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Draft2Digital has stepped up their game. Over the past year D2D has made nice additions that further their distinction from Smashwords, another longtime choice for self-publishing distributors. What was done in 2017 is substantial:

  • ebook style templates
  • paperback layout improvements (much needed)
  • automated end matter
  • Findaway Voices for audiobooks and narration
  • better email notifications and payment options
  • added distribution partners OverDrive (libraries), Playster, Kobo Plus
  • added distribution to Amazon

That last one is huge. Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon (except for special requests from authors with sales over $2,000/title)

D2D’s focus for 2018 is helping authors and readers connect even better. In their words;

Books2Read is all about Discoverability

In 2017, we focused all of our development power and energy on building as many new things for the indie author community as possible. The result was dozens of amazing tools and resources that help make it so much easier to build and grow your author career.

You can read all about those here!

Now, we’re turning all that attention and energy to tackling one of the biggest challenges an indie author can face: Discoverability.

The Idea is Simple, the Impact is Huge
Discoverability means making your books easy for readers to find. It’s one of the primary goals of marketing, and for authors it can be the difference between having a hobby and having a career.

After all, you can perfect your craft, invest in professional editing and covers, get your manuscript converted to a professional-looking eBook or print layout, and distribute it to some of the biggest online retailers on the planet—but if no one knows it’s there, the sales won’t come.

Solving the challenge of discoverability isn’t going to be easy, and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we’re taking aim at it with the same problem-solving skills and expertise that have made Draft2Digital the best eBook distribution service on the planet.
In other words, we got this.

Enter Books2Read

If you’ve been with us for a while, you’re already familiar with Books2Read. It’s currently the home of one of our favorite tools: Universal Book Links (UBLs).

Since introducing them in 2016, we now have more than 200,000 UBLs out in the wild, generating millions of clicks. UBLs are used by authors to promote their books on websites, in social media, in podcasts and videos, even on printed materials. They’re evergreen links that take your readers to everywhere your book is sold online, with a single, customizable URL.
That was just the first step, though. Now, with 2018 ahead of us, we have bigger plans.

Books2Read will become our reader-centric source for indie author discoverability
We’re going to build a platform that helps promote your books to the readers who will love them!

Here’s what we have in store for the next year of development:
UBL Search Filtering—We’ve already started! As we wrapped up 2017, we added a new feature to our UBLs that authors have had on their wish list. Now you can quickly search through your UBLs to find just the one you need, to check data, add new storefronts, or make any other changes quickly.

Author Pages—Another in-demand feature, and one we’re very excited to offer! Author Pages will give you a single platform for directing readers to your work, complete with an author bio and photo, and a list of your books that will be updated as your catalog grows! This can be your home online, and a central place for readers to find you, without the cost and overhead of creating a website.

Book Tabs—You’ll never have to worry about manually creating book pages again. Book Tabs will let readers learn more about your book, and they’ll find a Universal Book Link that lets them pick it up anywhere they prefer to buy eBooks online! Your book will be beautifully presented, with a cover image and description, and with a UBL to make it fast and easy for readers to get their hands on it. Plus, you’ll have all of the data that UBLs provide, as well as their ability to include affiliate links from various retailers.

Custom Bookshelves—You’ll be able to group your books together any way you like! Segment them into series, genre, co-author, preferred reading order, even the color of the covers if you want—it’s all up to you!

Improved UBL Analytics—More data means more control, and UBLs will be getting an overhaul to provide you with better analytics. Get a deeper insight into your readers, their habits, and their preferences!

More. So much more. Both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, Books2Read is evolving, with new features and resources that will make it much easier for readers to discover your work.

Over the next year, we’ll be turning out these features and more, as rapidly as we can make them ready, with an eye toward making your author life easier and your author career more successful.

We’re gearing up for 2018 to be the Year of Discoverability. And we can’t wait to see what it means for the indie author community.

Keep watching your inbox for more to come!

Happy publishing,
The Draft2Digital Team

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For authors selling books through distribution service, Draft2Digital, the outlets just expanded. D2D has been sending ebooks to most of the usual (non-Amazon) suspects for a while now including iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Scribd and more. Now they’ve added Playster.

Playster is a subscription-based service that allows readers to pay a low monthly fee for unlimited access to thousands of books (or movies, music, and games, if that’s your thing). Their mantra: Everything Unlimited. Your readers (past, present, and future) can get a 30-day free trial, giving them access to one of the fastest growing digital libraries around.

Amazon Prime and Scribd also use subscription-based business models. Smashwords, the main competitor to Draft2Digital, has more distribution channels but presently does not have ties with Playster. For the meantime, D2D may be the only way to upload self-published books to Playster.

