What you should know about Historical Fiction

What’s your favorite genre? For some it’s romance, others it’s fantasy, sci-fi or maybe a mystery/thriller. For those that know me well I enjoy reading a variety of genres, so it’s hard to pick one genre over another when I enjoy different books spanning across the many genres of fiction. However if you were to ask me what genre is your favorite to write- in my answer would be a bit more concise.  I’ve had a keen interest in history particularly the Roman era. My knowledge and fascination with the period is what inspired my first story which gave birth to a series spanning 4 books total. What I didn’t know when I started out writing historical fiction is how the genre is perceived by the populace at large and the expectations placed on those by the avid and casual fans of the genre.

#1: Historical Fiction is not popular

I must clarify this point because there are books that fall within this umbrella that have experienced a great measure of success and even notoriety. While there is definitely an audience for it, it has a much smaller audience than per say romance or thrillers and that’s to be expected. Unless a reader is an avid fan of historical fiction, the genre is often ignored by mainstream readers. I came to this painful realization when I first published my book to the public on the fiction-sharing site called Fictionpress. The #1 common consensus of those not fans of historical fiction is that it’s boring. True some historical fiction books bore me. It’s no wonder than that it’s tricky to attract new readers who typically don’t seek out historical fiction books. This is the dilemma you’re faced with especially if you’re ready to publish your book for sale. Because you have a smaller market it’s imperative that the book you publish is not only well-written but marketable.

Even within historical fiction it has its own subgenres which attracts its own niche of readers. Historical romance and historical fantasy are probably the biggest and most marketable of the subgenres. Alternate history or alternative history is another subgenre and is the most appropriate subgenre for my series. However alternative fiction makes up a smaller market within historical fiction. Not only do you have to factor the subgenre but also the target audience your book is aimed at. Is it aimed for children, middle grade, YA, or adult? The answer to that question can determine how marketable your book will be which in turn translates into higher sales rankings. Most historical fiction books I’ve run across are geared towards a more mature audience which doesn’t work in my favor considering Before the Legend is geared towards middle grade readers.

2#: High Expectations

Another point to consider is the high expectations that come with historical fiction. Most people expect a well-written book. That’s a given. But for historical fiction books it goes a step further. Readers will expect it to be mostly historically accurate if not 100% accurate to the time period it’s written in. From my observation, fans of the genre come with higher expectations than other genres. True, other genres require some research. If you’re writing a science fiction book that centers in space you’ll want to do your homework on space travel to make the plot more plausible. While that principle of research is also true in historical fiction, there’s the expectation that the book should fully immerse the reader in the era. Everything from their adornment,  living conditions, the way they talk,  etiquette, means of travel, morality, etc. should be accurate to the time period. It’s all about the details. Any deviation or inaccuracies will not go over well with any reader but especially those who are avid fans of HF. They are not as forgiving!

Because details are of high importance research is essential. Even if it’s alternative or touches on the realm of historical fiction readers will expect it to still be reflective of the time period. And honestly that’s a fair expectation. But living up to those expectations can be very challenging at times. Personally one of the hardest for me was the dialogue. I’ve had readers say my dialogue was too modern. On the flip side others complained it was too formal and stilted. Considering my character is living in Roman times and is of noble blood the choice to not use contractions seemed to make the most sense. However that didn’t bode well with some readers. I was confused and frustrated when it came time to edit because I felt I was given contradictory feedback from both sides.

#3: Getting Noticed

All of these factors you’ll want to take into account especially if you’re seriously thinking about publishing your HF book. If you’re going down the traditional publishing route you face even more hurdles to publishing the book. Typically you’ll have to select a literary agent who will act as the middle-man between you and the publishing company. Although I personally haven’t taken the traditional publishing route, it would be advantageous to do your homework on the agent and the publishing company they work for by delving into what types of genres they typically read and publish. Someone who has little or no interest in HF may not fully understand or appreciate your work for what it’s worth. After all the agent will often determine whether the book is marketable or not. If they don’t like it, it will end up in the reject pile. On the other hand you can increase your chances of acceptance if the publishing company is open to or even favors historical fiction.

Of course you can bypass the middleman and opt to self-publish. But that’s only half the battle. With nobody representing you, marketing and advertising will fall primarily on your shoulders. This touches on the 1st challenge I mentioned which is the smaller market you have to work with. Even if you decide your book is ready  and that there is a big enough market for the book to be profitable, you still have to find your target audience and attract them. Some important questions to ask when deciding how to get more exposure for your book are…

What regions or countries will my HF book fare better in?

What reviewers will accept my works?

What bookstores or sites will feature my book?

The answers to those questions are important because you want to know which markets will be more profitable. As a writer you want reviews especially those who appreciate HF so potential readers can decide whether to take a chance on your work. As a writer you want to expand into new markets including your local bookstore to get your books in front of new eyes.

