Faces of Publishing: An Interview with Jaime Levine, Editor for Grand Central Publishing

Jaime Levine

Jaime Levine

Jaime Levine has been an editor with Grand Central PPublishing for 15 years, current author highlights: #1 NY Times bestselling duo Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child and the estate of Robert Ludlum.  With three concurrent Ludlum series, she works with many talented writers, including Jamie Freveletti, Kyle Mills, Justin Scott, and Eric Van Lustbader.  Her most recent launch: Pure—a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel by Julianna Baggott.

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to become an editor?

Jaime Levine: It wasn’t something that I knew, though I was curious about publishing at the end of college. I feel like I decided to be an editor after I got to NYC and got my first editorial assistant job and loved it. But, here’s an odd addendum to that story: when I went to my ten year high school reunion, my ceramics teacher pulled out this notebook a bunch of us had written in when we were seniors. They were predictions of where we’d be at the age of 28.  I’d apparently written, “if I haven’t made a million on my first novel, I’ll be a book editor.”  I was a wise-ass, as you can see, but weirdly prescient. I have zero memory of writing that too.  I wasn’t aware that I knew at 17 years old that book editors existed.

Alex: How did you get started in publishing?

Jaime: Oh, a common story. I was an English major, worked on a literary magazine that a friend started. She went off to get an MFA and left a job at a small press in Chicago. I debated between teaching high school English and publishing.  I decided getting a job in publishing didn’t require more education, so I opted to take over her position at the small press.  After almost a year, I knew that I needed to actually come to NYC and experience working in editorial before I could conclude one way or the other. I got a job at what was then Warner Books and have been here ever since.  Within the first year I knew I was hooked by editorial.

Alex: What does an ordinary day look like for you?

[CONTINUE READING . . . ]

This is the last Faces of Publishing interview, and the last planned interview for Bookbanter for the near future.

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Faces of Publishing: Jaime Levine, Grand Central Publishing (October, 2012)

Jaime Levine

Jaime Levine

Jaime Levine has been an editor with Grand Central Publishing for 15 years, current author highlights: #1 NY Times bestselling duo Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child and the estate of Robert Ludlum.  With three concurrent Ludlum series, she works with many talented writers, including Jamie Freveletti, Kyle Mills, Justin Scott, and Eric Van Lustbader.  Her most recent launch: Pure—a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel by Julianna Baggott.

GCP

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to become an editor?

Jaime Levine: It wasn’t something that I knew, though I was curious about publishing at the end of college. I feel like I decided to be an editor after I got to NYC and got my first editorial assistant job and loved it. But, here’s an odd addendum to that story: when I went to my ten year high school reunion, my ceramics teacher pulled out this notebook a bunch of us had written in when we were seniors. They were predictions of where we’d be at the age of 28.  I’d apparently written, “if I haven’t made a million on my first novel, I’ll be a book editor.”  I was a wise-ass, as you can see, but weirdly prescient. I have zero memory of writing that too.  I wasn’t aware that I knew at 17 years old that book editors existed.

Alex: How did you get started in publishing?

Jaime: Oh, a common story. I was an English major, worked on a literary magazine that a friend started. She went off to get an MFA and left a job at a small press in Chicago. I debated between teaching high school English and publishing.  I decided getting a job in publishing didn’t require more education, so I opted to take over her position at the small press.  After almost a year, I knew that I needed to actually come to NYC and experience working in editorial before I could conclude one way or the other. I got a job at what was then Warner Books and have been here ever since.  Within the first year I knew I was hooked by editorial.

Alex: What does an ordinary day look like for you?

Jaime: I spend a lot of time on the phone and on email.  Either someone owes me information or materials, or I owe the same to them.  So, I’m usually chasing people or being chased by them.  When I’m not communicating with people about our various needs, I’m probably drafting the information or materials that are outstanding.  I do all my editing and reading on nights and weekends.  On the other hand, on those occasions when I’ve worked from home to zip through a manuscript, that means I literally have planted on the couch for 9 hours with my face buried in hundreds of pages of text. I’ve cramped muscles in my back from not moving around enough doing that.

Alex: How many projects are you usually working on at one time?

