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How to Comment on Blogs (and Drive Traffic Back to Your Author Website)

September 21, 2010

Courtesy of MyspaceEverywhere you turn, you’re hearing about the power and influence of bloggers. They’ve taken over the Internet, and many rival traditional media as venues for authors trying to get their books in front of readers. We’ve already talked about the best way to pitch a guest post to a blog, but there is another great way to get in front of bloggers (and their readers). How? By posting insightful comments.

First, let’s address why commenting on posts is a great way to build you up as an author-expert and drive traffic back to your website:

  1. The blogger reads every comment. If you repeatedly show your support and provide targeted and insightful responses, the blogger will turn to you (instead of the Internet) the next time they need a guest post or an expert to interview.
  2. Blog followers read the comments. Popular blogs can have comment sections that go on for days. If other followers see you as a resource, they will seek you out.
  3. Other media professionals follow blogs too. If they like your comments, they may also book you as an expert for interviews and guest articles.

You would think that commenting would be easy, but so many people do comments all wrong. The comment section is not an opportunity to advertise. Promoting your website or book in the comments section (when not asked to) makes you as tactful as the drunk girl trying to steal the groom from the bride at their wedding. To help you avoid a similarly public and lasting fiasco, here are some tips on how to comment successfully and appropriately:

  1. Provide value and substance: Take the post a step further by suggesting another point of view, an additionalresource, or in some way contributing valuable insight to the conversation created by the post.
  2. Start with praise: Remember, you’re on someone else’s turf. Start by saying that you liked the post. Point to a specific line or phrase you liked (this shows you really read it). It only takes a little to grease the wheels. Then you can add your insightful response.
  3. Keep promo out: Most comment feeds let you insert a hyperlink in your name that leads back to your website or blog. If your response is helpful and insightful, people will click on that link to learn more about you. Putting a website in your post makes you look self-serving, which no one finds attractive.
  4. Focus on blogs on your topic: If you are trying to build yourself up as an author-expert in business, commenting on gardening won’t help build your platform. As in all your marketing efforts, stay focused.
  5. Be a serial commenter: Pick a few blogs to follow and comment on them consistently (only when you have value to add, of course). This will help you build a rapport with the blogger and his or her audience. Avoid one-shot commenting on a large number of posts. Also, focusing on just a few blogs is more manageable time-wise.

The blogosphere is a powerful and supportive community. If you consistently contribute to and support the success of other bloggers, they will take notice and find ways to return the favor. As always, remember to pay it forward and engage the readers who share insightful comments on your blog.

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How to Get Feedback on Your Manuscript

September 9, 2010

Writing a book can be a lonely experience, and you don’t want to completely isolate yourself during the writing process. It’s important to get feedback, especially while you’re developing an idea. Not only does this help motivate you, it also helps you catch issues and address concerns on the front end rather than trying to overhaul a manuscript after it’s already complete.

It’s not difficult to find people to provide regular feedback. Here are a few ways of locating people willing to give you critiques:

  1. Start by asking fellow authors. Though it’s nice to get a variety of opinions, authors within your genre are best. Not only do they know who the competitors are, they also have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t within your genre.
  2. Put out an all-call on social media. Put out a post asking for people to read your work. You’ll be surprised at how many will respond!
  3. Ask colleagues. Ask people at work or others in your industry. This is especially good for nonfiction authors, as people in your industry represent your reader.
  4. Locate a formal writers’ group. There are many writers’ groups already established by genre and location. Check with local groups such as the Writers’ League of Texas or with genre-specific groups such as Sisters in Crime—or go to Writer’s Digest and other forums to find groups in your area.

