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Winter Author Blog Challenge #3: I’ve come a long way from my status as a Twitter virgin

Woo-hoo! The Winter Author Blog Challenge is underway. This time around, the Challenge is just 15 days, and our focus is social media. The goal is for participants to post all 15 days, following the daily prompts provided, if they so choose. As with the inaugural Author Blog Challenge that took place last summer, I’ll be playing along with all of the posts, even though Marcie and I are the hosts!

That said, here’s the THIRD prompt:

Are you on Twitter? Perhaps more than any of the other social media platforms, Twitter has developed its own language. Tweets. Twitterverse. Rewteet. Are you invested in the lingo? So how do you make a statement in 140 characters? Are you following more people or are more people following you? How do you decide whom to follow? Do you reciprocate and automatically follow back everyone who follows you? What kinds of things do you post? How often do you post? What advice do you have for those who are just getting started? IF YOU’RE NOT USING Twitter, go look at it (twitter.com) and either find your favorite author or put “author” in the search field and look around. What’s your take? Which tweets interest you? What would you post if you did decide to create an account? What’s the likelihood you’ll be following @AuthorBlogChal anytime soon? Be sure to give us the link.

Much as with Facebook, I was also a Twitter early adopter. Although I certainly had my “I couldn’t care less what people are feeding their pet gerbils for lunch!” moments, I soon realized there was a great deal of value to be gleaned from learning to Tweet. I was more irritated with the cutesy Twitter lingo that seemed to spring up like weeds after a rainstorm (two of two of the words I most revile are “blogosphere” and “twittersphere”). And, like most people, I had no idea how to begin.

funny tweets

I think even today, seven years after Twitter’s inception, you can tell the feeds belonging to Twitter virgins from those who have multiple Twitter handles by their very first tweets. Those who start right off posting content have obviously been Tweeting awhile. Those who write “This is my first Tweet” are brand new.

What I eventually found was that Twitter is just a giant chatroom, with 500 million other people in it. The great news is that you get to decide whom to follow, with whom to interact, and how you interact with them. If you want to read tweets about what people are watching on TV every hour of the day, you can find them. If you’re more interested in connecting with literary types (agents, publicists, editors, publishing execs, book designers, other authors), they are there, too.

It was suggested to me when I first got started on Twitter that I stick to my professional subject: publishing. And that worked for about a month ― until I started to see all kinds of other topics that interested me: politics, personal development, spirituality, marketing, alternative health. So I started following people tweeting on those subjects, as well. Most people I follow can still be slotted into one or more of those six categories.

I spent an enormous amount of time in the beginning building my Twitter presence ― no less than an hour a day for three straight months. It paid off, though, in that even when I don’t post a tweet for weeks at a time now, I’m still adding a dozen new people a week, at minimum. Yet I’m nowhere near the stratospheric record of my friend Stephanie Quilao (@skinnyjeans) who organically grew her following to 57,300 people just by writing good content and being INTERACTIVE (aka social) on the site almost from Day 1. Her feed is so popular, she was named one of the top health influencers, right alongside @DrWeil and @DrOz, even though she’s a “civilian” just like you and I.

HootSuite_Logo

It took me a while to embrace HootSuite as a mechanism for managing multiple Twitter feeds, but now I wouldn’t do without it. At present, I “manage” five Twitter feeds. I use the term loosely, in that some get a tweet once a month, while others are fed much more regularly. Without a doubt ― and understandably, I like to think ― the one that gets the most attention is @phxazlaura, the one I spent all that time building. The others are @authorblogchal (of course!), @1001rlqfw (MY book), @WomenLeaders4Peace, and @ABWA_VoSEN.

People often want to draw comparisons between Twitter and Facebook. In my opinion, that’s like comparing a big-box department store to the facebook vs twittergeneral store in a small town. They serve a similar function, but in wildly different ways. Although Twitter has expanded to make video and photo posting easy, it still remains a microblogging site ― quick hits of 140 characters. Facebook, on the other hand, allows you to post entire photo albums, you can see the video without having to open an additional window, and your text posts can be seemingly limitless (actually, the limit is 8,000 characters).

The platforms are different, as are the users. I had a ball when I started using Twitter, but the variety of capabilities makes Facebook my preferred platform. I think I learn more from Twitter, but I find more inspiration and connection on Facebook. VisualScope.com has a great way of making the distinction: “Twitter is better as a fresh news portal and directing traffic. Facebook contrasts in that it still reigns as the king of relationship-building.”