Jaime: It has varied radically over the years of my career.  In the last few years, I’ve been working with a number of extremely high profile authors including the joint novels of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child and the estate of Robert Ludlum. These programs feature multiple title releases a year.  I believe there’s a lot to a project beyond just the acquisition, so I prefer to acquire at an amount that still gives me time to nurture all aspects of the publishing of each book.

Alex: How long does it take you to edit the average book?

Jaime: There are some authors who are so very clean about the way they write, and their manuscripts I can get through a first read in two full days and then spend another two or three days doing a review and plotting out my notes.  Occasionally I get a manuscript that requires a greater hand, either for plot or for line-editing, which can slow me up.  Line-editing is the slowest process for me. Suddenly a week’s worth of work can turn into two or three.  I also mainly work on novels that are typically rather long. (Anywhere from 100,000 words to 140,000 words.)

Alex: How does the editing process work: do you edit the manuscript and send it back to the author, or do it in parts, or meet and work with the author, or something else?

Jaime: In this case, it depends on the author.  I rarely actually meet with authors to discuss their works since they don’t live in NYC. And, when I do meet with them, I prefer to relax with them, let them get to know me and vice versa. I want to give them a chance to see who I am and what I’m about.

As for the actual process. Typically I edit on a hardcopy and deliver that back with marginalia and a letter querying larger scale issues.  Beyond that, I work with the author in the way that they need. I’ve had authors who prefer to deliver in chunks, and receive edits as they go. I’ve had authors who work best not hearing from me while they are off doing their thing, so I leave them alone til the manuscript arrives.  I’ve also had authors who like to stay in touch and bounce ideas and questions off of me regularly, so, again, I try to be there for them.  I’m not the creator, so it isn’t about how I like to work—it’s got to be about the author.

Alex: With the Internet and ebooks, what are some of the changes you’ve seen in publishing as an editor in the last five years?

Jaime: The opportunities for promotion and publicity via the internet, social media, and just communications technology in general has radically shifted how we can get word out about an author.  It’s a bit of the wild wild west out there because it’s not obvious what delivery system readers will respond to—it’s the wild west for them as well since they are constantly changing what their interests are – but it is also an exciting challenge and an opportunity to try new things all the time.  I guess what I’m saying is: it can be puzzling as a publisher when you don’t really know exactly what will work.  The formula has altered. But it is also incredibly exciting because it feels like there are so many new choices. We have to be willing to try things out – try new media, try new websites, try new communication methods–and see what will work. I suspect it will continue to evolve and campaigns will look even more different from book to book.

Alex: What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

Jaime: It’s right for some, not for others.  I’m not trying to be coy or diplomatic—I believe this is the truth in the simplest terms. And, frankly, it’s always been that way.  There have always been authors who self-published. For some it was beneficial, for many not.  Now, probably more writers can benefit from self-publishing than ever before because their costs have gone down, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the right way for every author.

Alex: What publishing method do you recommend aspiring writers follow?

Jaime: Well, that depends on the author and their project. This isn’t one size fits all, so the answer would be different in different contexts.

Alex: Have you or are you interested in publishing your own work?

Jaime: Nah.  I love editing. I love working with authors and analyzing their work. I love seeing what their intention was and helping to clarify it for them in the text.  There’s a magic to writing. When I sit down and read an amazing, awesome new novel, I feel transported by something bigger than me.  I think if I were to take a stab at writing, it would ruin the magic for me. I don’t want to know what lurks behind the curtain.

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Jaime: Read.  Lately, I particularly like teen and YA fiction for my spare time reading. Also, I often have some sort of creative crafty activity that I do.  Sometimes it’s experimenting with cooking. Sometimes it’s making jewelry (beading and wire-work necklaces, earrings, bracelets etc).  Right now, I’m thinking of channeling my energy into planning an awesome vacation across the US and Canada.

Alex: Where do you see publishing ten years from now?

Jaime: I believe the more things change, the more things stay the same.  Even though technology has transformed how we can produce and market books, it hasn’t changed the fact that we are still producing and marketing books.  Our goal has always been to bring new stories, ideas, characters, and creative voices to readers to surprise and excite them and make them think.  I think in ten years, we will all still be producing and marketing books and I can’t wait to see what new reads leave me just as breathless.

