many people want to be a writer, but what is it really like? Can a successful writer concentrate on their writing alone, or do they need to do other jobs too?


My Path Through the Forest

A writer’s life entails much more than just getting words on the page. Author and journalist, Emily Maguire, takes us through what she will be doing in 2013.


  • Emily’s first novel Taming the Beast took two years to write at night.  It was sold to a tiny Australian publisher for a small advance but her dream to be published had come true.
  • When the international rights were sold she quit her job to have a few months to look for something else. That was nine years ago and she hasn’t had to look for a ‘real job’ since.
  • She stretched her big advance further, writing endlessly. Her first freelance story payment came through just in time to stop the phone getting cut off. This first story helped her get other jobs. In the years since she has returned to study and returned to teaching, but is always writing madly and hoping there will be enough money.
  • She does a lot of freelance work and her success rate on pitches has improved because she knows what certain editors want and her name is more known. However, she isn’t pitching as hard as she used to do as she spends more time on teaching and her first preference is to work on her fiction.
  • She also enjoys writing book reviews for freelance work, although she does feel guilty as times as it’s heaven to read and write about a book.
  • Emily has a website, is on Twitter (sometimes a lot, and sometimes not for weeks) and doesn’t blog.


  • Emily also runs creative workshops for kids, is running Year of the Novel for NSW Writers’ Centre and works mentoring authors. She also has a newly elected position on the Board of NSW Writers’ Centre.
  • I loved her advice on writing organisations: The best way to find warm generous writers friends is to be a warm generous writer friend. That’s the benefit of writing organisations – you can find people at various levels of experience.
  • Emily also enjoys talking about the writing life and is asked to do this at libraries, schools and festivals. However, she gave some sage advice about talking about writing – and also about social media:

“Talking about writing can be energising – BUT you can kid yourself you’re working hard on your craft, when in actual fact you’re talking about writing. “ Emily Maguire

  • She described herself as a novelist with four done, and one on the way. But writing her books is the smallest slice of the work. If she could afford to she would spend more time writing novels but this is not unusual. But it IS the centre of her life. Emily is now working on her 5th novel, but it could be the first, she still needs to carve out this novel out of the world.
  • A writer is making something from nothing. It’s her and the keyboard. her fingers, sometimes frozen, sometimes aching, sometimes her body hurts, this body, dressed in mismatched tracksuits or PJ’s, but always with a coffee, and that’s it. That’s all there is. “Hence the terror and elation”. Emily said writing is thinking of a word, a sentence, a paragraph, then doing it again, and again, and again. And ensuring those words justify their existence, before it’s ok to present to someone else.
  • When she is writing she sits down and switches off everything else. She reminds herself, her novels take time. It’s easy to think you need to be rushing, seeing others and what they have done”The more days of my life I spend writing, the better I would have lived.”
  • At times she knocks back invitations, but she does that because writing matters to her. She asks herself if the thing she’s about to do, is it more important than writing her novel?
  • She writes a first draft as quickly as she can – a skeleton – and deals with all  the notes she’s made in a seperate file. Then she goes through it again and again, putting layers on layers, stripping off half of them, putting down new layers.
  • Thoughts run through her head. Maybe her agent will hate the book? Or feel nothing? Maybe he’ll love it, but her publisher won’t –  she thinks of all the possibilities.
  • Emily told us there is no one right way to do this work, there are multiple ways through the forest.

I think this is the most important message and one that reinforces the talk last year by Sophie Cunningham. Each writer must find their own way through the forest. Learn from others, but don’t be afraid to strike your own path. Don’t feel the pressure that may come when you compare your own path to other writers.  It’s not always an easy path, but often one that writers feel compelled to take.

Thank you to Emily Maguire for sharing with us her path through the forest, and for Pantera Press for supporting the session at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. And huge thanks to NSW Writers’ Centre.


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