As far as discerning which one an author should begin with, the only way to answer it is by discerning where his or her readers are spending their time. If you’re writing nonfiction about a timely, topical subject, Twitter is your better bet for creating conversation. For timeless fiction, Facebook is a better place to create a community of fans and followers.

If you’re not yet using Twitter because you don’t see the value, I encourage you to explore a few popular author feeds, do a search for a term that interests you and read the feeds, or take a spin around Time magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012. You may just experience a change of heart.

In the meantime, come Tweet with us!

Laura

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Like all tools, social media can backfire

Social media is indeed a fantastic tool for authors, but as with all tools, there are dangers. I am sure that as SBMs* you are way too smart to ever make any of these errors. Nevertheless, anytime I find myself thinkng, “It should go without saying,” I know the lesson most certainly bears repeating. Remember the first rule of social media? The SOCIAL part. Well, some folks seem to forget: errors are made by big companies, individuals, publications – almost all types of users have had their challenges. Read on and learn these lessons well.

USE YOUR COMMON SENSE. First off is a host of errors compiled from 2011. The headline on this should say “Twitter Fails,” as all are incidents in some way related to the microblogging site, but they are good reminders of what NOT to do. From extremely high-profile incidents like Anthony Weiner’s sex scandal to an F-bomb insult that cost New Media Strategies their contract with Chrysler, these are some of the higher-profile incidents from last year.

GET INVOLVED BEFORE THE DAMAGE IS DONE. From smaller companies like Paperchase to behemoths like BP, another mistake participants have made in the social media realm is waiting too long to get involved. Says SocialMediaInfluence.com about a plagiarism incident involving the upscale greeting card retailer: “Paperchase is learning a hard lesson: brands ignore Twitter at their peril. Paperchase is engaging with this community only now, just as a crisis arises.” BP suffered a far worse fate when a wise guy co-opted the Twitter handle @BPGlobalPR. Tongue-in-cheek commentary still rains from this microblogger – truly the last kind of “PR” the oil company could hope for.

OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKES. In other plagiarism news, TampaBaySocialMedia.com details the wicked response from Cooks Source, a free advertising-supported publication distributed in New England, when they were accused of stealing content from a blogger:

A series of events came to a head concerning Monica Gaudio, a blogger and writer, discovering that an article she had written had been copied wholesale and reprinted in an edition of Cooks Source without her permission. During email conversation with the editor, Judith Griggs, she requested compensation for the copyright violation in the form of an apology (printed and via Facebook) and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism (roughly $.10/word). Ms. Gaudio, astonished at the reply she received to this request, printed Ms. Griggs’ response on her livejournal:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free! (excerpted)

Needless to say, DON’T steal other people’s stuff. Secondarily, if you screw up, own it. Trust me, I know how difficult this can be – and it’s only made more so on a ginormous public forum like the World Wide Web. But digging in and justifying your bad behavior is never, ever the answer.

LET BAD REVIEWS LIE. A couple years ago, there was the case of the Scottsdale pizza proprietress and her online war of words with a diner who wrote a less-than-flattering review of her establishment. From a MyFoxPhoenix.com story about the incident:

Among the comments from Joel T’s review about Amy’s pizza: “I took a bite and was immediately underwhelmed.” … “After two small pieces I decided I was wasting my calories and just gave up on it.”

“These people are internet bullies they have nothing to do but sit behind their computer and lie and try to hurt people,” says Amy.

“It was really strange that they chose to lash out at me,” says Joel.

And lash out, Amy did. Writing in response as Amy B. on Yelp she said, “Dear Joel T. it is blatantly obvious to me why you were alone on a Saturday night” and “the pizza was fresh and amazing.”

“If he has freedom of speech so do I!” Amy defends.

“I was just kind of shocked that someone would attack me personally,” says Joel.

The fusillade of internet crossfire between the two triggered a Yelp war from those supporting Amy – and those backing Joel.

It went on for months.

I’m not sure whether the episode harmed Amy’s Baking Company, but it sure did make her look like an idiot. This is just my opinion – but reviewers are entitled to theirs. She might have thought the pizza was amazing, but for whatever reason, Joel did not agree. It’s unreasonable to believe that everyone’s going to like her pizza – just as it is unlikely that everyone will like your book. Even the best books receive 1-star reviews on Amazon. Some are from cranks, of course, and others are from those who simply hold another point of view. If most of your reviews are positive, let the negative ones go. If the majority of your reviews are negative, it could seriously indicate some room for improvement.