I’ll admit that writing and publishing historical fiction series is not easy. You’re bound to get critics. I even had one person suggest I quit writing in this genre. Even more challenging is the marketing. While this post is not intended to discourage anyone from publishing HF, I believe understanding the reality of the market will help you adapt your approach to your next writing project. Granted if you choose to write for the fun of it, don’t let the popularity, high expectations, or visibility get in the way from writing what you want to write. If anything writing more for your personal enjoyment can be liberating from the stress of worrying about sales. But even if you do decide to publish your next HF book for sale, my advice is to do your homework beforehand. Find out what works and what doesn’t work for your book and the genre at large. And above all stay true to what your passionate about.

 

 

Accepting the Mystery Blogger Award

mystery blogger award

I want to give a big thanks to Ian Gregoire for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award. I’ve been aloof lately from the blogging world so this reward is very fitting for me. I never thought I would be nominated for anything related to my writing let alone my blog so this was a pleasant surprise. Of course this prize does have a catch. I have the privilege to nominate at least ten other bloggers to share this award. This was not an easy decision because I didn’t want to nominate just random bloggers. In making this decision I wasn’t interested in how many followers you have or how many hits you get.  These are many great bloggers out there that I have yet to explore their content but these ten stand out in my personal list that deserve the recognition for their engaging content. Before I reveal the rules and nominations here are some fun facts about me…

*Special thanks go to Okoto for creating this award*

 

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Award Rules

– Put the award logo on your blog.
– List the rules.
– Thank whoever nominated you and link to their blog.
– Mention the creator of the award (Okoto Enigma) and provide a link as well.
– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
– Nominate roughly 10 – 20 people for this award.
– Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.
– Ask your nominees five questions.
– Share a link to your best/favourite post that you’ve written.

3 Facts about me

  • I’m a night owl.
  • I’m a big fan of the Sims especially Sims 3, although SimCity is giving it a run for its money.
  • When I was younger I was fascinated (and still am) with ladybugs. I would literally collect them in little jars when I was in elementary school.

5 Questions from Ian Gregoire

What unachieved goal would you most like to accomplish before you die?
My lifetime dream vacation is to visit the islands of Hawaii.

What unpopular opinion do you hold about a popular book you’ve read?
Harry Potter is too spiritistic for me.

If you could swap gender for a day, how would you spend your time?
This is a hard one. I suppose spending the day getting pampered at a spa would be nice, although ladies shouldn’t hold exclusive rights to this privilege.

If you could journey to a fictional setting from a book, which would it be?
Neverland from Peter Pan.

If you could possess any superpower, which would you like to have?
This is another hard question! There’s several I would like to have. The ability to transport  myself anywhere in the world instantaneously would be awesome.

My Nominations (I had to make adjustments after discovering one of you already were nominated)
A Writer’s Path
Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors
Ruth Ann Nordin’s Author Blog
Nicholas C. Rossis
J. Giambrone
David Gaughran
QA Productions 
Michael Cristiano
Reedsy
Whatinspiresyourwriting

Five questions for My Nominees
What’s your favorite fictional character from a book?
What was your greatest accomplishment thus far?
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Do you have any hidden talents (besides writing)? If so, what?
If you could meet a famous person (dead or alive) who would it be?

My Best/Favorite Post

I have many posts that I like so this was a tough decision. One of my definite favorites to write was a case study I did of a popular book character from the renowned dystopian novel Hunger Games.  In the blog post: “Katniss: Real or Not Real”  I examined what the author did to a create real and likeable character which is essential in crafting compelling stories.

Why Introverts Make Good Writers

I return to blogging because I like to write. Never did it cross my mind that my keen interest in writing had anything to do with who I am on a fundamental level until recently. After you read this you’ll understand the connection I started to make with introversion to writing.

It is estimated that at least 1/3  of the population are introverted. For a significant portion of the population, including myself we felt largely misunderstood. We felt something was wrong with us. I may not have been able to articulate it during childhood, but I learned early on that being outgoing, sociable, and assertive were more socially acceptable than being reserved, quiet, and passive. While introversion is still largely misunderstood and looked upon as a “deficiency,” today more people are becoming enlightened as to what introversion actually is and more importantly the inert strengths that introverts possess, largely thanks to Susan Cain’s book: Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. One of the many arenas introverts are making their mark on the world is literature.

This is not to say that extroverts can’t be good writers too. Writers are as varied as the number of books that are out on the market. From my own experiences I’ve come to see how my natural strengths that many other introverts possess can actually play in their favor when it comes to writing. Granted this won’t apply to every single introvert (there is great variation even among introverts) but the overall principles will apply to many.

