Kevin Anderson: Get your Book Published Fast with New York Times Bestselling Authors

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Kevin Anderson & Associates is one of America’s most comprehensive ghostwriting, editing, and publishing consultation companies, offering professional services for agents, publishers or authors looking to make their mark in the industry.

Established in 2007 by Kevin Anderson, his small academic tutoring service has bloomed into an international ghostwriting company with over 200 writers and editors. Their client list includes New York Times #1 bestselling authors, top literary agents, Big-5 publishers, celebrities, and Fortune-100 business executives.

Kevin shared the roots of his company, why renowned writers and editors choose to join KAA, and his advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to write a book.

From Harvard graduate student to CEO

Kevin had no intention of being a ghostwriter. “When I was in grad school, my thought was going to be a professor. So I came to school to study literary theory,” he said. Planning to get his PhD in Harvard, he started tutoring for a company while completing his studies. He marketed the Harvard tutoring and soon became too busy to keep up with everything on his own. “It just made sense that if you’re too busy, then hire other people to make up margin.”

He then started hiring his classmates to manage that. His team of all-PhD staff and Ivy League professors eventually caught the attention of a few small publishers who wanted them to edit and format full-length manuscripts. Besides tutoring, his team was also editing, rewriting, and ghostwriting books.

“I never really liked having ghostwriting books so closely associated with a company that’s doing academic work and editing. We just felt like it’d be much better to just niche down on both,” Kevin revealed. So, after identifying a niche for a professionalized approach to book writing and editing, he decided to launch KAA.

What sets KAA apart

With an experienced staff of New York Times bestselling writers and former acquisitions editors, it is no wonder that KAA has become one of the most sought after firms in the ghostwriting, editing, and publishing industry. They have had great success with their team approach that offers clients focused attention from multiple industry experts who work collaboratively towards making fantastic stories come alive, one chapter at a time.

I asked Kevin how he’s able to hire these notable editors and even former editorial directors from the Big-5 publishers. What’s making them come over?

“At a publisher, you’re dealing with all kinds of board meetings and you’re in all kinds of creative meetings that don’t necessarily have to do with the texts that you’re editing or the author,” he answered. “A lot of them were doing their editing, like in off-hours. The time they’re actually editing and working with the manuscript was like in the evenings and weekends, because the days were all filled up with other meetings.”

Working at KAA allows them to focus on what really matters and do their task at hand without all the unnecessary meetings that put a strain on their time and productivity.

Tips for entrepreneurs who want to write a book

Kevin shared his top three tips for entrepreneurs who want to write a business book in their expertise.

The first thing you need to consider is what your publishing goals are. What is the reason why you’re writing this book? “If it’s for your business, if it’s to establish credibility or authority in your space, then you want to make sure that you’re going down a path that’s really going to achieve that goal,” Kevin said. Think about what you want from your book in the long run. Once you publish it, it’s going to be out there for a long time.

Second, think about how you want to write it. A lot of time and effort goes into writing a book so it’s important to know the time commitment and focus required. As a busy entrepreneur, it can be difficult when you’re juggling so many different responsibilities and tasks on top of your day-to-day work in running a business – but this is where having specialists come into play. Think about how to leverage your time while still working toward what matters most: building up your company.

Finally, hire a consultant who knows the industry to guide you through the process. Hiring a ghostwriter would be the biggest time-saver. A professional editor or book coach can also guide you with the structure and process and help you keep on pace with certain goals.

“I would definitely recommend hiring somebody who knows the whole industry, who knows the various paths and options.. Hiring someone as a consultant to just guide you through that,” he asserted.

Have you ever wanted to write and publish your own book? Check out my full conversation with Kevin on the Fascinating Entrepreneurs podcast!

Transcript from Podcast

[00:00:00] Kevin: If it’s really about building authority for your business, you want to make sure that book really speaks to that off-brand in any way, or maybe go into the weeds on a specific issue. So we really want to think about what is the reason why you’re writing this book.

[00:00:12] Natasha: Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

If you’d like to know how to scale and grow your business and make more profit sign up on my website, natashamiller.co to get on the wait list for my entrepreneurial masters course.