DON’T WRITE/POST FAKE REVIEWS. Evidently, bad reviews don’t originate only with dissatisfied customers. This incident is a bit older (five years ago – eons in the lifetime of social media). MediaPost.com details the story of the CEO of Whole Foods who was discovered anonymously posting fake bad reviews of his competition. Really, John Mackey? Need we say more? Don’t write fake reviews! In a related move, the FCC passed a law several years ago requiring those who use online testimonials (a form of review) to notify site visitors when reviewers had been in any way compensated for the review. This means that if you give a free book to a reviewer – they must mention that fact in the review.

DON’T INSINUATE YOURSELF INTO A MEDIUM THAT’S NOT FOR YOU. The University of Orgeon’s Strategic Social Media shares the story of retail magnate Walmart’s attempt to crash the Facebook party back in 2007. Part of the reason for their failure had to do with poor planning. Other problems included trying to be something they weren’t (mimicking their rival, Target) and trying to force themselves onto a platform that didn’t suit them. This could be a valuable lesson for you. Just because one author sees significant success with a particular social media channel does not ensure that you will see the same results. As we’ve mentioned previously, find the one(s) that work for you. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

GIVE YOUR FOLLOWERS WHAT THEY WANT. I’ll wind up with another catchall story by HypeBot.com about five social media fails by musicians. Though I don’t necessarily agree across the board, I do like their opening remarks:

Artists have myriad possibilities when it comes to social networking. The way these are utilized is often woefully misguided, and as a result artists become their own worst enemy.

Musicians often fail to realize that potential fans are not interested in what your music means to you; they are only interested in what your music means to them. Similarly this approach should be taken with you status updates. You need to ask yourself, “Why would anyone care about what I am about to say?” Just because you want the world to know doesn’t mean the world actually wants to know.

HypeBot’s list of musicians’ social media fails:

  1. Putting too much focus on Twitter
  2. The lame question
  3. ME, ME, ME
  4. The overly positive 
  5. Posting quotes from famous people

Social media can and will work for you, provided you are smart, creative, interactive, and avoid the obvious and not-so-obvious landmines. Use your best instincts and you will likely do well.

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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Wednesday, February 22 – 25 social media success tips for authors
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A few general last words on social media for authors – for now

Our last few posts have simply been an overview of social media and ways you, as an author, can begin to use it as a marketing tool. Scads of eBooks have already been written about social media, and it seems a new one is coming out weekly. The thing is, the mediums change so quickly that as soon as you buy a book, it’s probably obsolete. It takes effort and energy to stay on top of them all, but you’ll do that if social media is important to you.

The new SM darling of the moment seems to be Pinterest – a pinboard-style social photo sharing site that allows users to create and manage theme-based collections of images. The site’s mission statement is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” But that’s just what the high tide brought in last week. Watch for the next wave; it’s coming up behind you quickly, even if you can’t see it yet.

We touched briefly on this in the last SM post, but it bears repeating again. Although many of us have profiles and are active, to varying degrees, on many SM sites, each site has a different audience and purpose. Not every medium is for every author. Find the ones that work for you. Start by finding one you seem to enjoy, and experiment with it. If you find yourself creating high-quality relationships there, think about branching out to other sites as they make sense and your schedule can adapt to allow regular participation.

Personally, I find the Facebook writing and author groups much friendlier and more interactive than those on LinkedIn – but some might prefer the “professionalism” of those on LinkedIn. For me, Twitter is more of a resource for information on marketing and the publishing industry and a great way to connect with my contemporaries. Then, as Chuck Wendig writes on the Terrible Minds blog, “the blog is the central tentpole to the whole goddamn circus.”

Facebook has become so ubiquitous across the Web that it’s easy to link to it from almost any site or platform. If you’re on Facebook, make sure you link your blog, your website, and all your other SM profiles to your Facebook author page. (If you don’t have a Facebook author page, we need to talk! And we’ll be discussing it in an upcoming post.) And where possible, link your other social media accounts to each other.

Building relationships – the primary goal of SOCIAL media – takes an active exchange of thoughts and ideas. This is why I discourage automation. Posting by bot is anything but personal. To quote Wendig again, “Ensure that you do more than share links. Contribute original thoughts. Add conversation. Say something.” It’s easy to post and sit back and wait for the readers/followers/friends to come to you – but that’s not an exchange; it’s a monologue. Interactivity is how you build relationships.

