I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, May 28, 2012

May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 4: Adina West Guest Post)

By Rachael Harrie; @RachaelHarrie (with guest post by Adina West; @Adina_West)

A reminder: don't forget to stop by Rach Writes... next Monday, June 4, for my next Beta Match, an opportunity for you to connect with Critique Partners and Beta Readers!!!

Today's post is the last in my May series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. It's been so much fun to do, with guests posts by:

  • Michael Offutt (Monday, May 7, 2012), 
  • Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes (Monday, May 14, 2012), 
  • Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse (Monday, May 21, 2012), and 
  • Adina West from Stairways and Landings (today). 

  • I hope you all enjoyed yourself and found lots of useful information and tips! So, for the last time this series, some agent tips/posts and "link love" on the pros and cons of self- or digital publishing:

    Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

    (Former) agent Nathan Bransford: Traditional vs. Self-Publishing is a False Dichotomy

    And this one: On Self-Publishing and Having a Chip on One's Shoulder

    Other "link love"

    Why do so many Hate Self-Published Books? by Tracey H. Kitts

    3 Tips for Assessing Self-Publishing Companies by Andrew Chapman of Curiosity Quills Press

    David Robinson: One Author's Experiences with KDP Select

    Where will Self-Publishing get Quality Control?: Roz Morris

    How to Self-Publish an E-book by Chris Gaylord

    The Domino Project: Using Ebooks to Promote Ebooks

    Joel Friedlander: Self-Publishing on Unwavering Faith

    Hope these are all interesting and useful! Now on to the digital publishing journey of one of my original Writers' Platform-Building Campaigners, Adina West from Stairways and Landings:

    Guest Post by Adina West of Stairways and Landings

    Campaigners rock!

    Adina West
    Rach and I have shared time in the trenches. We’re both Australian, and even though we originally met online, we’ve been lucky enough to meet up in real life. We started blogging around the same time, (though I am MUCH less prolific) and in 2010 and 2011 I participated in every one of her early platform-building campaigns, and met some wonderful bloggers and writers.

    My fellow campaigners were there for me back in 2010 when I was angsting over my search for an agent. (if angsting isn’t a word, it should be!) Recently, they’ve also shared my exciting news; after an eighteen-month-long search, I’ve finally signed with a publisher! So it feels appropriate that my first ever guest post is for Rach Writes..., our campaign headquarters.

    New beginnings

    My book, Dark Child, will be published by Momentum, the brand new, digital-only division of Pan Macmillan Australia. Working in collaboration with industry professionals to edit and revise the manuscript is really exciting. Many minds are better than one, and I’m confident that all our hard work will result in a better book. 

    My work space
    Here’s a picture of where all this is supposed to happen: my new writing space. My husband and a friend rescued this desk from the roadside for me one rainy night...

    I wrote my first book while sitting at the kitchen table. Or with the laptop in front of the TV. So I’m not sure if this special desk-of-my-own thing will work. But at least now I have a safe place to charge my computer away from my son’s grasping little fingers!

    Down the track, I’ll be very glad to have the expertise and support of my publisher’s marketing team behind me. And other people doing the cover, and layout, and organizing an ISBN, and a myriad of other tasks that I’ve probably never even heard of. I’m very grateful to be able to share the workload with other professionals who can do their various jobs so much better than I could.

    The digital publishing model makes a lot of sense.

    Publishing a title digitally is less expensive than the print alternative, so it’s easier for digital publishers to take a chance on someone new. My book straddles the line between young adult and adult. And it blends genres, with paranormal elements, and suspense, and romance, and a touch of epic fantasy.

    I’ve found Momentum keen to use the flexibility and responsiveness of digital to market my book to as diverse an audience as possible, which is great, because marketing to cross genre audiences can be tricky. And by publishing new writers, they’re playing their part in nurturing the best selling authors of the next generation. I believe the ultimate winner in this scenario will be the reader.
    I’d like to thank Rach for hosting me today – and I hope you’ll share my journey in the months to come. I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.
      About Adina

      Adina West grew up surrounded by trees, on a remote property on Australia's east coast, in country New South Wales.

      "As a child, I was never afraid of the dark," she says. "The night, for me, was filled with infinite possibility."
    Adina wrote her first story at age eight. "I typed it up on my parents' old typewriter," she says. "I knew I wanted to be a writer."

    Though her subject matter may have matured, that desire has remained unchanged.

    Adina lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two children.

