LY Podcast: Ep 13 – Experimenting with Crowdfunding to Launch Differently & Learn with Dana Sitar – Launch Yourself

Dana Sitar from WritersBucketList.com shares her experience with creating a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo. An experienced launcher, Dana decided to tackle a new approach to raise funding for a series of courses to help people self-publish their work, without losing rights or spending a lot of their own money.

She shares what she learned from the experience, advice to consider before tackling your own crowdfunding campaign, and what’s next now that the fundraising part of the process is over.  Also, tune in to find out if her campaign was a “success.”

TOPICS DISCUSSED INCLUDE:

  • Team publishing for self-publishers
  • Using the platform
  • Choosing the platform – fixed or flexible funding
  • Does audience size or list size matter when going through a campaign
  • How to measure campaign success outside of dollars raised
  • The critical skillsets you need to be successful with crowdfunding
  • Preparing products in public – the pros and cons of it
  • Making big changes – does your audience notice?

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

 

WANT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH DANA?

 

dana sitar

MORE ABOUT DANA SITAR

Dana Sitar is an author, blogger, and digital publishing coach to entrepreneurial writers and writerly entrepreneurs. She shares resources, tips, and tools to get budding writers out of their heads and onto the page through coaching, courses, and the DIY Writing community at WritersBucketList.com.

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ENJOY THE PODCAST?

Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is a launch yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode. Number 13, featuring Dana sitar.

Melissa Anzman (00:07): Hello, hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast, career, business, and brand advice to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa. Anzman

Melissa Anzman (00:26): Welcome to the launch yourself podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Anzman today. We are going to be chatting with Dana sitar. Dana is an author blogger and digital publishing coach to entrepreneurial writers and writerly entrepreneurs. She shares resources, tips, and tools to get budding writers out of their head and onto the paper through coaching courses and the DIY writing community at writersbucketlist.com. I'm so excited to have Dana on the show. We are sort of part of the same realm of online people who know each other through knowing each other and her experience with her own fundraising campaign through Indiegogo will share a lot of insight and information for you as to what to do and not to do for your own campaign. Please welcome Dana to the show. Hi Dana. Thank you so much for coming on the launch yourself show. Thanks for having me.

Melissa Anzman (01:20): It's been so great getting to know you over the past few years. I actually was introduced to you not personally, but through your work through mutual friends that we have probably Jessica Lawler is the one that pops into my mind or Alexis grant. So both of those people are kind of in our world a little bit and it's been introduced to you through them. Yeah, absolutely. I think I can remember maybe seeing your name around career sites. But definitely Alexis, I have a lot of, a lot of my network goes back to Alexis Grant because I've been following her for so long. So when all else fails, I usually assume that's where it came from. Absolutely. I love that. And my person for that to, you know, as Jenny Blake with Alexis, so it's, it's a whole fabulous web of awesomeness.

Melissa Anzman (02:09): So that being said, I'm so glad to have you on your show. Because you know, we really talk about launches and we define a launch as that moment in time where you make a conscious decision to take your career business or brand to the next level. And what I have found so exciting and following you is that you not only have one launch to talk about, but you want all the time, you're a lot like me in that of there's so many different launches that you and I can talk about. And I think the one that makes the most sense and, and perhaps is the most interesting at the moment is your EPUB campaign launch. So if you could just share some background about that and what that is and what it was about. So we can all start from there. Okay. yeah, I love it. I think it's interesting that you say that and when you reached out to me and said, we have many launches, they're always

Dana Sitar (03:00): Launching, it's one of my favorite things to do, but also one of the biggest lessons that I've learned. And as I'm looking at more of like a five year plan for my business, I'm realizing that I need to slow with the launches a little bit and kind of reign that in and maybe spread them out a little bit. But it's definitely one of my favorite things to do and to work with people on too. But the, the Epub campaign was definitely falls under your definition of a launch of kind of taking, it was a push for me to take my business to the next level. And also it was a huge step for me, kind of personally, to shift my mindset to the next level of how I was going to think about my business. The funding that I was doing this through an Indiegogo campaign and I was fundraising for the Epub co-op, which the original idea of it is a team of it's team publishing for self publishers.