Today I get to talk to Kevin Anderson who helps authors get their books written, edited, and published mostly by traditional publishers. He talks about the top three things a writer should keep in mind when starting a project and what he’s doing to scale and grow his own company this year.

[00:01:13] Kevin: The development was, it was just one opportunity after another and just seizing them.

And it just kinda happened. So there was a moment at which a publisher, it was a vanity publisher, pay-to-play publisher, reached out and they wanted us to edit their books. At the time we had all PhD staff, it was mostly Ivy league professors that were on the team and they just really love that rigor when it came to editing.

So they reached out and they wanted to do about 10 books or so a month editing their books, which we started doing right away. And we loved the transition. Editing books was way more fun than editing or tutoring on the academic side. So right away, we really loved that whole part of the business. And then they started.

There’s a couple of books that really needed more than editing, really needed rewriting, or even finishing that a couple of unfinished projects. And at that point we were doing more and more of these book projects. We were just doing too much. We were doing resumes. We were doing tutoring and we were doing books.

We were doing not just editing, but also ghost writing books. I never really liked having ghost-writing books so closely associated with a company that’s doing academic work and editing. We just felt like it’d be much better to just niche down on both and just really focus everything because even marketing everything was, it was kinda tough to be with your SEO and all your marketing was just getting way too broad.

So yeah, so I hired a CEO to run dissertation editor and basically just take it over completely. Obviously I check in every week and we talk about the company, but essentially he runs it completely. We opened up a shop in London. It’s called Thesis Editor. ‘Cause over there dissertations are called theses and vice versa and he just oversees all of that.

And then I decided, because it was way more fun to work with books to go this route. And that’s where my day job went was with Kevin Anderson and Associates.

[00:02:59] Natasha: When did that happen?

[00:03:01] Kevin: Yeah, that was seven years ago when we did the rebrand and split the company. It was a game changer because we could just focus everything on books. Obviously we incorporated the company right away and I brought my best staff over that really were good with books. And so we already had a pretty good team, from the very beginning.

[00:03:18] Natasha: And when you say we, are you running this company, are you sole owner or do you have partners?

[00:03:25] Kevin: No. Yeah. It’s just me.

All the companies have started three. They’ve all been just, it’s always been me, no investment, no partners. But for better, for worse, I have to say there’s been times where I’m like, man, maybe I should have really got some investors and some partners not just been at this solo. But yeah, it’s still just a privately held company by S-corps and at least for the time being.

We’ve had some interesting offers over the years. Some of them we’ve strongly considered, but we really like to be independent and be able to really advise our clients in that way. So far I’m definitely open to it. But for now we’re staying as escort with one owner.

[00:04:01] Natasha: So you went to Harvard for grad school and that wasn’t for business.

How are you getting educated or how did you get educated? It’s an ongoing process on running a business.

[00:04:13] Kevin: Yeah, that was all just learn as you go. Definitely. The last thing I ever thought I was going to be was a business owner, like growing up and stuff. And at first I wanted to be a teacher because I really love teaching kids.

I did a lot of that, lifeguard and swimming instructor, and I just always really love learning and teaching. When I was in grad school, my thought was going to be a professor. So I came to school to study literary theory. I assumed I was going to go on to get my PhD. And then I’d probably be stuck at some small liberal arts college in the middle of the Midwest for six years.

So I got my tenure track and then that was the vision for my life at that point. I guess it all started when I was tutoring for a company. And at the end of the session, they had to book a certain amount of time. At the end of the session, she begged me to stay and they were supposed to book like certain hours and book them ahead of time and pay for them ahead of time.

And she just said, “I’ll pay you whatever they pay you. I’ll pay you. We won’t tell them, just he’s got this exam tomorrow, you got to help me out.” And I was like, okay, fine, whatever they pay me. And I said, it was like 25 bucks an hour or something like that. And her mouth dropped because she was paying them like 80 or something.

And at that point I was like, yeah, I should just sell myself for 80. So I went on Craigslist and started advertising for myself as a tutor, which was totally fine. I was a freelance tutor. It wasn’t bound by that company. I could do my own freelance as well. And I’ve marketed the Harvard thing and soon I became too busy to keep up with my own.

