Friday, November 17, 2017

Want to Be A Blogger? Read this.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You don’t have to be a writer to be riveted by today’s blog. (And there’s a special treat at the end!) 
If you’re an author, or a craftsperson, or a hobbyist, or an entrepreneur—you might be thinking: should I have a blog?  I SHOULD have a blog! But…how?
And how can I make it work?
Today, here and continuing on Career Authors, the brilliantly entrepreneurial Dorie Clark generously reveals all her secrets.
So grab your coffee or tea. Read this. It could change your life. 

  
How Authors Can Build a Large Blog Following


How can authors build a massive following for their blog? That’s one of the questions I tackle in my new book Entrepreneurial You, which centers on how entrepreneurs – including writers – can develop an audience and earn more money from their work.

Building an audience for your blog is crucial for future book sales, of course, but it’s also about impact and meaning. You’re not journaling for your own entertainment: you’re sharing your work publicly because there’s a message you’d like to share. 

When you take the necessary steps to build your following, it enables you to reach more people and touch more lives.

In Entrepreneurial You, I profile James Clear, a blogger who writes about the habits that can improve physical and mental performance, and who is one of the most impressive examples of rapid list growth that I’ve ever seen. 

He started blogging in late 2012 and made a commitment to post two articles a week. Within two years, he’d reached 100,000 email list subscribers who received his blog updates; by April 2017, he had more than 400,000

Clear’s list-building success hinges on four strategies: consistency, focus, great headlines, and syndication.  Here on Jungle Red today, we’ll talk about consistency and focus. And then, at the end, click on the link to Career Authors, where I’ll continue--and discuss great headlines and syndication. 

Consistency
For Clear, there’s only one explanation for why his readership has skyrocketed so dramatically: his consistency. When he launched his site, Clear recalls, there was a health blogger he admired: “He was writing really great science-based pieces that people really liked. His audience was five times the size of mine when I was getting started. Today, my audience is twenty times the size of his, and you can’t say that it’s because of quality, because he’s producing very high-quality stuff. The only difference is that I decided to write every Monday and every Thursday starting on November 12, 2012, while he has just written intermittently.”

His consistent pace gives him two advantages. First, he says, “every piece of content that you produce is a chance to rank in Google and drive search engine traffic, or for people to share it on social media, or for someone to email an article to their friends.” More volume means more exposure. 

But second, he says, writing at least eight articles per month ensures that some of them will strike a strong chord with readers.

I’m with Clear on the importance of consistency. From January 2012 to April 2015, I wrote between 5-10 articles per month for Forbes, for a total of well over 250. That frequency allowed me to experiment, find my editorial voice, make connections with interview subjects, and have many more chances to reach new readers.

“Every marketing strategy is easier with good content,” Clear says. “We often think, ‘I just need a better strategy, or I just need a better tactic,’ when really what you need is better work.”  His frequency gave him the opportunity to produce more great ideas. (Note: even for the best writers, frequency can be hard to keep up, and during a book project, Clear backed off his twice-weekly schedule. But it remains an exceptionally powerful strategy, largely because it’s hard to keep up – so there’s less competition.)


Focus
You don’t want to paralyze readers with too many choices when they visit your website and read your blog.

“I want there to be one clear call to action on each page,” Clear told me in Entrepreneurial You. “I don’t want to confuse people by having them ‘Click here to buy my book, click here to sign up for my email list, follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and read this article.’ That’s five things that they should do. When they have five things to do, they’ll probably do nothing because they don’t know what the most important thing is.”

Instead, Clear’s site draws attention to only one thing: signing up to receive a free ebook on transforming your habits, which will also opt you into his email list. He includes no sidebars or anything else that will distract viewers from the main focus: signing up for his list.

On my own website, I used to overwhelm readers with options, from following me on Twitter to subscribing to my (now defunct!) podcast. 

I now focus on steering readers to one option as well: downloading my free 88 Question Entrepreneurial You self-assessment, which signs them up for my newsletter. (To see what it looks like and get ideas for your own “lead magnet,” as these free downloads are called, click here.)