But getting someone to read your work is only the beginning. In order for the feedback to be useful, you need to keep the following in mind:

  1. Distance yourself. It's not a critique of you. It’s an honest opinion about your work, so don’t take it as a personal affront to you or your abilities as a writer.
  2. Maintain veto power. You don't have to accept every suggestion or change made. It is ultimately your work, and it should reflect you and be something you are proud of. If you truly want to keep something, then keep it, but do consider the reader’s reasons for suggesting changes.
  3. Recognize patterns. If more than one person says the same thing about your work, take notice. If on every critique you hear that your characters are flat, you may have to accept that your characters are flat and strive to correct it. If several people say a passage is confusing, you may want to consider rewriting it. The point here is to improve as a writer.
  4. Respect their opinions. Show the one who critiqued you the same respect you expect by acknowledging and thanking them for their time and feedback.
  5. Have them focus on the big picture. Most readers are apprehensive about critiquing because they feel you want a complete copyedit. Unless they’re an editor, ease your readers by instructing them to focus on feedback related to the overall feel and goal of the book. Have them point out what works and what doesn’t work in relation to plot, narrative arc, usefulness of information, and style rather than addressing issues such as misplaced commas and word usage.

Remember, you don’t want to write in a vacuum. Despite all of your genius, in order to truly understand what your readers want and how to give it to them, you need to engage them from the beginning. Not only will it make you a better writer, your advance readers will have a vested interest in the final project and will do everything they can to help you succeed.

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Build Your Platform by Guest Blogging

September 2, 2010

We’ve written a great deal about building your platform and especially about the benefits of blogging and writing articles to demonstrate your expertise to your audience. Still, you’re always looking for more ways to drive traffic back to your online presence, and ultimately to the bookstore to buy your book.  Another excellent way to achieve this is by serving as a guest blogger.

A guest blogger is someone who does a single post for another individual or group’s blog. This can be a one-time deal or a recurring column, but either case allows you to tap into someone else’s audience. There are many great blogs out there for you to choose from. You can locate blogs related to your platform in a number of ways:

  1. Go to the top magazines or associations in your topic. Chances are the editors of the magazine or leaders of the association have at least one blog (sometimes they have several—each one for a different beat).
  2. Ask for referrals. Find out from your network what other blogs your audience is following.
  3. Check out the competition. Other authors and experts in your field already have a line in with your audience. Grease the wheels by offering to swap guest posts.
  4. Look at the blogroll of your favorite sites. Most times bloggers feature the blogs they follow on their tool bar. This is a great (and fast) way to locate additional blogs. You can use sites like Technorati (link) and Alexa (link) to evaluate which blogs have the most traffic so you can develop your strategy and start by focusing your time on the blogs with the largest audiences.

Once you’ve identified blogs related to your topic, you will want to craft a pitch. Before you contact the blogger, check to see if they have posted writer’s guidelines. If so, follow them to the letter. If not, send them a short pitch that includes a specific idea for a post topic and identifies exactly why that post would be of interest to their audience. Close with a short paragraph about your qualifications. Here’s an example of a typical pitch letter:

Dear blogger,

The world of publishing is changing fast. Many of your readers are trying to navigate this evolving landscape, but it can be overwhelming. I propose a post that looks at the pros and cons of each book publishing option available to authors, complete with a short checklist readers can use to identify which route is best for them.

I work at an independent publisher and write articles and white papers related to publishing. You can view samples of my work at www.bigbadbookblog.com.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Author

There are a few other things to consider when pitching a guest blog post:

  1. Research the outlet beforehand to make sure it’s appropriate. Bloggers don’t want to get pitched by writers who are outside of their subject area and who don’t have anything to offer their readers.
  2. Read some of the posts and make sure that you are providing something unique. If they’ve already done a post on the subject, craft a new angle or choose a different topic.
  3. Be considerate of the blogger’s brand. They are building their platform and readership too. Don’t try to hone in on their turf.
  4. Keep the self-promotion out of your post. Often you are allowed a short bio and a link back to your website or blog, so focus on creating value and leave the promotion out.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask. Most bloggers work hard to fill their editorial calendar and are happy to have someone fill in (as long as the topic is relevant). Also, don’t be afraid to consider having someone guest post on your blog as well. They will bring their readers with them and will often add you to their own blogroll. In the realm of social media and blogging, paying it forward really does pay off.