    Some random facts about Adina in no particular order:
    • She occasionally drinks tea and coffee to be polite, but prefers rooibos. Or hot chocolate. Or chai (which doesn't make much sense, because it has tea in it)
    • She loves vintage and hand crafted and made-from-scratch. She's also a recovering Etsy addict.
    • She has scraps of paper and computer files and notebooks full of jottings and song lyrics and bad poetry, but Dark Child is her first completed novel.
    • She can't whistle to save her life, but she can whittle.
    • She can dance the Heel and Toe Polka and Pride of Erin. But can't manage a normal waltz.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 3: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi Guest Post)

    Welcome to my May Monday series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. I hope you'll find heaps of information and knowledge within these posts to help you on your writing journey or give you information about the journey other writers are undertaking. I'll have guest posts from:
    They're all either already published or have books that are coming out soon via self-publishing or digital publishing, and they're going to share some of their publishing journeys with you, give you interesting information about self/digital publishing, and even give you the chance to win some cool loot! And each of the four weeks, I'll be popping in some agent tips/posts and "link love" on the pros and cons of self- or digital publishing as well.

    Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

    Sarah LaPolla's interesting post on What's the Deal With Self-Publishing?

    Some link love

    A 2011 article on digital publishing pros and cons: E-Publishing with a Publisher rather than Self-Publishing

    Harlequin Fail - a very frank look at why a long-time published author with Harlequin has turned to self-publishing

    Something Scary Is Happening - an interesting look at Amazon's KDP Select and why they'll never give it up, plus some lessons for Indies

    The Masquerade Crew on 99c Ebooks - Good or Bad?

    I hope you find all these links useful. More next week.

    Guest Post by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, authors of THE EMOTION THESAURUS 

    I'd like to welcome these two lovely ladies to Rach Writes... and thank them for sharing their publishing journey with us. Together, they are responsible for The Bookshelf Muse, and as you will probably know, they've just published their fantastic book, THE EMOTION THESAURUS. They were also behind the massive Random Acts of Kindness blitz you will have seen around the writing community over the last week. Take it away ladies!!!

    Self-Publishing: Taking the Scenic Route

    ANGELA: Becca and I have been writing for a long time, so we’re familiar with setbacks and the occasional detour. What’s that line from Days of Thunder? Rubbin’ is racing. Well, that’s writing. If the path is smooth, you’re not on the writer’s road.

    So when we decided to self publish The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, we were ready for a few bumps! Our cover creation went smooth. We chose Scarlett Rugers, probably the most professional art designer I’ve ever met. You want a great cover, she’s your gal. However the first bump came when our original formatter found that our project was a bit too complex. (To be fair, the ET is not your average book. The fact that it needed someone really experienced in HTML wasn’t a total shock.) She did the right thing to tell us, and luckily, knew just the gal to get it done: Heather Adkins, Formatting Goddess (she really is). WHEW, crisis averted.

    When it came to uploading, Becca and I divvied up tasks. I took on Createspace, and the whole process was a breeze. Provided you do your homework and make sure your Word doc. matches the trim size, and it’s formatted correctly, the process is quick and painless. In a few short days, we had a proof in our hands and suddenly, the book was REAL.

    BECCA: Meanwhile, I was in charge of uploading the various digital files to the different distributor sites. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords were pretty straight forward. Apple, on the other hand...there’s a reason so many people go through a distributor like Smashwords to get to iTunes instead of selling directly through Apple. Their formatting standards are ridiculously picky, there is no phone support for iTunes Connect (their venue for self-publishing), and their wait times are notoriously long; first, you have to apply to self-publish with them (wait up to two weeks for acceptance), then you get to upload your file (and wait two more weeks for your book to go live). Craziness.

    BECCA: Another speed bump that we never foresaw was the multi-authorship of our book. Most distributors had no problem with this. But when I uploaded to Smashwords, there was only one author’s name allowed. I e-mailed them to find out how to include both our names and they matter-of-factly informed me that Smashwords has no protocol for including multiple authors on their listings. End of story. No apology, no this-is-something-we’re-working-on. Just a resounding No. So if you co-author a book with someone and want to distribute it through Smashwords to other venues like Amazon, Sony, or Kobo, know that while your actual book will have both your names on it, the listing at Smashwords will not.

    ANGELA: I’d say over all (possibly with a slight grumble from Becca) that our experience was pretty good. What we did learn is that it’s important to leave yourself a lot of lead time up to your launch. Becca and I uploaded to Smashwords well in advance, but we left others a bit too close to the release date. Had something gone sideways at the wrong time, it could have messed us up or even caused us to postpone.