HANK: SO fascinating! And there’s more. Would you rather read a blog called : “My Journey in Blogging” or “Five Secrets to Creating A Great Blog” ? Ah HA. Seems obvious, but hey. If you’re writing an article, you want people to read it. 

Yet some headlines get ignored, while others are almost irresistible to readers. Click here for Dorie’s take on headlines...and her incredibly successful idea for getting your blog an amazingly expanded audience.

And if you have questions? Dorie will be here at Jungle Red today to answer them! And discussing them on Facebook via Career Authors.



Dorie Clark is the author of the new book Entrepreneurial You, and this article is adapted from it. Her past books include Reinventing You and Stand Out, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. She teaches for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and you can download her free 88-question Entrepreneurial You self-assessment workbook.


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59 comments:

  1. This is fascinating information [and obviously something I’ve never given much thought] . . .
    Generally, I read a blog because the post is of some interest to me, but I can see the value of having regular blog-readers who know when your latest book is being released or when an author will be attending a particular event.

    And I would think that having your blog chosen as a best site for writers by Writers’ Digest wouldn’t hurt, either . . . .

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  2. Excellent information and thank you for sharing. Your webpage certainly makes a statement with the single, dynamic, call to action. So much so that it seems more a landing page. Do you use your blog (and others such as this post) as the launch pages? What other launch pages are effective set ups to the call for action on the webpage?

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    1. Hi Kait, you're right - dorieclark.com/entrepreneur is indeed a landing page (I used LeadPages to set it up). My website, dorieclark.com, uses Sumo to create a 'welcome mat' that greets new arrivals with the offer to download my self-assessment.

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  3. Thanks for that Dorie. I can't help thinking you look at our Jungle Red blog and throw your hands up--these ladies are all over the place! Are there one or two tips you could give us about how to make the most of what we have? (which is a lot, I think--8 interesting writers posting EVERY DAY) Thanks in advance!

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    1. Hi Roberta! If I were to offer some quick advice, it'd be to simplify the site - maybe eliminate the sidebar altogether and instead drive people to an opt-in, which could be (I'm brainstorming here) an e-book with a free short story from each of you, or a compendium of your best writing tips, etc. Building your email list (or, in this case, the collective Jungle Red email list, which could be used judiciously to promote each of you at your respective launch times) is key. Sumo.com has great free tools to help with this.

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    2. thanks for those suggestions! I think we Reds need to powwow...

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    3. I love the sidebar, and I often go to other blogs through those links. Maybe you could put the opt-in at the top of the sidebar?

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  4. Hi, Dorie! So glad to have you back on JRW. You're your own best example of how to do it... I do think there are different kinds of blogs. On consistency. I remember when we committed to posting a blog entry every day on Jungle Red. It was a big deal but I think it makes a big difference.

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    1. I think it makes a difference, too, Hallie. This is the only blog I follow on a regular basis, but it's my first click when I get up in the morning. There's always something new and interesting going on here. Plus, if you talked about the same narrow subject every day, it would get boring. Having different writers with different perspectives keeps it fresh.

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    2. What Gigi said. The JRWs keep it fresh, every day, and it makes us all want to see what's next.

      And responding to the commenters is your secret weapon. SO many other bloggers post their entries, and then never bother to go back and engage the readers afterwards. I think that's key.

      And I'm someone who began blogging in the late 90's, so I would know! It's a huge challenge, but you ladies have accepted and conquered it.

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    3. Yes, we love the commenting part, thank you! It's like a conversation, and like life, there's always something new. Hurray!

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    4. Thank you, Karen! We love the commenting, and I think you're so right about the difference it makes.

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    5. I agree with Karen and Gigi. It's frustrating to go to a blog day after day and see no new entries and no comments by the bloggers. It becomes easy to forget about the existence of that blog. You ladies, however, know how to keep us coming back for more!

      DebRo

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    6. I'm so impressed with the level of commenting & activity on this blog- well done!

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    7. The Reds are amazing to post *every* *single* *day*. I love that commitment. Thank you!