Faces of Publishing Penultimate Interview with Lynn Pasquale, Director of Digital Publishing, Prometheus Books

Lynn Pasquale Title

I was planning on putting this post up early this morning, but with GoDaddy deciding to go down for most of the day, there has been a significant delay.  But as they say: better late than never.

This is the penultimate Faces of Publishing interview for Bookbanter, with next month’s being the last interview for Bookbanter.

 Lynn Pasquale

Lynn Pasquale has been with Prometheus Books for over ten years and currently serves as Director of Digital Publishing.

Alex C. Telander: Most important question first: is it ebook, eBook, Ebook, e-book?  Is there a definitive nomenclature?

Lynn Pasquale: The answer is all of the above. Various publishing and conversion houses seem to have their own preference on how to write “ebook.” This spelling—ebook—is simply the standard we chose to follow as a press to keep everything consistent.

Alex: How did you end up working in the ebook department?

Lynn: I worked in publicity here for about 8 years and I was ready for a new direction. The timing was such that ebooks were coming onto the scene and the need for a full-time staff member to manage them became apparent. I was ready to take on the challenge, and I am grateful that our president realized the work ethic, brand loyalty, and detail-oriented focus that had served me well in publicity would translate into helping us navigate this new market.

[CONTINUE READING . . .]

Faces of Publishing: Lynn Pasquale, Prometheus Books (September, 2012)

Kevin Smith

Lynn Pasquale

Lynn Pasquale has been with Prometheus Books for over ten years and currently serves as Director of Digital Publishing.

Alex C. Telander: Most important question first: is it ebook, eBook, Ebook, e-book?  Is there a definitive nomenclature?

Lynn Pasquale: The answer is all of the above. Various publishing and conversion houses seem to have their own preference on how to write “ebook.” This spelling—ebook—is simply the standard we chose to follow as a press to keep everything consistent.

Alex: How did you end up working in the ebook department?

Lynn: I worked in publicity here for about 8 years and I was ready for a new direction. The timing was such that ebooks were coming onto the scene and the need for a full-time staff member to manage them became apparent. I was ready to take on the challenge, and I am grateful that our president realized the work ethic, brand loyalty, and detail-oriented focus that had served me well in publicity would translate into helping us navigate this new market.

Alex: What does an ordinary day entail for you?

Lynn: An “ordinary day?” I could have answered this question so differently six months ago from today and I will probably answer it differently six months from now. Things are evolving and changing all the time so my job has to adapt. Right now I am focused on making sure our entire science fiction and fantasy imprint, Pyr, successfully gets converted into epub format and online, which involves managing the conversion and getting the files to our excellent team of proofreaders and then to our various ebook vendors. We are also focusing on the conversion of our frontlist Prometheus Books which need to go through a similar process. There can be conversion-induced errors, particularly in formatting and especially with charts and graphs, so we really need to make sure everything looks good before putting it out there. This involves a lot of project management and proofing. We are also in the process of expanding to additional platforms which involves research and a whole lot of metadata management.

Alex: Have you had to learn a lot of technical knowledge about ebooks, or is it all pretty straightforward?

Lynn: I’ve had to learn a lot of technical knowledge about ebooks but it’s all been very gradual due to the constantly changing nature of the field (certain technologies would come and go without necessarily making an impact), and to the fact that everyone else was all in the same boat. It’s been kind of a “learn-as-you-go” experience. I think most people in publishing and bookselling would agree with that statement. I regularly read industry e-newsletters and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of webinars and attended a few ebook conferences that help put some perspective on what everyone else is doing and where we should be. They also provide a sense of community in this tumultuous time for publishing. You can get caught up in your own little world so it’s good to get the pulse of the industry now and then.

Alex: Do you think there will eventually be just one standard ebook format like Blu-ray, or will ebooks always be available in various formats?

Lynn: I do think there will eventually be a standard. I think the epub format is headed in that direction. But who knows how or when it will all shake out.

Alex: Do you think ebooks are going to completely replace print books, and if so when do you think it will happen?