    Three takeaways from this experience: 
    • Don’t hit ‘Publish’ until you are certain your book is as strong as it would be had you gone through traditional publishing. This is your NAME, your BRAND. If the writing is sloppy, a pretty cover won’t save it. 
    • Unless you know what you’re doing, pay a formatter. A good one. Ask for references and talk to other clients. Trust me, it’s worth the cheddar. You want a painless process, not a pain-filled one. 
    • Hopefully you won’t need it, but leave yourself lots of time for the scenic route, just in case you find yourself on it!
    Angela Ackerman Becca Puglisi are possibly twins separated at birth, living in different countries. The Bookshelf Muse blog duo are co-authors of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with seventy-five different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.

    This book is available in both Print and Digital Formats.


    Thanks so much for sharing your insight, Angela and Becca. Make sure you check out their book, THE EMOTION THESAURUS, which is a must-have for all writers (of course, I've bought my copy already *grins*).

    And make sure you pop back next Monday for the last in my Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing series, a guest post by the lovely Adina West from  Stairways and Landings!


    Monday, May 14, 2012

    May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 2: Rachel Morgan Guest Post) (and Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!)

    Welcome to my May Monday series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. I hope you'll find heaps of information and knowledge within these posts to help you on your writing journey or give you information about the journey other writers are undertaking. I'll have guest posts from:
    1. Michael Offutt (last Monday), 
    2. Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes (today),
    3. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse (May 21), and 
    4. Adina West from Stairways and Landings (May 28).
    They're all either already published or have books that are coming out soon via self-publishing or digital publishing, and they're going to share some of their publishing journeys with you, give you interesting information about self/digital publishing, and even give you the chance to win some cool loot! And each of the four weeks, I'll be popping in some agent tips/posts and "link love" on the pros and cons of self- or digital publishing as well.

    Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

    Natalie Lakosil has answered some Author Q & A on Self-Publishing, including how authors can publish traditionally after self-publishing.

    Rachelle Gardner has written a post on the intriguing question of: Are Agents Running Scared?

    Nathan Bransford has written so many awesome posts on self-/digital publishing. This week his post is about The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing.

    Some "link love"

    Rachel Morgan shares some of her publishing stats in her guest post below. And if you are interested in hearing about the publishing stats of another published author, check out Shelli Johannes's recent post where she gives an Update From the Indie Front: My Indie Sales Update. It's very enlightening to see how she's done over the last six months of self-publishing.

    Tracey H. Kitts has written a post on Why Do So Many Hate Self-Published Books - I don't know if any  of you have experienced this attitude, but it's an interesting read in any case.

    In keeping with the week's focus on "Self-Publishing Stats" and the experiences of self-published authors, here's the post from Amanda Hocking that I mentioned last week, where she talks about the success of her two new series, which are being "traditionally published": How Am I Doing Now?

    I hope all those links are very helpful. And here is Rachel Morgan's guest post, where she gives her experiences of self-publishing and compares Amazon KDP vs Smashwords:

    Rachel Morgan's Guest Post

    Self-Publishing: Amazon KDP vs Smashwords

    Amazon KDP

    • I found the formatting requirements to be simpler than Smashwords.
    • Everyone knows Amazon! More people will come across your book.
    • Bestseller lists. Customers can see your book’s ranking overall on the Kindle Store as well as within specific categories. This is a good thing if your book is doing well, but possibly not a good thing if your ranking isn’t great!

    • Amazon only sells one ebook format—the Kindle format—and so their ebooks can only be read on Kindles.
    • You have to wait up to 48 hours for your ebook to be available for sale.
    • The categories you choose when you upload and publish your ebook are NOT exactly the same as the search categories in the Kindle Store. So all the research I did beforehand (number of books in each category, as well as keyword searches within each category) was almost useless!
    • Your ebook can end up on a random bestseller list, which may confuse readers. For example, in its first week, Guardian ended up on an Anthologies bestseller list, despite the fact that it’s not an anthology!
    • You cannot make your book free unless it is enrolled in the KDP Select program, where you then have the option of 5 free days during every 90 day period. (Unless you try and force Amazon into a price match, but you don’t know how long that will take, or how long it will take for them to put a price back on it.)
    • Your ebook may be “lost” whilst publishing! I hadn’t heard of this until it happened to me! When I published the second installment in the Creepy Hollow series, Labyrinth, I received the standard email from Amazon congratulating me on publishing a book, and giving me the link to where I could find it. However, when I clicked on the link, I got a 404 Not Found error. Over and over again! After some research on the KDP forums, I discovered a few other people had experienced the same problem. One person was still waiting a MONTH later for their book to show up! Fortunately, Amazon “found” my book within a day or two. Phew!


