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I finished NaNoWriMo. Now what?

Firstly, congratulations! You have done amazingly well to reach your writing goal.

You now have a large number of words of varying quality. They may or may not tell a complete, consistent story. But that’s just fine. NaNoWriMo is about getting the words on the page, and you’ve done that. The next step is editing.

Why do I need to edit?

Editing is a vital step in creating a fully fledged book. As you read through your words, you will find some sections that are, frankly, poor. But you’ll also find areas of pure brilliance and lots of work that just needs a bit of polish for it to shine. That’s the whole purpose of editing: to find the gems, fix the weaker parts, and end up with something you’re really proud of. And you deserve to be proud of it, given the time and love you’ve already given it.

I don’t know where to start!

It may be that you need to take some time away from your November writing and come back to it fresh in the new year. Alternatively, you may be feeling inspired and want to crack on straight away – do whichever works for you.

In the same way that the structure of NaNoWriMo helped you do the writing, structure can help you edit. Editing can be a long, laborious task. The key to accomplishing it is to break it down and have small, clear goals. In November, you may have written 1,667 words every day, or you may have focused your writing on three days a week. The same principle that worked for your writing will work again for your editing. You could set yourself the task of editing 1,667 of your words each day, especially if you find short deadlines push you into action. Or you may want to set a less pressured pace of 5,000 words a week, or two hours every Sunday.

The point is to have a pattern and pace that works for you. It needs to keep you moving towards that glorious finished manuscript.

Then what?

Once you’re done editing you will have something you’re proud of and you may want to share it. But it’s up to you how you choose to do that. If you want to just email the document to a few close friends, that’s absolutely fine; it’s your work and your choice. You may decide to submit it to traditional publishers, in which case good luck. If you want to investigate self publishing, we can help.

Any other tips?

Remember to celebrate the small wins. Edited a whole chapter? Well done! Turned an OK paragraph into something lovely? Brilliant! Every time you edit even a few sentences, the whole work is improved.

Proving copyright ownership with WIPO Proof

Most authors know that they own the copyright in their work as soon as they write it. There’s no need to register, but it can be useful to have proof. One option is to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office – this is an option even for non-US authors.

Earlier this year, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations (UN), created WIPO Proof as a way to register ownership of a digital file such as an ebook file or PDF.

A WIPO Proof token costs less than registering with the US Copyright Office. A WIPO Proof token currently costs twenty Swiss Francs (about $22), whereas registering with the US Copyright Office costs $45 or $65.

What a WIPO Proof token is and is not

A WIPO Proof token provides proof that you had a digital file when you created the token. It does not prove that you created the file or own the copyright. You could think of it as being akin to the old idea of posting a copy of the manuscript to yourself, but with the added legitimacy of being issued by a UN agency. In practical terms, if you need to provide evidence of ownership, being able to prove that you had a copy of the disputed file at some previous date is useful.

Indie authors are most likely to need something like this to prove their copyright to a vendor or distributor such as Amazon or Draft2Digital. I emailed the following companies to ask if they would accept a WIPO Proof token as evidence in a copyright dispute.

Barnes & Noble didn’t respond to my question.

Apple, Google, and KDP said that they couldn’t answer the question. They all said that their legal team would decide on a case by case basis.

Draft2Digital said that their vendors generally require authors to communicate directly with the person claiming copyright infringement, so they wouldn’t get involved.

Ingram Spark, Kobo, OneBookShelf/DriveThruFiction, PublishDrive, StreetLib, and BundleRabbit said that they would take a WIPO Proof token into consideration as evidence, if not outright proof of copyright.

Smashwords were the only company that definitively said that they would not take a WIPO Proof token into consideration.

Generating a WIPO Proof token

To generate a WIPO Proof token, you will need a WIPO account. Go to https://ipportal.wipo.int/ and click “Create WIPO Account”. They will send you an email with a link to confirm your account.

Log in to your WIPO account at https://wipoproof.wipo.int/wdts/. Click Get started.

Screenshot: Selecting a file to create a WIPO Proof token

Select your file and the ownership option that applies. That will probably be “Yes, I am the natural person who owns the file.”

Select the category. For books, use “Creative work (audio, visual, or literary work).”