Dana Sitar (04:01): So instead of handing over rights and depending on a traditional publisher or conversely self publishing and having to put up all the money yourself and manage the whole project yourself, the idea is to bring together a team of authors to work together, to swap tasks, capitalize on capitalize on each other's strengths and help each other with where, where they're struggling in order to kind of cover the bases of publishing without so much upfront cost, without handing over their rights. And to also kind of reach into each other's networks when it comes to launching and promoting and that kind of thing. So a community team aspect to publishing. So that was the original concept for the co-op and what I was fundraising for because they needed some sort of upfront money to get something started that authors weren't going to be paying up front for. And it was also kind of in conjunction with that, the launch of my first kind of major product, which is my Epub courses six courses in ebook publishing and the contributors, most of the perks for the campaign were different courses or different combinations of courses. So the contributors mostly were people who were, pre-ordering a spot in the course. So

Melissa Anzman (05:29): Interesting. So, you know, with this launch, you have this fabulous idea of bringing together the things that you love and are so good at around, you know, writing, but also the community of writing and making sure that people can get their books out there without having to either sell their soul to the man or, you know, lose a lot of money in an unsure process. Yes. Awesome. So you went about it in a very way for me, because I, for some reason, for me getting external funding, whatever the source is, just so not even on my radar, like, I don't even think of that as an option, whether it be from VCs or investors or these, you know, Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns, how did you get to the point where this was sort of, this is how you're going to do it, that you needed the money and you were going to open it up to your audience and your your people really to fund it.

Dana Sitar (06:30): I think ultimately I decided to do a crowdfunding campaign because I've never done a crowdfunding campaign before and thought it was something that I needed to see from the back end, because that's kind of how I learn what things are like in the business. And if they're going to work for me or not, I had, it was crowdfunding was on my radar, but I actually generally discounted it as an option for me because I don't like asking for money. I don't even like selling products and asking for money I'm really bad at it. But so then crowdfunding, where basically you're fundraising and you're going out and you're saying, here's what I'm doing right now in grazing money. Please give me money. Was something I didn't want to do, but as I develop the courses and the co op idea, I realized and I had maybe a year ago or a year and a half ago, Seth Godin kinda got crowdfunding on the radar and self publishing as a preorder thing.

Dana Sitar (07:29): And people have really been doing it that way a lot more instead of where Kickstarter started, like bands would do a fundraising to put out an album or something. Self-Publishers kind of started doing crowdfunding and online marketers as a preorder campaign, which is how I decided to run it, which is instead of fundraising where my main selling point was asking people to support me and give me money. My main selling point was you could sign up for these courses before they were available to anybody else. And they were all about half off or some level of discount, depending on how many courses you registered for it. So it was a preorder and that was my main selling point instead of reaching out to people who had no interest in ebook publishing and just asking for support.

Melissa Anzman (08:19): Gotcha. So I love the idea. I love the concept and the platform having no experience myself with a crowdfunding campaign and, and probably a lot of our listeners are interested in doing that for their own project. Can you sort of walk us through the nuts and bolts behind the scenes and, and maybe what you learned throughout the process, what was surprising or not using this Indiegogo platform?

Dana Sitar (08:46): I can definitely do that. I will preface it saying that I didn't have a very financially campaign and we can get into that a little more later. And I am not a crowdfunding expert. I know that, but I can, I can talk about what I learned through the process the first major decision that I had to make. And it was actually a struggle for me to decide whether to use, I know there are a lot of platforms out there, but my main decision was between Kickstarter or Indiegogo. And the, the biggest difference between those two is Indiegogo offers a flexible funding option and Kickstarter does not. So, and Indiegogo also has a fixed funding option too. So the decision is whether you get money, you get whatever money you raise, or you have to raise your goal in order to get any of the money.