Writing is their preferred method of communication. 

Typically extroverts tend to vocalize their thoughts. Introverts by nature tend to internalize their thoughts. From observation, my extroverted counterparts tend to be more vocal on expressing their thoughts and feelings vs. my introverted friends. For some introverts, speaking out especially to those they don’t know very well can be unnerving or awkward. Add shyness and anxiety to the mix and this problem is 10x worse especially in crowds. Even if you aren’t necessarily shy, it can be hard to articulate the thoughts and ideas swirling in your heads when someone puts you on the spot. Many find it easier to express their ideas into writing because it allows them time to sort out their thoughts and choose the right words. As a result many introverts have become comfortable writing their ideas and over time writing becomes second nature.

We have rich inner worlds.

It can be joked that introverts live in their heads. Silly as it sounds there’s some truth to those words. I’ll recall a friend of my friend on Facebook quoted that the “quietest people have the loudest minds.” As an introvert, I can personally attest to that fact. Because we are constantly ruminating different thoughts and working out ideas in our heads it’s no wonder that many introverts are naturally creative people. One of those creative outlets can be writing. With a creative mind you can brainstorm the plot of your next story from a single idea that popped in your head. You can imagine the setting of the plot, from the scenery of the world you’re creating. For the characters that populate your world, you can visualize everything from their physical appearance, down to their mannerisms and facial expressions. Once the ideas flow, the possibilities for the next novel are endless.

The need for quiet.

While this may not appear to many as a strength, our strength or energy comes from recharging alone. Quiet environments are the most conducive for this. Because long periods of quiet time doesn’t phase us as much (I actually welcome it) we can concentrate better. This plays into writing because the longer you can spend concentrating on your writing, the more productive you will be. Not only will you increase your word count but the quality of your writing will also benefit when you take away the distractions and tune in to your inner voice as you read the story and see if things flow. High levels of concentration are especially needed for the editing and re-writing process which is essential if you want to publish a book.

Because introverts get their energy from being alone, spending time alone or engaging in quieter activities is ideal for us. Stereotypically you’ll find an introvert at home curled up in their bed or couch reading a good book instead of going to a social gathering. Again that’s not true of every introvert in every situation. There’s times I actually want to go out and spend time with friends. A lot of times I genuinely enjoy myself when I do go. But there’s nothing more relaxing than unwinding after the event is over. A popular pastime particularly for quieter introspective souls is reading. Reading is indirectly related to the craft of writing because from reading you can learn from another author’s writing styles. Are they good at describing action scenes? Good at writing dialogue? Or maybe it’s believable characters. Without copying, we can emulate plot devices that work and avoid those that don’t in our own writing.

Granted, not every introvert will automatically excel at writing, but these three traits can help you in improving the craft. Like any craft it takes time and effort to perfect. And the good news is that these traits can be true of anyone whether you’re an extrovert, introvert or somewhere in between (ambivert). So if these traits are applicable to you, see them for what they are. And if your goal is to become a writer use them to your advantage in becoming a better writer than you were yesterday.

 

Free Promo: Before the Legend

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Friendship, Social Skills & School Life > Boys & Men

In case you didn’t know already, this week marks the 3rd anniversary of my debut novelette. I want to thank all my readers and fans who have read Before the Legend as well as my other stories to the series. I’m celebrating big with a free run that goes from November 21st-25th, right in time for Black Friday.

It will be free exclusively on Amazon (Worldwide) for Kindle. I’ve made some changes to my buy now page to reflect my free run. Download it while it’s free here.

 

10 Things I Learned Since Self-Publishing

It’s been three years since I self published my first book. It’s definitely been a learning experience marked by relative successes and failures. As I mark the 3rd anniversary since I self-published Before the Legend here are the top ten things I’ve learned over the course of three years in no particular order.