The next screen shows a summary and the fee. I paid in British pounds rather than Swiss Francs to avoid currency conversion fees.

Once the payment is confirmed, you will go to a “Payment Details” screen showing the payment status as “Paid”. Click Continue.

Screenshot: WIPO Proof token created

It will then take you to a congratulations screen. Clicking the download button will download a zip file containing a PDF receipt and a token file. You can also download the token from your WIPO Proof dashboard.

I strongly suggest keeping the contents of this zip file, along with the file you uploaded, in a separate folder on your computer. If you ever need to verify your proof token, you will need the file you uploaded and the token file.

Final notes

WIPO Proof tokens are tied to specific files because of the way they work. So if you get a token for the PDF print interior, it won’t be valid for the ePub. If you change the file, even slightly, the WIPO Proof token will no longer be valid. Therefore, keep the token and the uploaded file together in a separate folder on your computer.

I suggest using a PDF to generate the token, as they are still more widely supported than ePubs. Any claim will most likely revolve around the content of the book, rather than the specific formatting. The companies that said they would take a WIPO Proof token into consideration all said that they would accept a token generated for a PDF, even if an ePub had been uploaded to their systems.

Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice. I am not a lawyer.

Minimum list price for Kindle books

I recently organised a multi-author sale. Several authors (including myself) agreed to reduce the price of one or more of their ebooks to $0.99/£0.99 for a week. I created a page on my website listing the books with links to where they could be bought. Everyone agreed to promote the sale to their newsletter or pay towards a Facebook advertising campaign. So far so good.

I got an unpleasant surprise on the eve of the sale, when I went to reduce the price of one of my books to the required $0.99/£0.99. Amazon wouldn’t let me reduce the price to less than $1.99/£1.25. These minimum prices have been in place since at least 2017, but they don’t get talked about very much, so they’re easy to miss.

The book that I was trying to reduce the price on contains a lot of images, and the file size is about 7MB, much larger than the typical ebook. Kindle books of between 3MB and 10MB have a minimum price of $1.99, even on the 35% royalty option. Kindle books larger than 10MB have a minimum price of $2.99 on the 35% royalty option.

Most ebooks won’t be affected by this, but books with large numbers of images and ebook box sets might be. If you’re planning to run a sale, check the minimum price for your book before you publicise the sale price. In my case, I was able to work around the issue. Since I have multiple books published, I was able to simply put a different book in the sale, one with a file size small enough to allow me to reduce the price as required. This neatly illustrates one of the advantages of having multiple books published — greater flexibility.

The full details of the price limits for different sizes are on the list price requirements page at KDP Help.

How to Create and use Reading Lists

Draft2Digital’s Reading Lists allow you to create curated collections of books. You can showcase your own books, or create a list of recommended books in a genre or around a subject. Reading Lists use Universal Book Links (UBLs), so refer to my UBL article if you don’t know how to create them.

Create a Reading List

Log in to your Books2Read account. Hover over the “Link Tools” link at the top-right of the screen, then click “Reading Lists”. To create a new list, click on the “Make a New Reading List” button.

Reading List details page
Entering details

Enter details on the left of the screen. To the right is a preview. Under the “Details” header, you will need to add a name. You can optionally add a tagline. Then open the “Choose Header Image” section. You can choose an image from the drop-down list, or upload your own. Optionally, choose a colour overlay to add, click the bar to choose the colour’s opacity.

Add search terms and BISAC classifications in their sections. These will help the list’s discoverability.

The advanced options allow you to force clicks to a single store, bypassing the book’s UBL page. This is useful when compiling a list of books enrolled in KDP Select, since the books will only be available on Amazon.

You can set a custom link, one that is easier to remember or read out on a podcast.

Add Carousels and Books

When the list details are all filled in, click the “Add Books” button. Carousels are used to organise books in lists. If you have multiple series for instance, you could have a carousel for each series.

Entering the carousel name and description
Entering the carousel name and description

The new page has fields for the carousel name and description. Both can be left empty if preferred.

Adding books to a reading list carousel
Adding books to a carousel

After entering these, click the green box labelled “Click to add books.” This will bring up a search box, which will search your UBLs. You can add multiple books at a time. Select the books you want to add, then click “Add selected books”.