When it comes to interacting, “Like” and “Share” things that genuinely appeal to you – not because someone asked you to like or share them. And, in the converse – this is just my opinion, now – don’t go around asking other people to like/share your stuff. If it’s genuinely good, people will pass it on. It’s hard to deliberately manufacture viral, especially by trying to copy a clever concept someone else has already used with success. (For example, how been-there-done-that are all those “Got whatever?” signs, t-shirts, and bumper stickers?) I’ll admit, The Oatmeal was quite inspirational in my decision to create this blog. But my blog is educational and instructional; The Oatmeal is often viral, funny, and very, very clever. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t love for Marcie to go viral. We’re nowhere near that yet, although we are poised to top 10,000 views by the end of our first year, thanks to you SBM* readers!

Social media works if you use it. Social media works if you share authentically. Social media works if you show up regularly and interact on a personal level. Social media works if you don’t spam people with too many sales pitches. Most of all, social media works if you enjoy it. If you see it as a chore, just another thing on your to-do list, you probably aren’t going to see rave results. As with just about everything in life, you get out what you put into it.

Next week, we’ll start exploring some of the more popular social media platforms in some detail. In the meantime, happy connecting!

MARCIE


*Savvy Book Marketer

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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Wednesday, February 22 – 25 social media success tips for authors
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25 social media success tips for authors

http://www.blogwebdesigner.com/hand-drawn-social-media-icons-145

We’ve been discussing ways for authors to use social media for a few posts now. First we discussed the fact that social media is one tool you can apply to the many strategies in your book marketing campaign. Next, we looked at an overview of some of the most popular social media sites. Today, we’ve got 25 tips that will help make your social media process a successful part of marketing your book.