Of note, Babelcube is a site many authors use for translating their books into many languages. Babelcube also uses Draft2Digital for distribution to retailers, so hopefully those of us with translated books through Babelcube should soon see our foreign language versions available on Playster.

If interested, you’ll need to log in to your author dashboard at draft2digital to opt into this new distributor, and start reaching new readers right away. And when you do, you may be prompted to add your books to Kobo Plus as well, another new feature at D2D.

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Guest post written by Lynne M. Spreen (pictured right). Lynne writes coming-of-age stories about people who are age 50 and over, including her award-winning novel, Dakota Blues. Look for subsequent posts to follow as real world vs online marketing is a great idea for an author marketing challenge.

A month ago a friend and I decided to challenge ourselves to an amped-up marketing plan. She was going to implement certain strategies in real life, like looking for opportunities to speak and sell her books in person, and I was going to use Twitter and blog more vigorously. To make it fun, we decided to compete with each other, but the real goal was to see if any of our techniques were effective.

Now it’s September and the results are in. None of our methods were overwhelmingly effective, but they did boost our sales a bit and we learned something from all of it.

What we did

IRL (in real life): Judy Howard basically threw herself into selling and speaking. She got a few extra speaking gigs and book signings over what would normally happen. Every time she left her house, she brought books and was “on.” She also handed out postcards and bookmarks with her author page URL on them.

Online: I increased my use of Twitter and blogging. I would assume most of the increase in sales was from Twitter.

What we sold

It was quite a bit more than usual, but that’s relative. Also, my KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) went way up (again, relatively speaking). And I got about 700 more Twitter followers, up from 3,350.

Here’s what we learned

  1. It was easier and more fun to market if you set up a challenge with a friend.

  2. You get good at what you focus on: The more we thought about marketing, the more we did it. More ideas bubbled up, and it got easier. It became more like fishing than working.

  3. I used Hootsuite to schedule over 400 Tweets, about a dozen a day. Of that, half were pushing my three books, and half were RTs (retweets). Would definitely recommend Hootsuite. This took me about 16 hours to set up because I made mistakes. Otherwise, I’d think it might take half that long.

  4. I discovered it was better to make up marketing tweets on Canva than just uploading my book’s cover image, because the graphic wasn’t always uniform. Plus, with Canva, I could invent some come-on (like quoting a great review) to augment the book cover. It was a good skill to learn.

  5. You get good at what you focus on, part 2: I found myself enjoying going on Twitter and finding out what was trending, and following new people. And since my sales increase was due to Twitter, it made sense. But was it the most effective way to increase sales? I don’t think so. Right after August ended, a friend told me she got many times the results I did from an Amazon ad.

  6. You get good at…Part 3: because I was focusing on building up my blog frequency and using MailChimp better and more frequently, I learned more about that and improved the look of my website, my links, my newsletter (appearance and also I attached it to my RSS feed). I started thinking of more blog topics and writing them became easier. My blog subscriber numbers are going up, although it’s still miniscule.

So my bottom line is this: although improvements were good enough to make me think Twitter and more frequent blogging are good ideas, I think there must be more effective ways to sell. While this was useful and fun, it’s more of a baseline by which to measure other tools. And I think that’s good in itself.

Lynne M. Spreen’s Amazon Author page – website and blog – Twitter

Judy Howard’s Amazon Author Page – website

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Formatting ebooks has always been a challenge for self-publishers. Smashwords, the original ebook distributor, literally wrote the book on universal formatting with the Style Guide that teaches authors to do it in ways that will convert and be readable at any retailer. Their system is all about keeping things simple, using basic structure and avoiding fancy aesthetics for assured conversion. A functioning solution that was perhaps a bit plain, plus the instruction was difficult for many authors to follow.

Years later when Draft2Digital came out as an ebook distribution service, it distinguished itself from Smashwords by accepting virtually anything uploaded and made an ebook from that using the artificial intelligence of its automated system. Big surprise, a lot of crappy-looking indie ebooks got produced.

Now D2D has done a smart thing, adding ebook templates where authors can display more creativity in titles, chapters and more. Obvious question: does it work? Next one: what took so long? Final question: why doesn’t Smashwords do this? Let’s answer those.

With D2D’s templates you can have extras we thought we couldn’t have in ebooks. Dropcaps, headers, fancy scene dividers and more are now an option. It’s easy enough to do. Just upload your document and then check the Preview tab and choose a Style compatible with the new feature. Then check the Enable Drop Caps button and viola! It will convert the document and allow you to download it in epub, mobi or PDF format to inspect it.  You can use a free program like Calibre or Adobe Digital Editions to view it.