To remove books, click the dustbin icon, select the books to remove, and click “Remove selected books”. To add more books, click the plus icon. Re-order the book covers by dragging and dropping.

To add a new carousel, click “Add carousel” at the bottom of the page. Add books to the new carousel in the same way as the first one. Click “Manage carousels” at the bottom of the page to remove or re-order the carousels.

Using the Reading List

Reading list link
Reading list link

When you’re happy with the layout, click the “Save and continue” button at the top. The last page shows the reading list’s link, and a “Copy link” button, which will copy the link to your clipboard. It also has buttons to share the link to Facebook or Twitter.

If you have multiple series, a reading list is a useful way of showcasing all of them on a single page, with a carousel for each series.

Another option is to list related books or a list of recommended books. I have a Cold War reading list, which includes several of my own books and books by other authors. Because universal book links support affiliate links, you can earn affiliate commission even when a reader buys another author’s book.

What to do if Amazon Discounts Your Book

Every now and then, Amazon discounts one of my paper books. Sometimes the discount is so steep that the price is less than author copies cost me. This can happen to any indie author, and it can be disconcerting, but there’s no need to worry. Here are some ways you can take advantage of the situation.

First, it’s important to note that you will be paid the normal amount for every copy sold, regardless of the price the customer pays. In this article, I’ll use an example book that has a printing cost of $5, with a normal list price of $10, and a royalty of $1.

Option 1: Tell People

If you were running a sale, you’d tell people about it, so do the same in this situation. The only difference is that it’s not something you planned. It’s still a bargain, though, so email your mailing list and post on social media. Even your fans that already own a copy or prefer ebooks might want to buy a copy to give as a present.

In this option, your readers get a bargain, and you get your standard royalty ($1 in the example book) from every sale, but the lower price could lead to more sales.

There’s no way to predict how long such a discount will last. Make sure you make that clear — you don’t want your readers to think that you’ve lured them into a bait & switch.

Option 2: Buy Some Yourself

Sometimes Amazon drops the price to less than the cost of author copies, in which case you can get a double benefit by buying copies yourself. Not only do you get copies at a reduced price, you also get your usual royalty.

Taking the above example, if the price has been reduced to $4, you can buy it for a dollar less than the usual price of $5. This is a bargain in and of itself, but you also get a dollar in royalties, making the effective price just $3.

If you have a way to sell them, or use them as prizes, this is a great opportunity to get them at a lower price than usual.

Create and Edit Universal Book Links

A Universal Book Link (commonly referred to as a UBL) is a short link that will go to a web page showing links to all the stores where the ebook or audiobook can be bought. When the user clicks on any of the links, they will go to their local site if the store has one. Such a link is useful in all sorts of situations, but especially on social media, where a long list of links looks clunky at best.

This post will explain how to set up a Universal Book Link for any book (even if you are not the book’s author).

Screenshot of Books2Read login form
The Books2Read login form

You will need to login at books2read.com/authentication/login. Use your Draft2Digital account to log in if you have one. If you don’t, click on the I need to register a new account link to create an account. Any books published with Draft2Digital will automatically have an UBL already, which you can find on the book details page. See below for instructions on how to add affiliate codes or edit the link.

Create the Link

Screenshot of Universal Book Link page, showing where to paste a link
Paste a link here and Books2Read will find all the other links automatically

Once logged in, you will see a box labelled “Paste a link to your book”. Copy a link from Amazon or another store into this box and click “Make My Universal Link”.

Screenshot of a newly-created universal book link
Creating a Universal Book Link

Books2Read will contact all the supported ebook and audiobook sites to find your book. The book cover will appear along with the title and author name, and the list of sites to the right will update as it is found at each site. Your new Universal Book Link will replace the link you entered under the book details, and a “Copy Link” button will appear. Click this button to copy the link to your clipboard. Then you can paste the link into an email, social media post, etc.

Rename the Link

Screenshot of universal book link page, showing the link tools
Creating a better link name

By default, the link is made up of an odd set of letters and numbers, which is difficult to remember or read out on a podcast. You can set a custom link name by clicking on “Custom name your URL” and entering a new name into the box. This must be unique, so the system will check it is available as you type. Once you have a custom name that you are happy with, click on the green SAVE.