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  5. Yes, I remember that too, Hallie. It is a big commitment of time, but I think about all the friends we’ve made along the way, and it is glorious. We always try to figure out what blogs seem the most interesting to our readers, and it’s very difficult! Because the most unlikely things may be the most popular. But maybe our focus is… You never know! Come have your cup of coffee or tea with us, and see what’s up. I love that.

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    1. I love knowing that there will be something new here every day -- and that you never know what it might be. The mix of blogs about your research and writing, celebrating the publication of new books from the Reds, guest authors, and the random topics we can all respond to, and the occasional recipe -- a wonderful mix. And, yes, consistency is important.

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    2. We're so glad you like our mix and very grateful for every single one of you who read regularly or occasionally, sometimes comment, and always come back for more!

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    3. Yes, what's great about JRW is that you know something will post every day. You never know what it will be, but you know it will be interesting, if not fascinating. And the Jungle Reds feel like friends and family--to each other and to the back bloggers.

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    4. What Lucy said! And thanks, Christine and Linda!

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  6. I so completely agree about all of these things, especially Consistency. When I launched BOLO Books, I committed to doing 3 posts a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My early marketing materials even pinpointed what each of those three days would cover. And I stuck to it. On the rare occasion when I would miss one of those days, there was a noticeable decline in "hits," not just on that day, but for a few days afterwards.

    I tell all bloggers who ask my advice, be consistent. Really, one day a week would work (slower, yes), but if you are consistent, folks will get into a pattern.

    Now, five years later, I am less strict with my MWF pattern, but I post at least 3 times a week - often closer to 4-5 times a week. And the blog continues to grow, which is all I can ask for. Those looking for book reviews are still a niche market, so the fact that I continue to find new followers lets me know I am doing something right.

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    1. "Folks will get into a pattern" reads very true as I think about the blogs I follow. I have some that update every day, and I go to every day. Others that update once or twice a week - I click on those days.

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    2. I'm curious about what other blogs you follow regularly, Julia.

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    3. Kristopher, your blog must be growing like crazy. It is all the buzz!

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    4. Great testament to the power of consistency, Kristopher!

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  7. Very interesting and very helpful, too. And personally very timely. The 2 group blogs I belonged to are now finished, I have a spiffy new website, I know I need to start blogging on it, I have been, uh, thinking it through (Otherwise known as stalling.) Thanks to both Dorie and the Reds, I am now a lot more knowledgeable. A great way to being Friday!

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    1. Stalling! We've all been there..xoxo But love to know, in general, no secret stuff, what happened to the other blogs. Did bloggers just lose interest?

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    3. Hank, one of them was from my publisher - some really good writing there!- and they changed their social media strategy. The other had been around for awhile before I was invited to join, and yes, eventually the original owners decided it has served its purpose and everyone was getting tired. Probably some of my stalling is intimidation at doing it alone. But I learned a lot today and usually learn just from how much fun Reds blog always is!

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  8. Okay. You made me look. I've known about Hank's "Career Authors" blog for a while, but have never gone over there to check it out. Until today. Looks like a lot of good, useful information. So, yes, splitting the article worked to drive new readers to a second blog. I plan to think about that as I make my morning tea and prepare to get back to reading that fun new book I won by opting into Hank's e-mail list . . .

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    1. Oh, thank you! Yes, if you are an author of any genre or at any level, or are thinking about making writing a career, that's the place for you! Fast, practical, no chit chat. Hurray!

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  9. Great advice. My challenge is consistently coming up with a topic. =) I figure if it bores me, it'll probably bore a reader, too. Right?

    Mary/Liz

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    1. That's the best test for sure - you want to at least entertain yourself! :)

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  10. I want to add, just from personal observation, it's important to know how much time you're going to be able to spend BEFORE you get started. For instance, Lucy and Hank are both high energy, organized people, and they appear not only here, but on Mystery Lover's Kitchen (Lucy), Femmes Fatales (Hank) and Career Authors (also Hank.)

    If you are DISORGANIZED and always running around in one direction or another, like me, it's much better to be part of a group blog or to commit to posting once a week. It's better to have a small output than to disappoint by being a no-show (sez the woman who is years overdue on her book...)