Dana Sitar (09:40): And that's kind of how people picture crowdfunding is you have to reach your goal in order to get any of the funding cause that's how Kickstarter does it. And I struggled with that decision for a long time, because I was afraid of flexible funding, being a cop out and saying that I didn't have to reach my goal because I would get whatever money I raised. And that worried me a little bit. And I, I talked about it a lot actually with my coach and my mastermind group and other people who had done crowdfunding and that sort of thing. And what I realized was that I'd never done crowdfunding before. I'd never tried to raise this kind of money before. Never had done a project like this before everything that was involved was completely brand new. So in order to set a goal for funding, I had to just, it was a shot in the dark. I just had to make something up because I didn't know what would be reasonable. And so in to have a fixed funding campaign that required me to raise that amount of money was also a little bit unreasonable because I didn't know where to go. So I decided to go with the flexible funding. And so I went with Indiegogo.

Melissa Anzman (10:49): What was your fundraising goal that you set?

Dana Sitar (10:53): I set it at $2,500.

Melissa Anzman (10:56): Okay. So I mean, in the scheme of the whole Kickstarter, Indiegogo world, not, you know, I've seen some for millions of dollars, so 2,500, isn't the end of the world, or super unrealistic to get to. But what I find very interesting about your journey through this crowdfunding platform is that like me, you're not a big or keen on, I should say sales of, you know, getting out there, being the pitch, man, you know, even with your own product. So how did you set yourself up for, to get even $2,500? What was the plan? How did you figure out how to continuously push outside your comfort zone for that?

Dana Sitar (11:44): The, the main thing was when I came up with that $2,500 number, I, I went through the numbers meticulously. I like different of if I have this many funders, you know, getting these perks, if I get this many fund or getting these parks and all these different combinations. And, and then do I have the ability to reach that number of funders with the network that I have in the audience that I have? So I concluded that that was the case and that I would be able to do that. So in pushing outside of my comfort zone, the biggest thing was that with the promotion that I would do for the campaign, I would be asking, I would be promoting a product at a higher price point than anything I'd ever done. I had promoted, I had a successful launch at the beginning of last year for my first ebook, a writer's bucket list.

Dana Sitar (12:40): And that was at the time a 995 price point. And then I did a Kindle launch for that at 495. So that's the highest that I've really gone with products. And that's a little easier ask. And the crowdfunding I was promoting, the main thing I was promoting was buy in for the courses at $90, which was for all the courses that half off. So that was a bigger ask. So even all of the promotion that I was comfortable with, which was mostly guest posting and other things like that to sort of reach out into my network was a harder ask for me. And I wasn't quite sure how to do that, but I pushed myself sort of into that uncomfortable area because it had elements of things I was comfortable with. And it was confident with the course, I'd done a beta run of it with trusted people to give me feedback and that kind of thing. So I was confident with what the course was and, and confident that I was connecting with blogs and other networks that would benefit from the courses. So that part was fine. I just had to get comfortable with the numbers.

Melissa Anzman (13:53): Yeah, absolutely. And one thing that you briefly mentioned before that I'd love to dig into is more around the result. So, you know, while it's not, like I just mentioned, it's not millions of dollars, it was still a new platform for you and for your audience to reach out, you know, and understand how to give and how to participate. And one of the interesting ones that I've watched from afar, and I don't know if you had as well was Paul Jarvis's. I think he did a Kickstarter campaign trying to fund his next book and he ended up canceling it, even though he hit his goal because he just wasn't feeling that he's connecting with the right people. And so I think there's so many reasons that a campaign can be successful or be considered a failure that doesn't sit on money, but can you talk to us when you mentioned, you know, it wasn't successful monetarily what you did about it when you knew that was the case and then

Dana Sitar (14:52): What you did learn from that experience? Yeah. I'm going to look into the Paul Jarvis thing. I didn't follow that, but that's really interesting. So and it's a really good point that different things can kind of mean successes in different ways. So I had a goal of $2,500 and I raised a little over a thousand. So for me financially, I considered it a success because a thousand dollars was my threshold for whether or not I would move forward with the co op idea at all, that if I can't raise at least a thousand dollars, I'm going to, I'll go back to the drawing board. So there was a success in that at least that became sort of my secondary goal. When I realized there wasn't going to hit 2,500 and I also considered it a success in that I was able to, I was seeing excitement from my community for these new things that I was coming out with for the ebook publishing courses for the co op idea.