Affiliate Codes

If you have an affiliate account at Amazon or other retailers, you can add your affiliate codes at Books2Read, and the code will be added every time a reader clicks on any of your UBL links. To do this, click on “Affiliate Codes”, then “Manage My Affiliate Codes”.

This will take you to a page where you can enter your affiliate code for each store. Amazon has separate codes for each country’s store, so if you have affiliate codes for the other stores, click the “Show Amazon’s regional affiliate options” link to enter those.

Editing the Link

If you later need to edit an existing UBL, log into Books2Read and click “Link Tools” in the top bar, then “UBL Dashboard”. Your existing links will be listed. Click on the book title that you wish to edit, and you will go back to the same screen that you used to create it. Clicking the “Rescan for Links” button will cause Books2Read to search the stores for the book again. If necessary, you can also paste the link directly into the store’s entry on the right.

Using the Link

Screenshot of a Universal Book Link page
The Universal Book Link in action

Above is the Universal Book Link page, as a reader sees it. UBL pages are responsive, and look good on phone and tablet screens, as well as full-size monitors.

Use the link in emails, social media, and anywhere else that you normally share links. If the book has an audiobook edition, audiobook links will be listed below the ebook links. UBLs are also used to create reading lists.

Co-Writing Across Genres

Note: this post was written by myself and Andrew Knighton, and was first published on the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ Self-Publishing Advice Centre.

Co-authoring a book is relatively unusual, and for our military thriller The Bear’s Claws, we wanted to do something even more unusual — a collaboration between a novelist and a non-fiction author. For both of us, it’s been a very successful project. So why did we do it? And how did the collaboration work when we normally write such different things?

Why Work Together On A Book?

Book cover - The Bear's Claws

For several years, we’ve followed Joanna Penn’s advice to improve productivity with an accountability partner. We meet online once a month to discuss our writing goals and urge each other on. Accountability worked so well, it made perfect sense when Robin suggested that we try another collaboration — writing a book.

It’s tricky finding a shared project for a speculative fiction writer and a military historian, but there was a writing niche that interested us both — stories about the Cold War heating up. Ever since the 1980s, this strand of fiction has been popular with a small but devoted band of readers, and with the Cold War over it’s moved from future speculation to alternate history.

Robin already had a story in mind — telling one of these alternate histories from the Soviet point of view. It was a project that would let each of us reach a new audience while finding out how co-authoring works in practice. So we set out to craft what would become The Bear’s Claws.

Splitting the Work

The first important decision in the project was how to divide the work. Fortunately, there was a natural way to do this — playing to our strengths.

The sort of readers who enjoy war stories are interested in the details of military equipment and tactics. As a writer on modern military history, this was something Robin had the skills and knowledge to get right. Robin is also a more experienced marketer and self-publisher, so better placed to deal with that side of producing a book.

Andrew, on the other hand, has over a decade of experience writing fiction, from steampunk short stories to ghostwriting novels. The bulk of the work on bringing the story to life went to him.

Co-Writing a Novel

The story started with a novel Robin had begun for NaNoWriMo. A rough draft of the first few chapters, it provided the core story around which The Bear’s Claws was built, the story of a Soviet soldier invading West Germany and of his sister at home in Leningrad.

Based on that beginning, we worked together to flesh out the plot. Robin developed a plausible scenario for how the war might play out, including interesting details for the action scenes. Andrew fleshed out the characters, their personal arcs, and their journey through that war. Put together in a spreadsheet, this became the outline we wrote from.

As the more experienced fiction writer, Andrew took the plot and set to writing. He wrote a chapter at a time and sent them over for Robin to check the military details, problems with the story, and the inevitable typos. That ongoing feedback let Andrew write something more convincing and engaging, improving the work as he went along.

Getting the Details Right

Robin paid particular attention to the minutiae of the military equipment and tactics, often making small but important corrections to terminology or the details of how things work. This is a genre where the readers know the difference between an AK-47 and an AK-74, so the details are important.

Once a draft of the novel was complete, we read over it and sent comments back and forth, refining what we’d written. Then Robin recruited a group of beta readers, who let us see beyond what we’d been caught up in, picking holes in our beloved book. Their insights provided plenty of areas for improvement, with more rewrites for Andrew and more fact-checking for Robin, to get the novel as close to perfect as we could.