So it just made sense that if you’re too busy, then hire other people to make up margin, which I did. So I hired my friends to start doing that. And then sooner or later someone came online who said, “Hey, I don’t want you to tutor me. I just want you to edit. I’ve got a paper. I’d like to have someone from the academic background. Just give me some pointers on this paper and tell me what I need to do. And what’s working and what’s not.” So we did that.

[00:05:55] Natasha: Back to how you learned how to run a business, how did you learn how to interpret financial documents and know the terms like EBITDA and creating core values and a vision, and really building out a team and creating and running a business and scaling and growing?

[00:06:14] Kevin: You learn pretty fast what you don’t know. It only takes so many payrolls to run where you’re like, “Oh my God, I need to get somebody to help me out here.” Same with taxes. So it doesn’t take long before I started to just hire the people that I needed to just help me out. But I did run payroll for a while.

Did all that myself and just, I didn’t have a mentor or anything like that. It was more just researching online and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do. And yeah, at times it was really nerve wracking because you’re not a specialist at any of that stuff, so you don’t want to make a mistake and then ended up in trouble.

Pretty early on when I started hiring those kinds of things. And then when it came to building the company and corporate culture and just figuring out what we really wanted to do and the vision, it just really happened organically. And a lot of it was done in retrospect, like something would happen and we’d look back and we were like, we really should set this up differently so that doesn’t happen again.

And what are we missing here? And just figuring out. Some of it had to be figured out retroactively. And then eventually as we got bigger, we were able to hire people that had experience with those kinds of things. So that helped a lot.

[00:07:14] Natasha: And how big is your team? Full-time employees now?

[00:07:18] Kevin: So Kevin Anderson & Associates is 20 full-time, W2’s in-house and that’s our core talent. All of our executive editors and the people that are really overseeing the whole project from an editorial standpoint are all W2’s. And then we have about, I think we’re close to 200 1099s, and a lot of those that essentially work full time for us, but just the nature of it. It makes sense for them to be a 1099.

[00:07:42] Natasha: I don’t know if you guys had an, I think it was United States, the AB5 law about contractors having to bring them on as employees that scared the crap out of me before COVID. And it was really enacted to protect the Uber and the Lyft drivers, but then it blanketed everybody basically, that was working as a 1099 employee.

But eventually musicians and artists got carved out of it. So that was a relief. So we have hundreds of 1099s too. So moving on, if you were speaking to an entrepreneur that’s considering writing a book, what are the top three things you would ask them or demand of them to pay attention to?

[00:08:28] Kevin: So as an entrepreneur in any venture?

[00:08:30] Natasha: Let’s just say for the sake of who mostly is listening to the podcast, nonfiction, some sort of a business book in their expertise.

[00:08:40] Kevin: They want to write a book. It’s an entrepreneur. What are the three top things I should consider? First and foremost, you got to understand what your publishing goals are.

Like think about what you want from this book in the, yet what’s your game from six months, a year and a half, five years. Once you write a book and put it out there that it’s going to be out there for a long time. And you really need to understand what you want from that book. If it’s for your business, if it’s to establish credibility or authority in your space, then you want to make sure that you’re going down a path that’s really going to achieve that goal.

So you’re not going to want to self publish with some rinky-dink press. That’s not going to show any authority for your product. You’re also gonna wanna make sure that the topic of the book, If it’s really about building authority for your business, you want to make sure that book really speaks to that off-brand in any way, or maybe go into the weeds on a specific issue.

So we really want to think about what is the reason why you’re writing this book. That’s going to direct you in how you’re going to write it, what the topic is going to be, what publishing model you’re going to want to achieve. The second thing I would say, think about how you want to write it. Are you really going to be able to write it yourself?

Is that a reasonable goal to have that you’re going to… IT takes a long time to write a book. I was just talking to John Lee Dumas on his podcast. I think he said he spent 480 hours writing this book, which I think is probably common for a lot of people. So before jumping in, I think you should at least think about how are you going to leverage your time because you’re a busy entrepreneur.

Like I said before, you don’t do your own taxes, probably don’t do your own payroll. You don’t do all these other things that specialists specialize in and can do much more efficiently than you. And it also allows you to leverage your time and still work on the things that you do best like your business.