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Twitter Made Simple

August 31, 2010

Twitter is a powerful tool. It allows you to connect directly with people of similar interests across the globe. Still, for many people it remains a confusing social media void shrouded in mystery.

In reality, Twitter really is quite simple. This fun video shows you how easy it is to get started and how it works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0xbjIE8cPM

We also found this one that explains twitter keywords and hashtags, which are important for targeting your reader.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGbLWQYJ6iM

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to utilize twitter, it’s time to focus on what you should actually say or “tweet” about. Like with anything you do to build your author platform, you need to be answering the reader’s question—“What’s in it for me?” Even at 140 characters, readers are still looking for value. You can provide it through:

News: What’s hot and trending in your topic right now.

Links: What resources are available to educate, inform, and entertain your reader.

Tips: Quick tips and insights to help your reader improve or enhance their lives.

Throughout your posts full of news, links, and tips you also want to sprinkle in some self-promotion and engagement with your readers. A good rule of thumb is to keep promotion to about 20% of your content and focus the rest on providing value to and engaging with the reader.

A few quick tips:

  • To add links and still keep your posts to 140 characters, use Tiny links or Bity links
  • Add keywords designated with hashtags (mentioned in the video above). This will allow you to get your post in front of people outside of your network. If your tweets are interesting and informational, they’ll start following you.
  • Don’t worry about mass. It’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about having the right followers who are interested in your topic and view you as a great resource/expert.
  • Social media is a two way street. Engage with readers, answer their questions, and share other people’s informative posts.

Here are some popular hashtags related to writing and publishing:

#dearauthor: Notes and tips from industry professionals to authors.

#dearpublisher: Notes and questions from authors to publishers.

#publishing: News, trends, and information on publishing.

#pubtips: Tips on getting your manuscript picked up by an agent or publisher.

#writing: Information on the craft of writing.

#amwriting: Updates on what you are writing now.

#WIP: Work in progress.

#writegoal: Share your daily writing goal.

#womeninpublishing an #meninpublishing: Focus on the men and women in the industry.

#books: All things related to books.

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How to Optimize Your Profile on LinkedIn

August 19, 2010

With so much emphasis placed on Facebook and Twitter, many authors overlook the power of LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn holds greater potential for making platform-building connections offline, especially for those nonfiction authors engaged in speaking, consulting, and other business ventures. To make the most of your profile, make sure you include all of the following steps as you establish a LinkedIn presence.

  1. Complete your profile. Fill in your work history, your experience, any awards and recognition related to your book or expertise, and a short bio. Include as much information as possible about who you are as an author, and make sure the information you include will interest the target audience for your book. Also make sure you a have a current, professionally taken photo.
  2. Update your status. LinkedIn is all about professional updates, so only share links, events, or media coverage that pertain to your message an author and expert. Keep info about your cat or your last meal for private conversations.
  3. Make your profile public. This way people can easily find you, both within LinkedIn and on the web.
  4. Add links. You can add up to three links to your profile, including links to your blog and website. Be sure to add at least one link with information about your book (which is usually your website).
  5. Make connections. Go through your Outlook address book, Rolodex, or BlackBerry to find potential connections from your existing contacts. LinkedIn’s quick connect feature lets you connect with people already in your Yahoo or Gmail email accounts.
  6. Join groups. Find groups that cater to your audience. Make individual connections with members in the group and participate in events and discussions.
  7. Get recommendations. Have people who have read your book or whom you have worked with in some way write recommendations for you. Be willing to do the same in return should the occasion call for it.
  8. Set up your company profile. If you have a company or your own small press associated with your book or expertise, set up a company profile. If you have employees, you can invite them to update their profiles with their company affiliation.

The above will help you get your profile page up to a par, but LinkedIn has some other fantastic features that you will also want to use to boost your presence.