Production and Marketing

Although we’ve known each other for a long time, we understood the value of having an agreement in place so that we both knew what to expect. We used ALLi’s sample co-authoring agreement as a starting point.

Robin is a techie and runs an author services business, so they created a shared Dropbox directory for the book files, a wiki for notes, and an online task manager to keep us organised. Once the book was finished, they created the ebook and print interior files, including a large print version. We hired a cover designer that Robin has worked with before.

Neither of us wanted to deal with splitting the royalties, so we set up a collaborative project on Bundle Rabbit. They distribute the book to the major vendors, take a cut, then split the royalties. As well as less work for us, it means that we both have access to sales reports.

Robin has taken the lead on marketing. They promoted the book on a number of Facebook groups related to the Cold War, and we have an interview lined up on a Cold War podcast. Robin used their knowledge of military history and hardware to write a blog post about the vehicles described in the book, and one about the change we made to history that ultimately led to war.

Conclusion

We both found the process enjoyable, and we’ve each learned from seeing how the other works. There was little crossover between our readerships, so we’ve both gained exposure to new readers. The book is selling steadily, so the project has been an all-round success.

Co-authoring isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you can play to your strengths then it can be a great way to create something new and interesting.

Blockchain: Questions and Concerns

Note: a version of this post was first published on the Alliance of Independent AuthorsSelf-Publishing Advice Centre. Their watchdog, John Doppler, added answers and commentary.

It is said that blockchain technologies will revolutionize publishing. The Alliance of Independent Authors has published a white paper about blockchain. The white paper’s authors seem hopeful that blockchain will help authors to reduce their dependency on large vendors. Blockchain may indeed be a wonderful development, but the more I read, the more I find that I have questions and concerns.

Piracy

One of blockchain’s promises is that it will eliminate piracy. No-one has been able to explain to me just how blockchain prevents piracy, however. We all know that current DRM schemes can be cracked, but it should be noted that this isn’t done by breaking the encryption.

To read the book, the end user has to have a copy of the key. The cracking software finds the key and uses that to create an unencrypted copy of the book. Even with blockchain, the user will need a copy of the key, so what is there to stop software finding that key and using it?

Copyright

Another promise is that blockchain will allow authors to register their copyright and store that registration on the blockchain, where anyone can access it.

These look a lot like a technical version of the old practice of an author posting a copy of the manuscript to themselves. The US copyright office specifically says that the practice is not a substitute for registering the copyright, so it seems unlikely that a blockchain-based version would have any legal weight.

There is certainly a benefit in open access to the register, but that could be done with a standard database and website. It’s unclear what advantage is gained by using blockchain.

Ebook Ownership

One of the more intriguing promises of blockchain is the idea that a buyer can own their copy of an ebook, in much the same way as they own a paper book. Part of this is the ability to sell it second-hand. The change of ownership would be registered on the blockchain, and the original owner would lose access to the book.

The blockchain book sellers that I’ve been able to investigate in sufficient detail don’t store the actual book files on the blockchain. All that is stored on the blockchain is a token indicating who has access to the book. The book file itself has to be downloaded from a server. This leaves open the possibility of the server being taken offline, and no-one being able to access the book, just as happened in 2019 when the Microsoft ebook store went offline.

Ownership of an ebook implies that it can be read on whatever device the user prefers. Indeed, in the ALLi white paper, the Publica CEO says that “books can be discovered by readers without having to sign in, sign up, or subscribe to any walled garden, or pay anyone except the author.” But a book bought from Publica can only be read on the Publica app.

Bookchain is another company that sells books on the blockchain. In their case, users read the book in a web browser. That is more open than Publica, but it also implies that users will lose access to the book if Bookchain’s web server is taken offline.

Conclusion

I’m not fundamentally opposed to blockchain. It may become as integral to our everyday lives as the web is now. But most articles that discuss blockchain’s potential in the publishing sphere offer lots of promises with little to no detail about how these promises will be delivered, and that makes me wary. I’d love to get answers to the questions I’ve outlined, so if you have answers, please leave them in the comments.

A Missed Opportunity

One reason some authors choose to independently publish their book is the greater royalties they get on each sale. Another reason, more important to some, is keeping control over the publishing and the marketing. Traditional publishers are good at what they do, but they can’t know the book as deeply as the author does, and that can lead to missed opportunities.