[00:10:14] Natasha: I have to ask you this, Kevin, I was just thinking about what you’re just saying now.

And you, and I will freely say my CPA, my CFO, my accountant. Nobody’s out there going, my ghost writer.

[00:10:27] Kevin: Some people are.

[00:10:28] Natasha: Some people are, but most not. Yeah, there you go. There you go.

[00:10:33] Kevin: And so it doesn’t have to be a ghost writer. Obviously we do a lot of ghost writing and that definitely is the biggest time-saver that you’re leveraging the most of time and their skill when you’re doing a ghost writing arrangement.

But it could be a book coach. It could be just an editor to just keep you on pace with certain goals that you have to make sure that you’re actually making progress. And a professional editor or a book coach can really help you a lot with just figuring out the process and giving you tips on how to move forward with the book and structure it, et cetera.

So you really want to make sure though that you’re going in with a reasonable expectation of what it’s going to take in terms of time and how you want to leverage that time with hiring a specialist. And I guess this would be maybe the third thing and kind of stemming from that is, I would definitely recommend hiring somebody who knows the whole industry, who knows the various paths and options, hiring someone as a consultant to just guide you through that.

[00:11:24] Natasha: That’s going to be me very soon because I, for two years have been a professional publishing researcher. I have kept copious notes and I don’t know everything, but I know enough to know that it is the wild west out there. And a lot of my fellow entrepreneurs just go a very simple route to what you would probably call self-publishing.

But that publisher likes to call themselves a professional publisher and they don’t look around at other options and opportunities. And so for me, this process of writing my book, I needed to know not all of the avenues, but I wanted to know all the best ones.

[00:12:10] Kevin: Exactly. Because there are literally thousands of publishers and self-publishers and hybrid publishers, professional publishers, and there’s tons of them that are great.

And so it’s really just a matter of figuring out which model is going to be best for you and your publishing goals and what you want from the book. And what’s possible too. Not everyone can go to a traditional publisher. There’s certain things that you have to have including platform possible resources, et cetera, for you to even be considered by a traditional publisher.

And so there’s a lot to consider just in terms of what’s your timeline. Traditional publishing takes a lot longer typically than a hybrid. Although some of the hybrids and professional publishers, they might take a year and a half too, depending on what they’ve got going on in their capacity. And there’s also other things to consider like marketing and publicity, targeting bestseller lists.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the lay of the land and there’s lots of options and you just don’t want to be out there having to figure out who’s the best at all these different things yourself, because you can’t trust yourself because you have now maybe are getting close to being an expert on this after two years.

But that’s two years, right? If you hired somebody that already for instance, like we’ve been doing this for over a decade, we’ve done thousands of books. We would do about 500 a year and we’d work with all the different kinds of publishers, all kinds of publicists and marketers, et cetera.

So if you hire that person, they can just direct you to say, “Oh here’s your budget. Here’s your publishing goals. This is the top three paths I have for you. And the exact people that you might want to align with to make that all happen.”

[00:13:33] Natasha: It would’ve been really nice for me to have found that person two years ago. Although, if I had, then I wouldn’t have had this experience, then I won’t have the knowledge that I have now, which honestly, I love figuring it out.

I feel like I’m cracking the code. There’s no code to be cracked, but I’m still going to try.

[00:13:52] Kevin: Yeah, exactly. And it’s great that you were able to do that. ‘Cause then you probably have a pretty high degree of confidence eventually of what you’re doing. But this was a major reason why our business, cause at first we weren’t doing any of that.

We weren’t doing like the whole navigation. We weren’t helping people. Figure out the whole path. We were just writing and editing books. It was just, that was the service. And then once it was done. But just continually, we just found our clients were just constantly confused by the industry and what was what, and they didn’t know where to go next.

And then we would get a lot of them coming back with just horror stories. They would go to these, I won’t name any specifics, but there’s some common names out there, and they would go to these publishers and they just have a terrible experience. And then they would come back to us and we hear all these horror stories.

And so eventually we learned as we went too, because we weren’t from the publishing industry originally. We were doing all academic tutoring and everything. So we actually had to learn much like you did. We had to learn as well. We had to learn this whole industry and figure out who was who and who we wanted to refer our clients to.