If you find it isn’t perfect, which is likely, you may want to play around with your font sizes and layout in your own document and try again. Or try one of D2D’s other styles: romance, sci-fi, mystery/thriller, etc.

It definitely does work but not flawlessly. In some cases of my experimenting, the drop cap letter overlapped with the 2nd or 3rd line of text beneath it. I had to play around with choices and options until settling on one which looked good instead of being able to use them all without issues. Clearly a work in progress.

Admittedly it’s a nice option and one that will hopefully see improvements in the following months. I doubt Smashwords will implement a similar thing since their model has always been based on teaching how-to-formatting for authors while D2D has always been about automation. In the long run, automation has plenty of advantages for those who are pressed to learn formatting or don’t want to.

For now, I’m sticking with self-formatting and using the basics I teach in my course on Formatting Ebooks.  However, this option from D2D isn’t a bad way to go. And for those who want to embrace the best of both worlds, there are ebook templates where you can copy and paste in titles headers and chapters one by one, even add drop caps one by one, although that is by far the longest way to get there.

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Below are the links for the 2 presentations I’m giving at the Unicorn Writers Conference in White Plains, NY:

1. Self-Publishing Essentials and 2. Formatting Ebooks

1. Self-Publishing Essentials

my gift to you: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/592348 (coupon code – TA34Q)

KDP Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing): https://kdp.amazon.com/

Smashwords (free distributor): https://www.smashwords.com/

BookBaby (paid distributor): http://www.bookbaby.com/

Draft2Digital (free distributor): https://www.draft2digital.com/

Barnes & Noble Nook Press: https://www.nookpress.com/

Amazon Kindle formatting: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A14LJ3QNDNO64G

Smashwords Style Guide: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52/

LibreOffice (free Word alternative): http://www.libreoffice.org/

Kindle Format 8 complex formatting: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000729511

Calibre Ebook Management (convert .docx to ePub and more): http://calibre-ebook.com/

Smashwords List (formatters and cover designers): https://www.smashwords.com/list

Book Design Templates: http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/ http://www.diybookformats.com/

Creative Commons Search: http://search.creativecommons.org/

Bigstock Photo: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/

Inkscape: https://inkscape.org/en/ Gimp: http://www.gimp.org/

Google Keyword Planner: http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner

Digital Book Today: http://digitalbooktoday.com/

Self Publishing Review: http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/

Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

2. Formatting Ebooks

my gift to you: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/592348 (coupon code – TA34Q)

Free alternatives to MS Word: http:// www.LibreOffice.orghttp://www.OpenOffice.org

Kindle Direct Publishing (free to join and publish ebooks at Amazon): https://kdp.amazon.com/

Bookshelf where you can Add Titles and fill in your book’s information and also use the Preview Mode: https://kdp.amazon.com/dashboard

Help section at KDP Amazon: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?

Amazon Kindle formatting: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A14LJ3QNDNO64G

Kindle reading app for any device: https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page/

Kindle Format 8 for very advanced formatting (drop caps, embedded fonts, pop up text, fixed layouts, HTML5 support, CSS3 support and more): http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000729511

Types of Formats Amazon recommends: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2GF0UFHIYG9VQ

Calibre for converting to ePub, viewing, editing, etc. ebooks: https://calibre-ebook.com/

Epub Validator to check for any problems with epub file: http://validator.idpf.org/

 
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For authors using Draft2Digital to distribute ebooks to retailers, the outlets just got better. OverDrive has been added to their list of partners. OverDrive currently serves more than 38,000 libraries and schools in over 70 countries, including public, college, and corporate libraries.

If you already have ebooks listed with Draft2Digital, you’ll need to opt-in to get your books sent to OverDrive. Very simple to do, just follow the prompts at Draft2Digital.

The update list of partners looks like this:

  • iBooks
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Inktera (formally Page Foundry)
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Tolino
  • Playster
  • OverDrive

It’s smaller than the list of partners for Smashwords, a common choice for essentially the same service, but the major players are there.

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Since 1972, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference has been connecting writers with mentors, agents and editors. Every summer, writers in many genres from around the world gather to participate in a magical week of intensive work focused on story, voice, craft, marketing, and networking with fellow writers and publishing professionals.

The conference has hosted a legacy of America’s best writers, including:

Ray Bradbury
Jane Smiley
William Styron
Eudora Welty
James Michener
Sue Grafton
Charles M. Schulz
Clive Cussler
Fannie Flagg
Elmore Leonard
T.C. Boyle

Join us this summer for our 45th anniversary, June 18-23, 2017, and become a part of this on-going literary legacy.