Cover of First to Fight by Roger Moorhouse
A missed marketing opportunity

I recently noticed an example of a missed opportunity by a traditional publisher. First to Fight by Roger Moorhouse is a non-fiction book about the German-Polish war in 1939, that marked the start of the Second World War in Europe. It’s currently available for pre-order, and will be released on 5th September 2019.

Anniversaries and Marketing

The book covers the German war with Poland, which began on the 1st September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. That invasion led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany on 3rd September. The first and third of September 1939 will be very familiar dates to anyone even remotely interested in the book’s subject matter. If the publisher had chosen a release date just two or four days earlier, the book’s release would have coincided with the eightieth anniversary of one of those events.

For non-fiction books, anniversaries of important events can be a useful marketing hook. The start of the Second World War was a huge historic event, and the 80th anniversary is bound to get some media attention. Having the book’s release date coincide with that could have given the release a useful marketing boost.

I had a quick look at a few other books by the same publisher. They were all released on Thursdays, suggesting that the publisher has a policy of releasing on Thursdays. There are probably good reasons for that policy, but I suspect a little flexibility on their part would have paid dividends. An independent author would have been able to take advantage of this opportunity without any difficulty.

Images, Resolution, and DPI

If you’re an author, you should be comfortable with words, but you’re probably less familiar with images, especially technical issues such as resolution and DPI (dots per inch). For most authors, this isn’t a problem most of the time. But if you’re dealing with images in print books or on merchandise, you may come across a phrase such as “Images must have a resolution of at least 300dpi”. This article will help you understand these terms and their importance, so that you can select suitable images for print books and printed items such as bookmarks.

Digital Image Sizes

Digital images are made up of pixels, and so their size is given as pixels wide and pixels tall. By zooming in, you can see the individual pixels that make up the image, and instead of looking smooth, edges start to look rough and jagged.

The word "Pixels" as an image
The image viewed normally
An image of the word "Pixels", zoomed in to the top of the letter e, to show the pixels.
The same image, zoomed in to the top of the letter e

See the images above. The first one is the image viewed normally, the second one shows the top of the letter “e”, zoomed in so that individual pixels start to become visible.

Printing

Example image, 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall

When printing, each pixel in the digital image becomes a dot of ink on the page, hence the term “dots per inch”. A lower resolution image has a smaller number of dots to distribute, and so has less detail. When printing images that are to be viewed at a close distance, such as book covers and bookmarks, the resolution should be at least 300dpi. In other words, there should be 300 pixels for every inch in the printed image.

As an example, an image that is 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall, printed at a size of one inch wide and two inches tall, would look good. In this example there are 300 pixels for every inch of printed image. If it were printed at two inches wide and four inches tall, the 300 pixels of width would be spread over two inches, so each inch would only have 150 pixels. Viewed at a typical reading distance, the image would appear indistinct and low quality. If you’re printing something like a poster that will be viewed from a greater distance, you may be able to use a lower resolution, but your printer will be able to advise on this.

Taking book covers as another example, a common size is six inches wide and nine inches tall. For the cover image to be 300dpi, it needs to be (6 x 300) pixels wide and (9 x 300) pixels tall. This equates to 1,800 pixels wide and 2,700 pixels tall. If the image was 600 pixels wide and 900 pixels tall, it would have a resolution of only 100dpi when printed at 6” x 9”.

Resizing

It may seem like a simple matter to take a small image and resize it to make it large enough to print at high resolution. Image editing software makes this easy, but won’t always give good results. A small image simply doesn’t have the same amount of information as a larger image. When resizing in this way, the software adds pixels in a process called interpolation, but the results are often of poor quality.

On the other hand, if you have a large file such as a print book cover, you might want to resize it to a smaller version for posting on the web. This works well, but make sure that you use “Save as” to save the small version as a new file. It’s important to keep the large original because you can’t use the small version to recreate the large one.

Also, note that JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) files are lossy. Every time you save a file in this format, some information is lost and cannot be restored. For this reason, always keep the original file and work from that.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to Henry Hyde for checking the technical details, and Glory Ralston for checking the advice was understandable. Any remaining issues are my responsibility.

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