  1. Be visible. As with good old-fashioned face-to-face networking, you must be seen and heard to create relationships, which is the key to successful social networking.
  2. Be a real person. Use your real name – not your company name – unless you’re building a company page (or channel on YouTube). Your readers want to create a relationship with you, the author, not your books or publishing company. While it’s important to show up, it’s even more important that you be yourself. Authenticity goes a long way in the social networking realm.
  3. Brand yourself. Use the same headshot and screen name, if possible, across all your social media sites. This will help make you easily recognizable to your readers/friends/followers.
  4. Be personal. If you’re a stickler for privacy, social media probably is not for you, because it’s impossible to build authentic relationships without revealing something of yourself. This is not to say you should share your every move or reveal information that could jeopardize your safety. And no, your Twitter followers don’t really care what you had for lunch. But giving your friends and followers – your READERS – a glimpse into some aspect of your life will help them feel like they know you. As a result, they’ll want to check in regularly, eagerly anticipate your book when it comes out, and perhaps most importantly, tell other people about you.
  5. Engage with your readers/friends/followers. People are reading your blog, liking your page, or following your Tweets to hear what you have to say, so make sure it’s interesting. Share your writing, publishing, or marketing process. Interview other writers, bloggers, or book marketers. Stay ahead of the trends in your niche or industry.
  6. Be responsive. Yes, you may get tired of hearing it, but you’re going to need to remember it: the first word in social media is SOCIAL. If your visitors/readers/friends/fans take the time to like, share, or comment on your posts or Tweets, acknowledge them!
  7. Niche yourself and stay focused. You’re ahead of the game when it comes to niching, because you’ve already written a book with a specific audience. While a cornucopia of offerings can be interesting on your social media sites, the more you limit your posts to the specifics related to your book topic, the better you will likely do, particularly in terms standing out from other authors. Readers and followers who love what you offer will easily recognize your site as one that interests them. As a result, they’ll want to check in regularly, eagerly anticipate your book when it comes out, and perhaps most importantly, tell other people about you.
  8. Use images generously. Some of the most popular folks on social media sites are those who post a lot of inspirational content – specifically posts that utilize appropriate imagery. Credit pictures you borrow, or purchase inexpensive images from 123rf.com or istockphoto.com.
  9. Toot your own horn. If your book wins an award, let your readers/friends/followers know. Don’t hesitate to share your successes with your readers. Talk about client wins, new speaking engagements, and any book signings and events you schedule. In all likelihood, your readers/friends/followers will want to support you and share your good news, particularly if you discuss it in an interesting way that gives them value.
  10. Be a giver first. No one likes to have someone come at them with their hand out. It’s a bit of a dated phrase, but one still worth mentioning: go for the win-win. Rather than always pushing your book or asking people to like your page or posts, figure out how you can help others.
  11. Be positive. Even though we all have a bad day now and then, no one really wants to read about your whining or complaints. The caveat to this is if you have a problem you’d like others’ input to solve, or you have resolved a challenge and want to share your process. Make it educational, not pessimistic.
  12. Forget the naysayers. Some people still insist that social media doesn’t work. Ignore them.
  13. Put some time into it. One of the coolest things about social media is that you can connect with hundreds (or thousands) of people all over the world. It would take you decades to meet people in those numbers on a face-to-face basis. Social media speeds up the process, but it still takes time. Be willing to invest some real time in the process, and don’t expect miracles overnight.
  14. Be willing to take risks. That old aphorism, “Don’t try to be all things to all people,” was never truer than in the world of social media. The reality is that not everybody (even all of your friends or subscribers) is going to like everything you post. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post it. Depending on your personality, your tolerance for conflict, and the subject matter of your book, you may or may not want to post controversial materials. If you’ve written a political or religious book, you can garner a lot of followers via social media – but just remember, it’s a public forum and those who disagree with you can see and comment (depending on your privacy settings).
  15. Take your arguments offline. Controversy notwithstanding, take any serious disagreements offline. Refrain from making someone wrong, belittling, or otherwise creating disharmony on your blog or social media sites.
  16. Be the expert. Within your industry or area of expertise, you must have an opinion and be willing to take a stand on one side of an important issue. Use your social media sites to share your knowledge and establish yourself as an expert. Others will soon start to notice. Before long you may be invited to share that knowledge on sites other than your own.
  17. Be a connecter. One of the easiest ways to help is by making connections between others. Every post doesn’t have to be about your book or related to your niche topic. If you know one reader/friend/follower would benefit by knowing another reader/friend/follower, give graciously by introducing them.
  18. Hold contests. Put on your SBM* hat and come up with creative contests to promote book saes. Ask readers to tell you the last word on a particular page. Ask readers to post photos of themselves holding your book on your social media site. Have them write an alternate ending. Reward those who have the most friends purchase copies. The ideas are endless.
  19. Publicize your events. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and EventBrite are great tools for publicizing your events. Use YouTube to create a short promo. Whatever you do, use your social media to let people know where to come and see you in person!
  20. Ask questions. Polling is a great tool available on certain social media sites. This is a great way to find out what readers think about topics in your niche. Perhaps you can even get ideas for your next book.
  21. Answer questions. While asking questions allows you take the pulse of your readers/friends/followers, answering them is another great way to demonstrate your expertise.
  22. Have a plan. This is probably one of the biggest failings when it comes to authors’ use of social media. First, create a book marketing plan; then figure out where you can use social media within that plan. Don’t leave it up to chance.
  23. Be respectful. Self-promotion is a good thing, but it’s essential to understand where, when, and how to do it. Toot your horn and advertise your events on your wall, site, or blog (within reason). DO NOT post ads for your book or services on other people’s blogs or sites. I’m fairly forgiving, but if someone posts an ad on my Facebook wall, I block them. No explanations and no second chances. It’s taken me two years to build the following I have and I am unwilling to let others co-opt my effort without at least asking. Certain group pages do allow self-promotion – but be careful to read, understand, and follow each group’s guidelines.
  24. Be consistent. One of the biggest keys to success with social media is showing up regularly. You cannot check in once every couple weeks and expect to build a following. Neither do you need to post a dozen times a day. Find a reasonable schedule that works for you – probably at least every couple of days.
  25. Have fun!!!! I love networking and meeting people. I love having conversations with strangers and exchanging interesting ideas. Remember the social aspect of social media. Don’t let this idea of selling a book or landing a client drive your every move. If you’re not enjoying yourself, your posts will probably feel forced and be boring. Trust me, your readers/friends/followers will see through you, and you probably aren’t going to have a lot of success.

Happy connecting!

MARCIE


*Savvy Book Marketer

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RESOURCES:

http://www.wsidesignermarketplace.com/content/designer/design_pulse/design_blog/top_10_tips_for_socialmediasuccess.html

http://www.startupnation.com/series/132/9333/social-media-6-success-tips.htm

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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