Lynn: No, I don’t think print is going anywhere anytime soon. Our print books certainly aren’t going anywhere. I think ebooks will peacefully coexist with print books for some time to come. First of all, you have those people who are not yet ready to move over to ebooks, but mainly you have people who want both: they have certain books they want to hold in their hands and keep on their shelves. Personally, I have a thing for cookbooks. I want a print cookbook to page through and I want to have it physically sitting on my shelf with the rest of my cookbooks. But I might want to read a novel that I don’t particularly care to have on my shelf so I might buy it in ebook format. You can’t categorize everyone into one or the other right now so you need to be prepared for both.

Alex: Are out-of-print titles coming back into print in ebook format?

Lynn: Yes, many out-of-print titles get re-issued in ebook format so publishers can tap into an additional market here that traditionally was not available. We don’t put many of our books out of print so for us the benefit is more in the form of rejuvenated interest in our backlist.

Alex: The common misconception is that ebooks are way cheaper to produce than print books and should therefore be much cheaper than they are.  Can you clarify this?

Lynn: I think of it this way: if you are producing a quality ebook you still need to take it through the same process you would a print book, complete with all related costs: acquisitions, editing, typesetting, design, proofreading, marketing, etc. So the only production cost you’d be saving here is the printing. Clearly not much cheaper, if at all, than producing a print book. The misconception lies in the idea that if you are already producing the print book, you can just turn around and publish it as an ebook with little additional cost. The truth is there are conversion costs and the cost of staff needed to proof the ebook for any formatting errors post-conversion, and the humans needed to get the ebooks onsite for all the various platforms. Or, if you are using a service to get your ebooks onsite then you’ve got to pay for that service. Just because they are digital doesn’t mean you can turn a print book into an ebook with the simple push of a button. Basically what it comes down to is the primary cost of publishing lies in the development and production of the content, not in the manufacturing of the physical books. And that overhead and investment remains in the ebook world.

Alex: Do you believe that the pricing of ebooks will increase or decrease or stay the same in the near future?

Lynn: It may stay the same in the near future but eventually, I think the price will need to increase to compensate for the decrease in print sales. In my opinion, if print and ebooks are going to coexist, they need to be more comparably priced.

Alex: Do you only read ebooks now and who do you like to read?

Lynn: No! I actually prefer the print book! Am I not supposed to say that? Ebooks are great for quick reads or certain novels as I said earlier, but I’m not ready to relinquish the feel of a book in my hands. Lately I’ve been into Jeffrey Eugenides. And I’m reading him in print!

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Lynn: Besides reading? I like to stay active. Unlike most US publishers, we are located in Western New York (just outside of Buffalo) so I like to take advantage of the winter activities available here and I definitely like to get outside and take advantage of our beautiful summers.

Alex: What is your preferred device to read ebooks on?

Lynn: I really like reading ebooks on the ipad but I’m also partial to the Nook ereader. I like the regular black and white touchscreen Nook because it’s light weight and I really like the E-Ink touchscreen because it looks more natural, like real paper.

Face of Publishing Interview with Kevin Smith, Editor

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a freelance editor, specializing in commercial fiction and nonfiction.  Some of the authorshe’s worked with on a freelance basis are: Alan Jacobson, Stephen J. Cannell, Nevada Barr, Kyle Mills, and C.J. Lyons. He’s been associated with the publishing industry, in various capacities, for more than twenty years.  Most recently, he was a Senior Editor at Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, where he worked with, among others, New York Times bestselling author Matthew Reilly.

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to become an editor?

Kevin Smith: I started out in publishing in an administrative capacity–assistant to the managing editor of Dell Publishing.  Whereas most managing editors don’t get involved in the editing process, I was fortunate that my boss acquired and edited movie and tv tie-ins, which allowed me to get some editing experience. I was eventually promoted to Managing Editor; my duties, however, were strictly administrative.  A couple of years later I was offered and accepted an editor’s position at Dell, working primarily with health, reference, and crosswords books.

Alex: How did you get started in publishing?