    • Smashwords produces multiple formats of your ebook, so customers can read it on many different e-readers.
    • Smashwords distributes to other online retailers, like Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and Baker & Taylor.
    • Your ebook can be available for sale on the site within minutes (depending on (I imagine) how many other people are uploading at the same time).

    • I found the formatting requirements to be a little more complicated (or at least long-winded) than Amazon’s.
    • Not as many people buy from Smashwords.
    • You have to wait a while for your book to be approved for the Smashwords Premium Catalogue. It took a little over two weeks for Guardian to be approved. (Smashwords won’t distribute your ebook to any retailers until it has been approved.)
    • There are no ranking details for your book.
    • Distribution times. After a book is approved, it is supposed to take one to two weeks to show up on other online retail sites. I found Guardian on Sony, Kobo and Diesel within that time, but a MONTH after it had been approved, when I unpublished Guardian from Smashwords so that I could try out Amazon’s KDP Select program, the book STILL had not shown up on Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore. (That was on April 25th, and I first published Guardian on March 5th)

    Other Comments

    DRM and Piracy
    Another difference between Amazon and Smashwords is DRM (Digital Rights Management). I didn’t list it in the pros and cons, because it can be both a pro and a con! On Amazon you can choose whether you want to apply DRM or not. On Smashwords there is no option. None of their books have DRM. If you don’t want anyone pirating “sharing” your ebook with others, then you’ll want to have DRM. However, honest customers who have no intention of passing on copies of your book may still find this frustrating as it means they can only read your ebook on one device. There have been many debates on whether piracy of ebooks is a good or bad thing, and this blog post isn’t about that. (But you’re welcome to bring it up in the comments if you want!)

    Difference in Sales Numbers
    At the time that I unpublished Guardian and Labyrinth from Smashwords (so that I could try out Amazon's KDP Select program) I had sold about six times more copies on Amazon than through Smashwords. And through the retailers that Smashwords distributes to, I had sold only ONE copy!

    ~  ~  ~

    Thanks so much for that awesome guest post, Rachel! Here is her bio and her links:

    Rachel Morgan was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. She always loved reading, but decided to do something science-y with her brain when she left school. She studied Genetics and Biochemistry, but eventually realized that research wasn’t for her—writing was! These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school girls, she writes fiction for young adults.

    The Creepy Hollow Series
    Author Links

    A Giveaway! 

    Rachel has kindly offered a giveaway! Just leave a comment then click through the Rafflecopter link below :)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Random Act Of Kindness Blitz

    A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community

    Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

    So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

    Kindness ROCKS!

    To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

    I am randomly picking Rachel Morgan, who is a good friend--Rachel was my fifteenth follower, and her comment on one of my posts in late 2010 inspired me to create my Writers' Platform-Building Campaign, which I know has helped so many of you connect with other writers and build your platform. I thought it rather appropriate to choose Rachel, given she has shared her guest post with us today *grins*.

    Rachel, for my RAOK gift, I'm offering to help by critiquing your next book in the CREEPY HOLLOW series :) And if you have a minute, please stop in and tell Rachel how awesome she is!

    Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. :)

    Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

    How about you: Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness? Were there any links above that will be useful to you? Are you self-publishing or digital publishing - if so, where are you in your publishing journey? 

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    May Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing Series (Week 1: Michael Offutt Guest Post)

    As promised, welcome to my May series on Self-Publishing and Digital Publishing. I have an exciting schedule of Monday posts planned, and I hope you'll find heaps of information and knowledge within these posts to help you on your writing journey or give you information about the journey other writers are undertaking. I'll have guest posts from:
    1. Michael Offutt (today - as part of his SLIPSTREAM book tour), 
    2. Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes (May 14), 
    3. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse (May 21), and 
    4. Adina West from Stairways and Landings (May 28). 
    They're all either already published or have books that are coming out soon via self-publishing or digital publishing, and they're going to share some of their publishing journeys with you, give you interesting information about self/digital publishing, and even give you the chance to win some cool loot!

    And each of the four weeks, I'll be popping in some interesting agent tips/posts and "link love" on self- or digital publishing as well! In the interests of offering balanced information, I'll be including both pros and cons - I think it's very important for people to decide for themselves which form of publishing best suits their needs, and to do that, you need all the information, right.

    Some agent thoughts on self-publishing

    Former agent Nathan Bransford wrote this post on Should You Self-Publish: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself (it's a little old now, but the things to consider before self-publishing are still spot on!).