I will be there on a panel with Gail M. Kearns, Lisa Angle and Lida Sideris called Navigating the Amazon: Building Your Author Platform Friday, June 23rd at 4 pm. Looking forward to seeing familiar faces and some new ones too!

Register at http://www.sbwriters.com.

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Like ISBN, copyright questions are common and the legalities of it can be complex. In most cases, copyright is something an author won’t need to spend much time worrying about. The tasks to copyright a book are straightforward, starting with simply writing a book. If you have any concerns, this fact alone should give some relief;

By writing your book, you own the copyright.

In 1886 The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was signed as an international agreement on copyright. Your creation is your intellectual property. Think of it like this: only you have the “right” to “copy” your work and sell it; nobody else has the right to copy your work and sell it.

Your book is automatically under copyright, extending from the time you write it. However, there is a stipulation of proof. You need to commit the work to a readable form perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Don’t just leave it on your computer or mail yourself a certified letter containing a copy of it. Perceptible means you’ve placed your book somewhere so it can potentially be viewed by others whether they view it or not (i.e. online or through an official registration service).

(Save 92% Sell Ebooks on Amazon and Major Retailers)

Every retailer requires you to claim copyright as it protects them and you. That’s done with one simple check of the “I claim ownership” box during publishing.

Piracy Concerns

Authors frequently ask about the dangers of copyright infringements or theft of their work. While infringements do exist, they are rare and usually do little or no damage. Many authors will find alleged copies of their ebooks for sale at disreputable websites. Fear not. Most book buyers never shop at those sites because they’re full of malware. Examples of that type of pirating happen all the time, but Google and other search engines are happy to combat it.

My advice when this happens is to do nothing and not worry about it. You might be thinking, Really? It’s true, all of my titles have ended up on these pirated sites yet I seriously doubt many, or any, sales have resulted. Those sites are not where loyal buyers shop. I’ll continue to do nothing and doubt it has hurt me as an author.

If you want to take a more active response, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was designed to battle common internet infringements. A DMCA takedown notice can be issued to a website by any author claiming copyright infringement. It’s a powerful tool that’s easy to use. Essentially you send the website manager or online service provider (OSP) a notice that your copyright has been violated on their website, and the OSP is required to remove or disable access to the material in order to avoid being held liable.

To issue a DMCA takedown notice, request the OSP to remove or block the violation and include the following information:

  • your signature
  • the work that has been violated
  • the URLs or pages you want removed
  • your contact info

The Register of Copyrights has published a directory of agents online to receive and respond to your DMCA takedown notice: http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/list/a_agents.html. You can also contact a lawyer for more serious claims.

Common Safeguards

During the months while you’re working on the book and sending it to others to read, announce your copyright with the symbol: ©. Place that near the beginning of the document, then include the year and your name along with “all rights reserved” or standard phrasing for your nation. The phrase of © 2017 Author Name All Rights Reserved can be added as a line to the beginning of your books and voila, you’re protected (actually you already were). You can include any other legal information following the copyright line.

Copyright pages often include text like: No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the publisher and/or author.

There’s no rule for exact wording. Other books have examples of copyright text you can alter for your own. If you write fiction, text like this may be helpful: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Extra Insurance

Copyright infringement can take forms beyond a pirate stealing a book and trying to pass it off as his own. For example, you may write a successful novel with a unique plot structure. Years later someone might publish a nearly identical book with different characters and setting but essentially the same story. In that case, you may be able to sue for copyright infringement and it will help if you have additional sources of protection.

Plenty of methods for protection exist. These are not mandatory but are wise to do and reasonably priced. You can visit the Library of Congress US Copyright Office (http://www.copyright.gov/) and follow the prompts to register a copyright. Below are divisions for other English-speaking nations.

UK Intellectual Property Office: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office

Canadian Intellectual Property Office: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/Home

Australian Copyright Counsel: http://www.copyright.org.au/

For more info, visit the directory at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization): http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/urls.jsp.

Other Ways to Protect Your Work

If you have a blog, post some chapters and a book description. Introduce characters and the plot to your readers. That can be done even while you’re writing the book.

One obvious method to broadcast copyright is to publish the book. This gets into “common law” copyright protection. Imagine publishing with Amazon on May 9th of 2017. After that, if anyone tries to steal your book and sell it online, you could contact the retailer or site owner and prove the book is yours. If a future movie gets made based on your story without your consent or awareness, you’ll have proof.

Just remember rarely are authors harmed by copyright infringements. For the vast majority of writers, don’t worry much about it.