And when you’re doing 500 bucks a year, you’re working with a lot of different authors with a lot of different budgets. And we have a dozen billionaires that we were working with the hedges. Massive budgets that we could just figure out exactly who the top people were.

And so to this day, a big part of our process is just figuring out what a client’s goals are, their budget. And then through this big mess of an industry, what is going to be like the best path that’s gonna work for them? It’s not always just one answer. There’s better answers.

And so we try to give a couple options for all of our clients and then let them decide among them. But at least they know that they’ve got great options.

[00:15:19] Natasha: So Kevin when you started this year, it may have been late last year when you did this, or it could have been early this year when you were looking at what you could do to scale and grow your business this year.

Was there one main strategy that you focused on really developing this year?

[00:15:37] Kevin: Yeah, I think it probably did start more last year, but we never did any kind of outreach as a company. It was always just, we’re more just focused on what we were doing. We would do advertising like Google ad words, advertising a little bit, but we never, ever reached out and try to do networking or anything like that.

Everything just came to us whenever we had to reach out, but it would always be for something specific, like we needed to hire a marketer for this author. So then about a year ago, we had built some really great relationships with literary agents and publishers.

But about a year ago, we decided it was time to really reach out to more networking partners. So that was a big change. I would say it was part of the strategy, but part of what made this strategy very effective is that we hired editors from the traditional publishing space. So like Brené Brown’s editor at Harper Collins and Random House before then we hired her.

We hired Robert Kiyosaki’s editor from HMH. And so we brought on these really key notable editors, Jen Sincero’s editor, and hired them full-time onto our team. And their former job was the editorial director at Hachette. And then we’re pulling them over to arts teams.

[00:16:40] Natasha: And what made them want to come over? I’m curious about that.

[00:16:44] Kevin: Yeah. Okay. I don’t know if you want me to answer the question though, of the expansion. Maybe I’ll just close that loop and then I’ll go right back. We’ll talk about why they came over. So when they came over, though, when our agents are pitching to the industry, they’re pitching to all of these editors that we are now bringing down to our team.

And since they were such notable editors, like Jack Welch’s editor. And so they knew all of these agents, so it really was a nice, a warm introduction to a lot of these agents for our firms. So that was a major area of growth. The last year where our agent connections went from maybe 15 or 20 agents that we were working with pretty regularly to now we’ve been in touch.

We would probably have corresponded with 300, 400 agents in the last six months to a year. So that was a big change. Now why would this editor, this executive level editor, editorial director at an imprint and a big five publisher, why would they come and join our team? It’s not for everybody, but thing that really attracts them.

Most of them, if you were to talk to them and I have, and I get the same answer is that they really can work on books and authors with us. At a publisher, you’re dealing with all kinds of board meetings and you’re in all kinds of creative meetings that don’t necessarily have to do with the texts that you’re editing or the author.

You’re in a big company. So change and stuff happens very slowly, but the biggest thing really for them was just that they weren’t able to just put.. A lot of them were doing their editing, like in off hours. The time they’re actually editing and working with the manuscript was like in the evenings and weekends, because the days were all filled up with other meetings.

[00:18:12] Natasha: That’s amazing. They get their glory. They get a lot of experience and then they get these big names under their belts, and then they can come to what sounds like a beautiful oasis when they come to work with you, because then they can do what they really love and not the managerial or your ocracy or heavy corporate culture.

So that’s amazing. And then, so on the strategy for doing more outreach and networking, what did that look like for you as far as getting more clients?

[00:18:43] Kevin: It was actually shamefully simple. It was really just, we would talk with the editors that we were hiring. Where are the agents that you’re really close with and have done a lot of work with.

Let’s put a list together of emails and let’s do a personalized email to each one, letting them know where you’re at now, where you’ve landed and then invite them to talk about possibly working together. And we’re still in the process of doing that.

We’ve done it a couple of rounds, because as you can imagine, your calendar fills up really fast when you’re doing these. But since they had such great relationships with them, it was really a pretty easy process. Like time-consuming but relatively straightforward.

[00:19:16] Natasha: Are you ready for the growth that it will be stimulated by those conversations?