    And this one, from 2012: Is There A Self-Publishing Bubble?

    Here is part of agent Marisa Corvisiero's response to the question: With the trend of authors self-publishing, do you see this as a negative for the author who may later decide to try traditional publishing?
    Being self published no longer means that the book is just not good enough or that the author is difficult to work with. It may just mean that the author is willing to spend time and money to sell their book and that they are eager to create a following. So the old perceptions are shifting into a more neutral and acceptable plane. I have recently sent out questions to some contacts at NYC top ten traditional houses and all ten told me that if they love the work and the book has been doing well, they will try to acquire it. The magic number for “doing well” is about 5K book sales! That is not an impossible number to achieve today with all of the social marketing and e-book opportunities that cost almost nothing!
    Some link love:

    And here's some link love on self/digital publishing:
    I hope you find all these links useful. More next week. Now, over to Michael :)

    Guest Post by Michael Offutt, author of SLIPSTREAM

    My publisher is Double Dragon Publishing. They are based out of Canada. Double Dragon Publishing describes itself as a midsize or medium-sized publisher. They primarily concentrate on e-books. However, they also do print, as in print on demand. This means that they do things through Lulu or lightning source and people can order a paperback book by clicking on the right button online. My book will never be physically featured in bookstores like Barnes & Noble, but I'm definitely okay with that. Really the only way you seem to be able to get into bookstores here in the States is to be traditionally published through one of the Big Six and that requires an agent and a whole lot of other things. My book honestly was never going to find representation. It has gay characters, is written in third person omniscient, has a boy as a protagonist, and comes in at 120,000 words. I gave up after 40 or so rejection letters. About that time I discovered several small publishers that didn't require an agent for representation. And mostly I was looking for someone that would format the book for me, help with some editing, and do the cover art. Double Dragon Publishing did all of that.

    I published SLIPSTREAM without having a single beta-reader. I tried to find one and was unsuccessful. I asked my friend Robyn to read it. I even paid her $400.00 to get advice. I got nothing. I asked my friend Kathy to read it. She never got back to me. I emailed a copy to my friend Melissa. I never heard anything. My own family doesn’t read so they weren’t an option. After a year of searching, I had exhausted all my contacts. So I just tackled it myself and tried to figure out what was working and what didn’t work. It took me three years to write.

    I started a blog in 2011. Since then I’ve met a lot of talented people, and in getting my sequel written, I was actually approached by beta-readers. Let me rephrase that…I had people who actually solicited me to read my book. I was stunned. Really? So I sent them copies (I’m not stupid) and they read what I’d written in two weeks! I was floored, overwhelmed, fascinated, and oh so thankful. I had gone from a year of nothing but heartache to ten pages of feedback simply because I started a blog. To show my appreciation to these betas, I offered to read their stuff in return. One thus far has taken me up on the offer. The other will do so in the future, she’s just not ready yet.

    All of this happened because I network with other writers. It’s such a relief that I can’t express my gratitude to the people who are reading my words.

    If you are in this boat; if you are an author and needs feedback but never gets it, I urge you to network with other writers. Join Rach’s twice a year Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. Join Arlee Bird’s A to Z Challenge. Participate in blog fests. You will have fun and make friends and more importantly, become a part of a huge online community that can support our special kind of crazy.

    I have a contest for the release of my book. I will pick one random person who comments on this post to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a SLIPSTREAM jeweled spider (the same person wins both prizes). The jeweled spider really sparkles in the sunlight. I hope whoever wins it really likes it. Also, please make sure that your email is linked to your signature in some way :)


    1) Mark my book “To Read” on Goodreads.

    2) Comment on this post.

    3) Tweet this post if you have twitter. You don’t have to sign-up for twitter. It’s the “honor” system. :)

    That’s it. I will choose a winner on Saturday, May 19th. And thank you, Rachael, for having me on your fine blog.

    Here's where SLIPSTREAM can be found:

    Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Slipstream-ebook/dp/B007R5DN8W/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1333585536&sr=1-1-catcorr

    Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1109954378?ean=9781554049493

    Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13003318-slipstream


    Thanks so much Michael, it's been lovely having you along today. Wishing you every success with SLIPSTREAM (and I just adore that Spider badge *grins*).

    I hope all of you enjoyed reading Michael's post. Make sure you pop back next Monday for the next step in my self-publishing/digital publishing series: Rachel Morgan's guest post :) And don't forget to follow Michael's instructions above for a chance to win his awesome spider and the $5 Amazon Gift Card!

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