  1. LinkedIn Answers:  Demonstrate your expertise and connect with your audience by answering questions on LinkedIn Answers. You can search open questions by category or date posted to quickly find which questions you have the authority to answer. The key is to be precise and to leave the self-promotion out of your response.
  2. Document sharing. Share your articles and presentations with one of the many document-sharing plugins available. Some of the most commonly used include SlideShare, Scribbd, and Box.net. All three allow users to download your materials, are available from LinkedIn free of charge, and help you boost your SEO.
  3. Social media plugins. You can add your tweets, blog posts, and Facebook posts to your LinkedIn profile. Just be careful—each platform caters to a different audience, who each want different information. If you are cross-pollinating with repetitive posts, people will turn off.

LinkedIn is always adding more plugins and features. Just check out the application directory on the LinkedIn toolbar for more information. You can also check out LinkedIntelligence, a blog focused on LinkedIn best practices.

Social media is an important facet of your overall marketing strategy. Just as with any social media effort, the key for LinkedIn success is to be consistent and provide value. LinkedIn is more manageable than most platforms, in that the status updates you write should be limited to only those items related directly to your book or profession, so you only need to update once a week or when you add new events, articles, and media coverage. You can set up email alerts to keep you updated on group discussions and LinkedIn Answers as they occur, so you don’t have to constantly check back.

Above all, don’t let LinkedIn or any social media platform consume you. Keep it simple, focused, and constrained to what is realistic for your goals and schedule.

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Best Blogging Practices, Part Five: Blog Vital Signs

August 3, 2010

As an author, you’ve probably been told you should be blogging. Blogs are an excellent way to engage your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure. Still, many find the idea of blogging overwhelming and the actual process of writing blog posts almost unbearable. But with a little bit of planning, a few shortcuts, and some tips from the blogosphere, you can be posting and engaging with readers in no time. Here is our five-part series on blogging to help you get started:

Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog (why you should blog)

Part Two: A Blog Without a Cause (what to blog about)

Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster (managing your blog)

Part Four: The Blog Without a Name (promoting your blog)

Part Five: Blog Vital Signs (tracking your progress)

Now that you’ve set up your blog, developed your content, and shared your posts, you’re probably wondering why you’re doing this in the first place? Does it really help you sell books?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Blogs are one of the best ways to create a community of followers. Still, you want to know your time is worth it and that your efforts are working, so it’s best to track your blog statistics. Luckily, there are a couple of free tools out there that make it easy to do so.

Google Analytics:

This free tool from Google lets you track how many visitors come to your site, how they are finding you, and what content they are viewing most. This is a great way to see what’s working, what’s not, and how well you are doing.

Spredfast:

Spredfast is a social media dashboard that lets you post and manage multiple media channels from one portal. There are several packages available, but you will need to contact them directly for pricing as it varies on a case by case basis. The depth of reporting changes with each package, but even the basic package lets you see which users are sharing your posts, how many people are viewing them, and what your total engagement with your audience is like.

How do you use these stats?

  1. Share impressive numbers with your publicist or publisher to show demand.
  2. Identify which content people are interested in—or not interested in—so you can adjust new information to meet those needs.
  3. Track how offline trends affect online trends.
  4. Work with your publicist to improve your overall marketing strategy.

Check the stats frequently so you can easily see the correlation between trends and content and adjust accordingly. Above all, don’t get so caught up in numbers that you ignore what people are actually telling you. Comments, also, are a great way to track your progress and get ideas for new content and books.

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Best Blogging Practices, Part 4: The Blog Without a Name

July 27, 2010

As an author, you’ve probably been told you should be blogging. Blogs are an excellent way to engage your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure. Still, many find the idea of blogging overwhelming and the actual process of writing blog posts almost unbearable. But with a little bit of planning, a few shortcuts, and some tips from the blogosphere, you can be posting and engaging with readers in no time. Here is our five-part series on blogging to help you get started:

Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog (why you should blog)

Part Two: A Blog Without a Cause (what to blog about)

Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster (managing your blog)

Part Four: The Blog Without a Name (promoting your blog)

Part Five: Blog Vital Signs (tracking your progress)

In part four of our series, we will focus on ways to promote your blog. It’s not enough to just create a blog and upload content. All of your hard work means nothing if no one knows about it.