Dana Sitar (15:48): People were excited when I, when I was telling them about what I had planned. I, the biggest lesson that I learned and, and why I didn't raise the money, I, I can say pretty definitively is the thing, the idea that I don't like asking for money, first of all, I didn't ask enough people for money. So I didn't raise enough money. If I had kept asking people, I would have raised $2,500 instead of a thousand. But I, I realized that I don't, I don't have enough of an audience to, to make the campaign successful on bootcamp. That was what I was calling the courses at the time, the, the EPUB courses pre-orders alone. So I got a satisfactory amount of interest in that, but not enough to raise $2,500. And, and in that amount of time too, I realized because the crowdfunding campaign is so time sensitive, you just get this like 30 to 45 days.

Dana Sitar (16:52): I had to, I would've had to find enough people that were interested in ebook publishing and specifically in, in publishing any book at that time, because the course is, is very kind of action-based that way, that it attracts people who are planning on publishing an ebook soon. So within that time window, I couldn't connect with enough people. So then I realized that sort of after my launch week after I had reached out to kind of the major blogs in my network and, and done what I thought was a really great launch of getting on these really good blogs, having really relevant posts getting put, you know, they, they got a response, I got comments and, and page views and that kind of thing, but didn't hit the launch week goal that I wanted to for funding. So I realized, I started to realize like this isn't going to work on bootcamp, preorders alone.

Dana Sitar (17:48): And then I reached out a couple of friends and just that I'm running this, like through Facebook and that kind of thing. I reached out and said, I'm running this crowdfunding campaign and really appreciate your support. And some people, they were really supportive and it was great. And I think if I had reached out to more friends that way I could have gotten more money out of people, but I hated doing it. So after that kind of first post of reaching out to some friends, I stopped doing it because every time I thought about it, I thought they don't follow writer's bucket-list, they're not following the work I'm doing. They're not interested in ebook publishing. It's, it's really nice of them to give me money, but I hate asking for it. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I don't want anybody to think that, but it, I didn't like it.

Dana Sitar (18:32): And I come from this background who I told, like I told my mom about the crowdfunding campaign and some of my I, and she was excited about the boot camp and like the, the, the products that I was launching. But I told her some of my ideas for fundraising and she says kind of sounds like just asking for handouts. And that's kind of the background I come from. So that's how I felt the whole time was just asking for handouts. And I didn't like that. I want to just sell my products. And if my audience is small, that I can't sell $2,500 worth of products in 30 days, then then I guess I can't do that. So I'll just spread it out.

Melissa Anzman (19:10): That's so interesting. And, and I completely understand that mentality I'm the same way. And I don't know if it's, you know, the upbringing for me as much as I just feel bad asking for money. Like I just, it's not in my nature. It's not something that, you know, I've really had practice with. So I completely get that. The I'm curious to know for you is crowd with your experience and all the lessons that you've learned, and, and now, you know, sort of reflecting back on it is crowdfunding a option or a source that you would consider looking to. Again,

Dana Sitar (19:45): It is not. And not because I didn't raise my goal for the money, you know, like I said, I was happy with the amount of money I raised and everything and happy with the experience of the campaign. But the biggest reason that I learned that I don't like crowdfunding and I kind of had to go through this. And I was just, I was actually reflecting on this in preparation for this call too, to kind of figure out why I like really didn't don't want to do it again. The biggest thing I learned was I don't like sort of preparing products out in public like that anymore. I used to do that a lot. Like when I had a book idea, I would give little snippets, I do the cover reveal. I'd say, I'm working on this book. Here's how this process is going. Here's what's coming up.

Dana Sitar (20:34): Here's what I'm learning as I was producing it. And I needed to do that when I was first starting because I needed feedback from people. I really, I needed to connect with people, having the same experiences so that I could learn. And I'm still learning a lot, but I'm doing it in different ways, a little bit. And I like it a little bit more behind closed doors. Like I said, I'm working with a coach, I have a mastermind group. So I have more of a select group of people that I'm learning from instead of putting this all out in public. So the original concept that I had for the courses has morphed a lot since I launched, originally started planning and launched the campaign. And so, and because I was so public with here's, what the courses are going to be because people were buying them. I needed to say what they, what was coming. I have to, I have to kind of make those things work together. The idea that they have morphed into, because that it's better than the original idea I had. I have to make that work with what I originally promised people. And what I was originally saying was coming, instead of being able to just kind of do all that behind closed doors and then launch with something that's the best. It can be that, Oh, go ahead.