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    1. This would be one of the biggest reasons why I wouldn't be able to do a blog. Not that I'm disorganized but rather I have so many interests that take up my time, it would be hard to focus on just one.

      I stick to working for others and take on tasks at my leisure so that I can plan the time necessary to give over my focus.

      I write CD and concert reviews for KNAC.com but I pick and choose what I want to write about.

      I write a weekly series on Limelight Magazine.com called The Cassette Chronicles so that is something I have to deal with a deadline. The reviews I do for Mystery Scene come with a deadline as well.

      However, that's pretty much the limit of my abilities, I just couldn't take on the job of establishing and maintaining a blog of my own.

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    3. I joined Mystery Lovers' Kitchen almost three years ago, when it had been going for about 4 years, and I must say, I LOVE being part of a group blog. Sharing the commitment with others makes participating easier and more fun; there's always someone who can handle the technical glitches and the administrative demands so those things don't fall on just one person; and we are able to attract more readers by pooling our energies. We recently added a feature on the first Monday called Around the Kitchen Table, modeled on the Reds' weekly group conversation, and our readers are getting more involved than ever! I don't understand bloggers who don't respond to comments (or who don't have a "subscribe" option, but that's another topic) -- interacting with readers in the comments is a big part of the fun and the joy.

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  11. One thing I've noticed about successful blogs is that they develop friendships. Bloggers don't tell readers things, they share thoughts and triumphs. You all enjoy being part of our community as much as we do!

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    1. Good point! It's such a great part of the day, checking in with everyone..

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    2. Absolutely right, Rhys! The tone here is a big plus and keeps me coming back.

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  12. Thanks for being here, Dorie! I love the idea of focusing on key areas to build a strategy, and I'm especially interested in the idea of focus, both in strategy and on the blog itself. Question: are you using blog and website interchangeably?

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    1. Ingrid, thanks, yes - my assumption is that people are blogging on their own site (and if they're still using a separate WordPress or Blogger site that's *not* redirecting to their own URL, they should adjust that ASAP, as it's wasting "Google juice"!).

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  13. But I like my side bars. And I like having those options out there so people can follow however they wish if they wish.

    I should probably focus on one thing, however. And I'm sure it would help my blog following if I focused the content on one thing as well, instead of reviewing whatever I feel like.

    I'll follow the other link as well. Some good things for me to chew on. Thanks.

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  14. I'm back because I can't figure out how to leave a comment at Career Authors. I've got a question for you.

    I have worried about my Google rank dropping if I have the same stuff posted on multiple sites. I've actually turned down chances to have my work on other sites for that very reason. Should I not worry about that?

    And I'm horrible at titles. I hate those Cosmo inspired titles, too. So I stick with simple titles for my blog posts but do include something different for the actual title of my review. It probably hurts me as well, but I don't know what kind of titles would draw people to a review anyway when it is obvious that's what I'm doing.

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    1. Hi Mark,

      We've chosen to not have commenting at Career Authors because we knew that we wouldn't be available in a timely fashion to respond there. But we'll always post our articles on facebook and comment there when we can. For example, this link points you to today's: https://www.facebook.com/CareerAuthors/posts/188845631673766

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    3. Hi Mark,

      Your question on google authority brings up some complex issues, and maybe Dorie knows more than I do on this one, but here are some thoughts.

      Google can get confused about duplicate content, possibly considering the more authoritative site to be the originator, even if it was originally your content.

      I think sometimes we worry a little too much about google authority. I know we want to be found by search engines, but we also want to be seen organically. And if you were to make sure that links back to your site (perhaps in a bio?) were in the content you shared to other sites, it’s likely that exposure and link-building could outweigh any downside of lost google authority.

      There is a technical solution, but it calls for more cooperation than most sites are capable of. You can instruct google to recognize which of several duplicate pages is the “real,” or “canonical” one. You do this with the rel=canonical tag. For your latest post, for example, it would take this form:

      (replace the [ and ] symbols below with < and >. The comment robot won't let me insert the authentic link here, as it thinks I'm trying to hijack JR's post authority to your site!)