Self-Publish to a World of Readers: with Amazon, Apple, Google and other Major Retailers

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Write On by Kindle has gone away. This is old news by internet standards; Amazon’s online critique group shut down a month ago. It was a community where writers shared works-in-progress to get feedback from readers and other writers. But like many things internet, it was a fine idea that just didn’t last or wasn’t executed well or both.

Critique groups are helpful to any writer, in my opinion. That’s what excited me about Write On by Kindle, an online feedback forum hosted by the king of book sales. Sounds like a smart place to craft your next bestseller.

Unfortunately not. One might assume since it didn’t generate revenue or spawn bestsellers that it wasn’t worth Amazon’s expense to maintain. More likely, it didn’t have what it takes to compete with established players, and Amazon was okay with that. Que sera sera.

Plenty of online alternatives still exist. Wattpad has been going strong for over 10 years, and while it’s more than just an online critique group, the same benefits can be found there.

Others include Absolutewrite, Critiquecircle, and Inkedvoices to name a few.

Jane Friedman has an excellent post called How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner for You.

Not sure why it saddens me to see Write On close doors. I had a work in progress there, but it wasn’t getting many reads. Probably a common story.

Share any comments below.

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Enjoy this guest post from author, Carol Vorvain, of Writers Boon.

3 simple truths about traditional book publishers all authors should know:

  • The Big 5 publishers keep authors on a tight leash. You must write about what they think is marketable. You must publish as fast or as slow as they want. The book must have a certain number of words to be considered a commercial book. They are your employer. So, you’d better listen. You are under a standard contract. You have little or no opportunity to negotiate the provisions.
  • Unless you are already famous, the Big 5 don’t help you with the marketing. They simply don’t have the cash for it.  
  • The Big 5 pay you peanuts. They offer low royalties and seize your publishing rights. A penny for your thoughts. Literally. That’s what’s left after they cover their own expenses and take the cut.

3 simple reasons why authors like you resiliently still knock on the door of the Big 5:

  • Fear of failing. I’ve got news for you. You can hide as much as you’d like behind their big name, but you, my dear freshly employed author, are still on your own. You have to make the miracle happen, you have to learn how to stand out from the crowd. And to do all this, you still need to befriend the marketing beast. You are not yet that precious for them to hire a marketing team focusing on you. And when you’ll be, you won’t need them. Right?
  • That feathered thing called Hope… Hope to be praised, get recognized and ultimately make a living out of it. It will happen. But you will make it happen, not them.
  • The Ego monster. You dream of the day when you will brag to all your family and friends that you are hanging out with them now, with the big 5. You got the golden stamp of approval. You have been chosen.  

1 strong enough reason to be an indie author:

  • Control. As the saying goes, “If we were meant to be controlled we would have come with a remote.” So, be the master of your own publishing journey. Unleash your creativity both in your writing and in your marketing tactics. You are now an entrepreneur.

Take advantage of all the resources out there that pave your way. Take advantage of Writers Boon, the digital platform that helps indie authors with marketing and the business aspect of publishing.

How?

Well, it provides guidance, tips and resources that serve as a blueprint for action on all types of marketing and public relations: content marketing, email marketing, advertising, social media marketing, SEO, copywriting.

Let’s say, for the first 6 months, you decide to focus on content marketing.

On Writers Boon, you will start by browsing and learning about all the different types of content book marketing: author and book videos, virtual book tours, public speaking, content distribution and promotion, interactive content, press releases and so on. Then, you can start focusing on finding resources, some at big discount prices: experts in the field or, if you are more of a DIY author, DIY tools &apps. There is also a how-to guides section where you can look for books, courses, webinars or blog articles to learn more.

For example, you’ve heard it’s a good idea to run giveaways. You’d like to try it, but first you’d like to understand more about the process. Easy. Simply look under the Giveaway how-to guides section. If still confused, head to the Q&A section, ask your question and a giveaway expert will answer you. Once it’s all clear, start browsing different giveaway tools. Add notes, tag favorites, read reviews and take the leap.

And don’t forget to use the power of networking. Schmooze or lose. Keep track of live training and book events with Writers Boon free Calendar of Events.

Remember the 3 simple truths about traditional book publishers we’ve talked about? Perhaps now it’s the time to embrace the opportunity of being an indie author rather than being frightened by it. Be confident that you can reach worldwide audience through digital marketing. And always remember this old Chinese proverb: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”  

Carol Vorvain (@writersboon) is an Australian international lawyer, mediator, author and founder of Writers Boon. Her books, When Dreams are CallingWhy not? – The island where happiness starts with a question and  A Fool in Istanbul – The adventures of a self-denying workaholic have been featured in a number of travel magazines including the International Traveller magazine and can be found in libraries, bookstores and on Amazon.

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