The best way to promote your blog is through social media. Every time you publish a new post, create aquick lead line,attach a link back to your blog,and then share it on your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Post them on message boards and in discussions that will interest your target audience, and use relevant hashtags on Twitter to get your post in front of people who will be interested in the topic of your blog. Do this every single time you post. You may even want to post the link 2–3 times in the same media stream in order to capture different people as they view their news feed. Just don’t get too obnoxious with posting links—even it out with plenty of valuable content and personal interaction.

Here are a few more tips to get your blog out there and in front of readers:

  1. Comment on other blogs that cover your topic. When you post the comment,  share a link back to your own blog along with your comment.
  2. Offer up your posts for syndication to aggregators and other outlets in your genre. Just be sure to prequalify outlets and their practices so you can keep your brand intact.
  3. Promote social bookmarking through such outlets as Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Social Poster, and more. Most blog services have a widget that will display a bookmarking toolbar for each post. If not, have your web designer embed this type of widget on your blog.

In our next and final post, we cover ways to track your blog’s progress and statistics.

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Best Blogging Practices, Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster

July 20, 2010

As an author, you’ve probably been told you should be blogging. Blogs are an excellent way to engage your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure. Still, many find the idea of blogging overwhelming and the actual process of writing blog posts almost unbearable. But with a little bit of planning, a few shortcuts, and some tips from the blogosphere, you can be posting and engaging with readers in no time. Here is our five-part series on blogging to help you get started:

Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog (why you should blog)

Part Two: A Blog Without a Cause (what to blog about)

Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster (managing your blog)

Part Four: The Blog Without a Name (promoting your blog)

Part Five: Blog Vital Signs (tracking your progress)

In part three of our series, we show you ways to manage your blog so it doesn’t manage you. If you read our original post on how to develop content for your blog, then you should already have a stockpile of posts to draw on. Next, you want to get them up into the blogosphere.

Some people enjoy blogging on a daily basis, but for most it’s too time consuming and can interfere with other important tasks. Luckily, most blog services such as Wordpress and Blogspot have the option to set a publish date and time, so you can load several posts in one sitting and have them publish automatically in the future. This way you are generating content on the recommended daily basis without the trouble of logging in and posting every day.

As I just mentioned, it is recommended that you blog daily, primarily on weekdays; regular posts positively impact search rankings in search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Still, posting a couple times a week is a good way to generate traffic on a frequent basis. The key word here is consistency. Don’t post five one week and then nothing for the next two weeks. People won’t be interested in what you have to say if they have no idea when you are going to say it. Develop a schedule and stick to it.

Another option to help you manage your blog is to either host guest bloggers or have a co-blogger. This way, the workload is divided among more than one person. Guest blogs are a great way to pull another blogger’s followers into your site (new potential readers) and to provide fresh content. Co-bloggers help take some of the burden off you, and also bring another perspective and new information to the blog. Just remember to choose cohorts who are in line with your author brand so you can keep your message on target and keep your audience engaged.

In our next post we discuss ways to draw readers into your blog.

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Best Blogging Practices, Part Two: A Blog WIthout A Cause

July 13, 2010

As an author, you’ve probably been told you should be blogging. Blogs are an excellent way to engage your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure. Still, many find the idea of blogging overwhelming and the actual process of writing blog posts almost unbearable. But with a little bit of planning, a few shortcuts, and some tips from the blogosphere, you can be posting and engaging with readers in no time. Here is our five-part series on blogging to help you get started:

Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog (why you should blog)

Part Two: A Blog Without a Cause (what to blog about)

Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster (managing your blog)

Part Four: The Blog Without a Name (promoting your blog)

Part Five: Blog Vital Signs (tracking your progress)

In part two of our five part series on blogging, we’ll focus on what you should be blogging about. Blogs began as online diaries, and diaries, by nature, are full of random thoughts. But in order for your blog to be effective, you need to focus at all times on the key message you want to convey to your author platform.