[00:19:22] Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve grown a lot like 2021, we’re double our revenues from 2020 and 2020 was double the revenues from the year before. And even the year before we were in a 30% growth rate year by year.

So we’ve been growing quickly. It hasn’t always been, as it’s not always easy. There’s lots of little things that you don’t even realize are going to be problems that come up when you’re growing fast. The hardest part is just the closeness that you lose from each of your team members, right? Like the bigger you get, the less you actually engage with their entire team.

[00:19:51] Natasha: That’s my next question. Right now, today, what is the biggest challenge you’re facing in running your business?

[00:19:58] Kevin: It’s a personal and professional thing, because it really does pain me when I just don’t know some of my staff as well as I would love to. I’d love to know what they’re doing every day and just be a part of that process. And also be part of the process for identifying issues and resolving them.

So for instance, sometimes now I’ll finally get a meeting with one of my staff. I try to do hour long meetings every couple of months with the staff where they can just talk about anything.

We’ll just get just a one-on-one sit down. And now we’ll get these things where they’ll say, “Oh yeah, this thing has been popping up.” They’ll describe this process. And I’ll be like, “What? What do you mean that’s been happening? “And it’s it’s been happening for months. And I’m like, ” , I can’t believe that.”

And then we figured it out and resolve it. Whereas when it was like a five person team and we always knew what everybody was doing. And so you always knew, like you could identify these things and correct them. There’s been a couple of situations where I just, it would have saved everyone, especially the staff member, a lot of pain and confusion if I would’ve known about it.

But that’s how it works. As you scale, it’s just harder to identify all these little things and you can’t micromanage everything because you don’t have the time. And people, I’ve learned that people don’t like that either.

[00:21:00] Natasha: I agree with you on that. I was doing regular meetings with my team.

And especially when COVID came, I was like, “You know what, guys? I don’t think you like meeting regularly like this and to tell you the truth, I don’t either. So let’s do it this way. Why don’t you tell me at any given time, if you want to do a one-on-one, I’ll do the same and let’s just go on with our lives.” And it has been beautiful.

But I will say Kevin, in case you don’t know of these two tools that I think would be incredibly helpful to you and to anyone listening that has a challenge of running their company, it’s scaling and growing, and they don’t really have a recurring pulse on what’s happening, right? You don’t want to wait weeks to months before something comes to you is you can either do EOS traction or Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up.

They’re very similar. They’re operating systems for our business. And once you learn about them and you implement them into your company, it’s so freeing because everything becomes more succinct. The communication is, there’s a system and process for it. And if everyone’s participating like they should be, and you wouldn’t be the implementer, you’re the visionary.

Someone else from your team would be the implementer of the system. And then you can’t lose if everyone is participating. That is my gift to you and for the listeners.

So EOS traction, entrepreneurial, and the other is Scaling Up. And I would say, I’m not an expert in Scaling Up. I chose EOS because I wasn’t trying to build a billion dollar company and Scaling Up really is pulling people way up and out and scaling and growing to a much larger business type than I anticipate my core business being. So they’re both great. They’re very similar. Scaling Up was first and EOS traction is Gino Wickman’s version, not version, but his take on how to do this. So I really recommend to everyone. Look into it.

If you’re really small, like three people only, it would be hard to implement, but as you grow and you have teams and you have six or more employees, that’s when it starts to become just incredible. So anything else that we haven’t talked about that you want to talk about on the podcast?

[00:23:30] Kevin: Obviously we love writing books and making those author dreams come true. It’s a niche business, but it’s so fun because you’re also really part of the conversation on the mainstream as well. So it’s a wild ride. You meet a lot of, there’s some great stories, most of which we can not share, but it is really a lot of fun.

It’s a fun industry to be in, and it’s an industry that’s really changing rapidly and just has so many. And I think that’s why it needs to change.

[00:23:59] Natasha: Kevin has built an incredible business full of editors from the big five traditional publishing companies and has an impressive track record. For more information on him and his business, please visit the show notes where you’re listening to this podcast.

For more information about me, go to my website, natashamiller.co. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, please leave a review where you’re listening to this podcast now. I’m Natasha Miller and you’ve been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

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