Melissa Anzman (21:50): No, I was just, I'm so interested in that because I, I've never really gotten that whole, let me launch out, you know, everything outside and that's just not my nature. So I'm interested for you. How did your audience respond to the shift and also to, you know, sort of the tweaks of those who had bought into the campaign to where it's at right now?

Dana Sitar (22:15): So far, it's been fine. People are just kind of taking the courses as they come the way they are. And I'm being honest about what's going on too. And it's not, it's not these like huge shifts where it was like, well, this was going to be a ebook publishing course, but now it's build a better business course. There's something like completely off it's, you know, small tweaks and kind of the way it's being run. So they're taking it fine. And, and I think also this was something I learned. I think I saw a blog post, like maybe two years ago on a self publishing blog called Catherine caffeinated about how she had, I think, unpublished a self published book or made a major change or something. And the whole thing was how our audience didn't notice at all. And it was this huge kind of revelation for me that the audience doesn't know everything that's going on.

Dana Sitar (23:09): They don't, and they don't care because they have their own thing going on. And while they're really excited when I do put something out in front of them and say, here's this thing I have. And, and here's what I have going on in that moment. And they're having the conversation with me when, you know, then when I move on and, and they go and do something else, they're not thinking like, I wonder what Dana is doing with those eCourses right now. They're not following the transition as much as it's going on in my brain. Right. I think in most cases they don't see where the shift happened. They just see it and they, they might not even remember like the whole description of the courses in the, in the crowdfunding campaign. They just remember the concept of, yes, this is something I want to support.

Dana Sitar (23:55): Yes, this is something I'd be interested in. I'm going to register. And then it comes out and it, it provides the value that was promised and that's all we need. So that's been, it's a good thing to remember, especially as bloggers, where we kind of put our life out there, we think that because we're putting it out there, everybody's following every minute of it. And, and they're just not. And you also, you feel like you've made these promises to your audience, so it's kind of scary to, to change that at all. So that's the reason that I felt like I kinda want to pull back at, at least for product development. I don't have a problem with sharing, you know, the lessons that I learned in life and things that are going on through my blog, but to say like, as soon as I have a book idea to be like, I'm working on this book, I'm so excited about it. You get that writers get that excitement when you first get a book idea. And the first thing you want to do is tell your audience about it, but it's a good idea to wait and allow, give that room to morph into the best thing it can be before sharing,

Melissa Anzman (24:57): You know, as writers or as bloggers. However you want to define yourself. You have to be able to be transparent and share what's going on and, you know, lessons learned and all of those things. I think that's what makes a blog readable and good and relatable, but to keep things a little closer to yourself until they're a little bit more fully developed, I have found has worked so much better because it doesn't usually end up where I thought it started. Exactly. Maybe that's just me, but

Dana Sitar (25:26): No, I think that's the case for everything. And like I said, when I first started blogging and creating products, I was okay with having that a little more out in the open. I think it, it has to do a little bit with money too, because when I'm when I was developing an ebook that I was going to give away for free, that development could be whatever it wanted, because nobody was making an upfront investment in it. But when I'm developing a course that I'm selling for 90 or a hundred dollars and asking people to preorder it and then saying, well, actually in the few months, since you have made that preorder, it's going to change a little, that's a little bit more uncomfortable and that's a little harder to deal with. So I think it's just, it comes with sort of the growth of this thing as a business.

Melissa Anzman (26:11): What would you say is your number one biggest lesson learned from the Epub campaign experience?

Dana Sitar (26:18): Can I say too, how you don't feel pressure to limit? The first one is that idea of producing products out in public, which I just realized is a lot of alliteration, which I didn't mean to do that. Whether it's, pre-ordering some kind of launch, whatever that I want to do a lot more of kind of backend production before even making an announcement to my audience, that I have something. And as far as launching goes, that kind of comes with the realization to have, I think I was afraid, like I wanted to launch something as soon as it was ready, especially like an ebook, as soon as you have a PDF ready to go, I wanted to launch it. So then all of the prelaunch stuff that kind of building excitement would have to happen before the thing was actually ready. And I think I realized like, it's okay to produce that product and sit on it and do the excitement building when you know exactly what the product is and then launch it.