Start by identifying key topics from your book, marketing message, or genre. What would your audience be interested in? How does it relate to your author platform and marketing message? Here are some ideas:

  • Industry news and updates
  • Book reviews (review others in your genre)
  • Tips, ideas, strategies, facts, and other helpful tools associated with your message. For example, if you are an expert in leadership, share tips on running a meeting or turning around a trouble employee.
  • Events, new products, and other time sensitive items

Categorize your blog content into main topics, which might include book reviews, industry news, interviews, guest posts, etc. To go back to the leadership expert, your categories might include character development, understanding people, improving communication, etc.

Look at other blogs on your topic. What are they saying? Do you see something missing from the conversation? Once you establish your main topics (you can always add more later), start brainstorming talking points related to each.

As you are brainstorming, consider ways you can group and dissect topics while you are writing them. For example, you can pull bits from a larger work and share them as a series of posts. You can also take short bits of information from those posts and use those for tweets. Publishers call this process “content chunking,” and it’s a tremendous time-saver. While you are developing one big work (like a book or article), you can simultaneously create small blog posts, tweets, and Facebook posts. This saves you from doubling up on your efforts.

Unfortunately, not all publishers let you chunk sections from your book into posts, but some publishers, like Greenleaf Book Group, actually include content chunking as part of the publishing service. (Full disclosure: This blog is the creative outlet of Greenleaf Book Group.) Other publishers actually forbid any content chunking due to infringement laws (since the publisher may own the publication rights to the original work). Check with your publisher before you blog any content from your book to avoid potential legal hassles.

In terms of what a blog post should look like, they are relatively short—anywhere from 250 to 1000 words, depending on the topic and the nature of the post. Generally they fall into the 250–500-word category, which is roughly one to three paragraphs (unlike this post). Posts aren’t limited to text either. Pictures and video are great items to share, as long as they are relevant to your overall message. Also, here is an excellent article for building credibility in your posts.

You’ll also want to be professional, but use a conversational tone to engage readers. It’s a good idea to post questions and invite feedback at the end of a post. The purpose is to engage readers, so above all, let your personality shine through, be genuine, provide information, and stay on target with your message.

In our next post, we’ll cover ways to manage your blog so it doesn’t manage you.

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Best Blogging Practices, Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog

July 8, 2010

As an author, you’ve probably been told you should be blogging. Blogs are an excellent way to engage your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure. Still, many find the idea of blogging overwhelming and the actual process of writing blog posts almost unbearable. But with a little bit of planning, a few shortcuts, and some tips from the blogosphere, you can be posting and engaging with readers in no time. Here is our five-part series on blogging to help you get started:

Part One: To Blog or Not to Blog (why you should blog)

Part Two: A Blog Without a Cause (what to blog about)

Part Three: Taming the Blog Monster (managing your blog)

Part Four: The Blog Without a Name (promoting your blog)

Part Five: Blog Vital Signs (tracking your progress)

As Seth Godin and Tom Peters say in this video, blogging is the best marketing tool that lets you involve yourself in an actual conversation with your audience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=livzJTIWlmY

Now, what is a blog? I’m sure you have some idea (you are reading one now, after all), but here is another video that explains what a blog is, in simple language and with great visuals:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN2I1pWXjXI

Now you can see why blogging is so important to your platform. It’s a free and easy way to share news, ideas, events, and other important items related to your marketing message.

Getting started

The first thing you need to do is choose a catchy, easy-to-spell, and relevant URL. Your options include:

  • Purchasing a domain outright from such places as Go Daddy
  • Hosting your blog on your existing website
  • Using a free service such as Blogspot or WordPress

Since blogs are updated regularly, hosting your blog on your website gives you the best search engine optimization for your website, but a free site is just as good in terms of creating continuous and engaging content.

Next, you need to develop relevant content, which is covered in part two of our Best Blogging Practices series.

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