Kevin: Shortly after graduating college, I became friends with the managing editor of Dell Publishing.  This was in the early ’80s.  He offered me a job as his assistant.  At the time, I was working full-time at a bookstore in the World Trade Center, toying with the idea of law school.  Reading Scott Turow’s first book, One L, where he detailed his first year at Harvard Law School, put a damper on that ambition.  Great book.  Scary ordeal, though! So, I accepted the job at Dell.  Adios, legal field.

[CONTINUE READING . . . ]

Faces of Publishing: Kevin Smith, Editor (August, 2012)

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a freelance editor, specializing in commercial fiction and nonfiction.  Some of the authorshe’s worked with on a freelance basis are: Alan Jacobson, Stephen J. Cannell, Nevada Barr, Kyle Mills, and C.J. Lyons.
He’s been associated with the publishing industry, in various capacities, for more than twenty years.  Most recently, he was a Senior Editor at Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, where he worked with, among others,
New York Times bestselling author Matthew Reilly.

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to become an editor?

Kevin Smith: I started out in publishing in an administrative capacity–assistant to the managing editor of Dell Publishing.  Whereas most managing editors don’t get involved in the editing process, I was fortunate that my boss acquired and edited movie and tv tie-ins, which allowed me to get some editing experience. I was eventually promoted to Managing Editor; my duties, however, were strictly administrative.  A couple of years later I was offered and accepted an editor’s position at Dell, working primarily with health, reference, and crosswords books.

Alex: How did you get started in publishing?

Kevin: Shortly after graduating college, I became friends with the managing editor of Dell Publishing.  This was in the early ’80s.  He offered me a job as his assistant.  At the time, I was working full-time at a bookstore in the World Trade Center, toying with the idea of law school.  Reading Scott Turow’s first book, One L, where he detailed his first year at Harvard Law School, put a damper on that ambition.  Great book.  Scary ordeal, though! So, I accepted the job at Dell.  Adios, legal field!

Alex: What does an ordinary day look like for you?

Kevin: I try to get started by 9am.  I first check email.  I’ll then start with an editing project.  I find that I do my best analytical thinking early in the day.  I try to limit myself to six to eight hours of editing per day.  If I have a project that requires a first read, I’ll do that in the late afternoon or early evening. I’ll work till 8 or 9pm, with breaks for lunch and dinner.

Alex: How many projects are you usually working on at one time?

Kevin: It varies.  The projects are usually in different stages.  I don’t feel overwhelmed as long as I’m not doing a first edit on more than two books simultaneously, though I prefer one at a time.  I suppose, on average, I’ll have three or four things going at any one time.

For instance, right now I’ve just finished the third and final draft of a thriller; I’m in the middle of a second edit on a nonfiction work; I’m a day or two away from beginning a first edit on a men’s adventure thriller; and about a week away from starting what I hope is the final edit of a political thriller.

So, it’s likely that I’ll be juggling three projects next week, with another novel scheduled to head my way two weeks from now.

Alex: How long does it take you to edit the average book?

Kevin: If the author is accessible and not bogged down with other projects or issues, I can usually get to a final draft in six to eight weeks.  It can take longer, though, if considerable developmental editing is required.  That’s rare, though.

Alex: How does the editing process work: do you edit the manuscript and send it back to the author, or do it in parts, or meet and work with the author, or something else?

Kevin: Generally, I’ll read a manuscript a couple of times, then send my edits and comments electronically (in “track changes”) to the author.  Along with my edits, I’ll send a separate file with any larger or global issues I have with the manuscript. The author and I may have conversations about the changes, where we can “spitball” some further ideas.  I’ll subsequently read the author’s revised manuscript and most likely suggest some further enhancements.  A third iteration is then performed with the author and, if all is good, I’ll line edit the manuscript (again, electronically) and send it to the author for approval.  Once I get it back from the author, I give it a final read-through and send it to the publisher, where they’ll start the copyediting process.  For all intents and purposes, my involvement in the process is now finished.

However, if a manuscript is a crash project, meaning the publisher wants to accelerate the process in order to get it in the stores within six months or less, and the author has yet to complete the book, he and I may decide to work on the manuscript in stages–halves or thirds. The author will send me the first half, which I’ll edit while he completes the manuscript.  I’ll send him the edits on the first part when he sends me the second half. This method can be effective when dealing with nonfiction material, but I find it to be problematic with fiction.