      [link rel="canonical" href="http://carstairsconsiders.blogspot.com/2017/11/book-review-last-detective-by-robert.html" /]

      You ask the sharing site to insert this tag into the "head" section of the page on which they share your content, and it tells google that yours is the original, authoritative site – and makes sure to pass any “link juice” back to you.

      The is the definitive fix, but it is more trouble than many syndicators care to go to.

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    4. Glenn, exactly right, and thanks for jumping in.

      Mark, this is why James Clear always posts to his own site first, and syndicates later - so that the 'authority' for the post accrues to his own site. You can insist that if your work is syndicated that it says at the bottom, "This post originally appeared on [YOUR SITE]" and then have a link back to the original post, which is helpful.

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  15. Thanks, Dorie, for the helpful advice. Since, like Julia, I know I'm not organized enough to to consistent blog on my own, I'm very grateful to be part of Jungle Red. I think we've got the consistency in publishing part down--do you have any other suggestions that might increase our reach?

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    1. Hi Deborah, I imagine you're already doing this, but it'd be a combination of guest posting/cross posting on other folks' sites so you can cross pollinate your audiences, having aggressive sharing on social, perhaps talking up the blog on podcast appearances, maybe making YouTube or FB Live videos recapping the summaries of your posts, etc. Good luck!

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  16. Hi, Dorie,
    Thanks for joining us today - this was fascinating! I was always blog resistant (until I joined JRW) because of time constraints but I’ve discovered once you get a rhythm going it becomes much easier.

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  17. Thank you! There are so many places I end up typing - my MS; FB; the OTHER FB; Twitter... I, too, find myself blog resistant and wondering if it's really necessary. It's hanging "out there" as something I know I "need to do." Thanks so much for the insight and motivation!

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    1. Hurray! And see, Julie?, you don’t have to do it! I hope this will help you make the decisions you need to. And if you start a blog, let us know, OK? We’ll all come visit!

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  18. While I never had the desire to write a blog via a personal website of my own, I did use to write on a sports blog site for about 3 years. I wasn't trying to monetize anything, I just liked to write about sports topics that interested me.

    While I did write the occasional piece whenever the mood struck me, for about the entire time I wrote on the site, I had a regular Sunday post called Sunday Musings where I ended up focusing most of my time writing.

    I liked doing it but as time went on changes to the site and a growing disinterest on my part combined to make my decision to stop writing the blog altogether. But it was fun while it lasted.

    I don't think I could ever do a blog of my own again though. Not on the level that is discussed here today. Plus, I lack the technical know how to set up a site anyway.

    I've found that I don't read many blogs either. Besides JRW, I read the blog by writer Peter David, but that's about it. I used to listen to a number of podcasts as well but now I listen to just the Tuning Into Sci-Fi TV podcast but even that is something I do on occasion though they publish a new one most every week.

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  19. Oh, I sure wish I hadn't been gone all day, as this topic is so relevant to my blogging experience. The consistency aspect cannot be stressed enough. It's the #1 thing that my amazing blogger friend Kristopher told me to address in my reading blog, and he's so right, as are you, Dorie, and James Clear. I am, with few exceptions, now posting at least twice a week, and I have a "Throw Back Thursday" feature on reading from my past that helps keep me on a more committed schedule. I do wish that my blog, The Reading Room, had more followers, but I am hopeful and ready to learn more about how to increase them. I also do reviews, author interviews, upcoming books, and special reading lists. I focus mostly on mystery and crime. I enjoy my relationships with authors and readers and being a part of the wonderful reading community, especially the mystery/crime community.

    And as for successful blogs, I think the Jungle Red Writers Blog has a formula that works beautifully. It's a place that we regulars here come to daily for a dose of interesting reading and a great community feeling in our comments and replies. There are other blogs I enjoy, but the Reds have the best discussions around, and they have an uncanny ability to address a topic that is relevant for me, rather like blogging today.

    I am looking forward to checking out your current book, Dorie, and Reinventing You sounds particularly interesting, too. I think I might be using these books as Christmas presents for someone I know and love.

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    1. Oh, Kathy! Thank you. You are tireless, and already a mad success! And thank you so much for the kind words..xoxo

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