Dana Sitar (27:20): But that, that's an also an okay Avenue to go. And then the other lesson that I learned is that, like I said, I don't have the audience necessary to do like a huge, exciting thing like that in the way that I interact with them, because I don't like asking for money. And I don't necessarily like getting people rallied behind a fundraising idea. I'd rather do more of a, I don't know if I'm using the term correctly, the more of a long tail thing. So I like a little bit of a burst for a launch, but not necessarily focused on money. I like the excitement better. And then let the kind of money trickle in. As people decide, they need a product.

Melissa Anzman (28:02): Love it, love it. Two very important lessons learned. And I think very good key pieces of advice for people when they're evaluating. Is this the right thing for me? Because I do think, you know crowdfunding campaigns are very popular right now. You know, it's going to say all the rage and date myself, but they, they are popular right now. And it seems kind of easy. You just put a campaign out there and you make money. And at the end of the day, it's still asking for money. So it's still selling a product course or deliverable that you have to get people excited about and lined up for, and you have to have a certain audience size for, or you have to be okay making the ask. And I think those are the things, all of those components together and separately that are forgotten when it sort of quick easy solution. Right?

Dana Sitar (28:55): Yeah. It's a launch. I think that I'm, I'm glad that this was the thing you wanted to talk about on this podcast specifically, because I don't think enough people think of a crowdfunding campaign as launching a product. They think of it as a fundraising thing. And maybe that's, maybe that is what I wasn't in the industry enough kind of when Kickstarter started. So maybe that idea worked originally, but now because it's so popular and everybody is doing crowdfunding campaigns, that you have to have something valuable to offer. So even if that valuable thing isn't coming for two months after the campaign ends, you're still launching something. You're launching an idea, a concept or a product through that campaign, and you have to run it the same way. So you have to have the audience to support that the same way you would, if you were out there selling a product.

Melissa Anzman (29:54): And usually I ask next, what is your one piece of advice for someone who's looking to do this? But I think you just gave that. I think you just sort of said, it's a lot to make sure you, you know, line yourself up for a launch and understand all of the pieces of the puzzle. So I won't, I won't have you repeat yourself, but I would like to know what's next and on the horizon for you.

Dana Sitar (30:17): Well, it's a 2014 is a little bit of a quiet year for me because I've decided to pull back on the launching. So the biggest thing that I'm quote unquote launching this year are the Epub courses, which I launched already through the crowd funding campaign, but I'm actually rolling out the courses this over the past few months and I have a couple more to come out over the next month. So most of my year, I'm going to spend just trying to grow those courses instead of putting them out there. This, and this is what I've typically done with launches is put them out there and then move on to the next thing and then launch the next thing and never give them the time they need to grow. So it's all about ebook publishing. So anything that I can do to help people with ebook publishing, I have various stages of the self publishing process.

Melissa Anzman (31:07): Can you please remind everybody where they can find you online?

Dana Sitar (31:11): Everything is at the hub of writersbucketlist.com. Okay,

Melissa Anzman (31:17): Fabulous. I'll be sure to include that in the show notes. And I'll also put all the resources that we talked about there, including all the things that you are working on and, and the fun stuff that's ahead for you. So very exciting. I'm so glad that you decided to share your story of a crowdfunding launch and campaign with us. And especially that you've realized, you know, the lessons of it may not be for everybody. It wasn't as smooth as you would hoped, but it, you still learned a lot from it and are still moving forward with the process and still moving forward with the deliverables just in a way that better suits you. So I appreciate your transparency in that.

Dana Sitar (31:59): Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on to talk about it. It was time I get all that information out there and really reflect on those lessons. So I appreciate the opportunity.

Melissa Anzman (32:10): I hope you enjoy today's episode with Dana sitar. Dana goes way behind the scenes and our episode today about her Indiegogo campaign and the truth about crowdfunding. If you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, you can go to launchyourself.co/session13. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session13. And if you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a great review until next time.

Melissa Anzman (32:40): Thanks for listening to the launch yourself podcast. Join the conversation at www.launchyourself.co.

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