Alex: With the Internet and ebooks, what are some of the changes you’ve seen in publishing as an editor in the last five years?

Kevin: Advances in technology have allowed publishers to work with tighter deadlines.  Crash projects seem to be more prevalent.  The editor and author can communicate with each other much more immediately, which compresses the time needed to go from first draft to final manuscript.

The internet has done a lot to help create “instant celebrities” which has increased the public’s demand for celebrity bios.  These books have much shorter shelf lives than the more traditional nonfiction genres. So, I guess you can say that there are a great many more books that come and go very quickly, with little or no backlist activity.

Alex: What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

Kevin: Self-publishing is a viable option for authors with some marketing savvy.  Know this, though:  Going it on your own really means on your own.    You need to be able to target the right media and websites with your ads and blasts, which you will be financing yourself.

However, I still believe if a writer has talent, the more traditional route is the way to go.  Despite the negatives associated with traditional publishing, the truth is they know how to sell their products.  They just concentrate on promoting a rather narrow list of their authors.

Alex: What publishing method do you recommend aspiring writers follow?

Kevin: I’m still a believer in the old-school method:  Take a class or do a workshop.  You can make valuable connections that way. Once you’re comfortable with your manuscript, get yourself an agent. Let him or her do the heavy lifting when dealing with publishers, while you concentrate on making your manuscript the best it can be.  If you need help and you can afford it, hire yourself a freelance editor to further refine your work.

Alex: Have you or are you interested in publishing your own work?

Kevin: I came to realize a long time ago that, while I may be a decent editor, I could never cut it as a writer.  (Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.)

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Kevin: I read different genres to stay in touch with market trends.  I also work out a lot.  Believe it or not, some of my best ideas have occurred to me while in the middle of a run.

Alex: Where do you see publishing ten years from now?

Kevin: As time goes by, traditional outlets will be less important. With an increase in eBooks, there will be even less brick and mortar stores ten years from now. Even less in twenty-five years, when younger generations that have grown up with the eBook revolution have become the vast majority of the market. Old geezers like me may read eBooks right now, but we still prefer holding a physical book in our hands.

Faces of Publishing: An Interview with Paula Guran, Editor with Prime Books

Paula Guran

Prime Books

Paula Guran is senior editor for Prime Books. She edited the Juno fantasy imprint for six years from its small press inception through its incarnation as an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books. Guran is the editor of the annual Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror series of anthologies and editor of numerous other anthologies including Best New Paranormal Romance, Zombies: The Recent Dead, Vampires: The Recent Undead, Halloween, New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, Brave New Love, and Witches: Wicked Wild & Wonderful. In an earlier life, she produced the pioneering weekly email newsletter DarkEcho (winning two Bram Stoker Awards, an International Horror Guild Award Award, and a World Fantasy Award nomination) and edited Horror Garage magazine (earning another IHG Award and a second World Fantasy nomination). Guran has contributed reviews, interviews, and articles to numerous professional publications and edited/produced for OMNI Online and Universal Studios HorrorOnline. She reviewed regularly for Publishers Weekly for over a decade, was review editor for Fantasy, a columnist for Cemetery Dance, and a consulting editor for CFQ (Cinemafantastique). She also served as nonfiction editor for Weird Tales. Guran’s also done a great deal of other various and sundry work in speculative fiction including editing magazines, agenting, publicity, teaching, and publishing. She lives in Akron, Ohio.

Paula Guran

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to become an editor?

Paula Guran: I pretended to edit a little newspaper when I was just a kid, so I guess that was the first time I thought about it. Then I became the editor of the school newspaper in junior high and continued to edit throughout high school. Maybe if some people are natural writers, there are natural editors? I was burned out on journalism and writing in general by college. In college I discovered directing and technical theatre—scene design, lighting, that sort of thing – so that became my creative outlet and my first career. I didn’t go near writing or editing for a very long time after that. Much later, after I got into genre, I knew that was my ultimate goal.

[CONTINUE READING . . . ]