  1. Marketing is your responsibility. With traditional publishing companies you can expect a team to help market your book to your target audience. Even then you can’t sit back and relax. Some effort is required to reach out to your target audience wherever they may be found. This is especially important with indie writers because they have no big-name publishing company doing the marketing/advertising for you. This can be very daunting especially for new writers who know little about marketing and what’s involved in marketing a book. After all getting your manuscript polished and formatted is just the first hurdle. Getting people to find and read your book is a whole other monster. What can help is seeking advice from other experienced writers on how they market their books. This is a great starting point especially if you have no background in marketing.
  2. Don’t bother responding to negative reviews. This one is easier said then done because naturally when we get a review that we don’t agree with or is downright hateful we get defensive or angry. While my reviews have been mostly positive I have received a handful of constructive criticism on certain parts of my story. When you find yourself getting worked up over a review it’s often good to take a step away from the screen and come back to it later. This will allow you to 1) Cool off and 2) Be able to reflect on the criticism given with an objective mind. Was the reviewer being spiteful or did they have a valid point? If it was the latter you may be able to extract a gem or two from the criticism and use that in the future. Even if the review has no validity to it, responding to the reviewer is not only a waste of time but can potentially damage your reputation. How you handle the review is important because readers examine your every word under a magnify glass. Readers expect to express their opinion without fear of intimidation or that they are being stalked on cyberspace. Responding to a negative review will likely come off unprofessional and may even deter future readers. Whether you like it or not it’s best not complain online. I’m afraid writers don’t have that luxury.
  3.  Know the market you’re writing for. This point is important especially as it relates to marketing. What is the target audience in which you’re writing for? What does your audience expect? These are questions you want to ask when you first start writing not after you publish. I found out the hard way when I first published. Knowing your audience will help you to tailor your marketing/advertising to the right groups. It will also help you position your story so that it can be more readily found by those searching for your particular story. Knowing your audience will also help you to set realistic goals in terms of sale. If you’re writing a romance, you can be guaranteed there is a huge market for that genre. For other genres such as historical fiction that will have a smaller, less mainstream audience. However even genres that fall under a smaller niche can still be profitable. After all in popular genres such as romance or YA which have many competing works, there are readers searching for a specific type of book within those genres. At the end of the day if there is enough of an audience for a particular niche, you can expect relative success.
  4. Have a plan. This is a reminder from an earlier post but I think it’s worth being mentioned again. Having a plan to market your book, garner reviews, and etc will make your life much easier as you take the journey to self-publish. New writers can sometimes make this mistake of going into self-publishing without thinking everything through. Granted you can’t plan everything like how people will respond to your book. That’s out of your control. But you can control the overall presentation of the book. Focus on what you can control and be flexible when one path doesn’t work out. This will cut down on a lot of unnecessary stress.
  5. You will not strike it big the first-time around. With the exception of a few, most writers will not make the bestseller’s list the first time around. That may not even happen the second or even third time around. This is not to be negative but is the reality of the business. Even if you’re fortunate to crack the bestseller’s list, to maintain your staying power week after week is very difficult because you’re constantly competing with thousands upon thousands of books. Your sales rank can and will fluctuate depending on how well or not well other books in a similar genre are doing. This is contingent on the algorithm that sites such as Amazon use to determine your sales rank. It’s even rarer to find books to top the list and garner attention from Hollywood like Hunger Games or the Lord of the Rings.
  6. Don’t quit your day job! This goes along with point #5. Since you can’t guarantee how well a book is received it would be very unwise to quit your day job. Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins or the elite few you will likely not make enough money to live off your books. At least not yet. Until a writer gets high enough revenue from a consistent basis, most writers find it advantageous to still work their day jobs. If anything when you’re starting off, it will be the writing that will be supplementing your income not the other way around. To make a lot of money from writing takes skill, concerted effort, good fortune and churning out more books. If you’re expecting to be rich from writing, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
  7. People like free things. Generally I find that rule to hold true. That’s why free runs will catch people’s attention. You’re more likely to get people to download your book when it’s free than full-price. This can be a good and bad thing. From my own experience once the book goes back to full price after a free-run the downloads will dry up significantly. This is because people who may have had reservations about your book are more likely to take a chance on your book because they know they have nothing to lose (except time). That’s why some authors make their books permafree or permanently free as a marketing strategy to gain new readers who will hopefully be invested enough to buy the next book in the series.
  8. Self-promotion is your best friend. Not only is it the cheapest form of marketing but word of mouth can be effective.  This can be challenging especially if you’re an introvert like myself. If you can get enough people interested in your book, chances are they will share it with their friends or on their blogs for you. Every time people share your links, re-blog your article, write reviews, they’re giving you added exposure.
  9. People are more critical of self-published books. Although I haven’t felt the sting as other indie writers, one of the things I learned early on  is that people are more likely to be critical of books that are self-published. Unfortunately some readers and reviewers view self-published books to be inferior, amateurish, or unprofessional. While there are self-published books out there that fit that criteria, I feel that indie writers have to try even harder to prove our books are as good if not better than traditionally published books. That’s why having a polished manuscript and a professional looking book cover are very important to set yourself apart from the competition.
  10. Reviews are very important to us. I honestly can’t stress how important reviews are for a new writer especially an indie writer. Do our readers like our book? Did they get our vision? We’ll never know that unless someone tells us. Having feedback on our work is what motivates writers to keep writing. Having reviews can also be beneficial for undecided readers so they can make an informed decision. Granted no one likes bad reviews so having a bad one could dampen your spirits. At the same time if you have all glowing reviews you better hope they’re valid. If readers detect that they are biased or paid reviews, it can take away  from your credibility.

So if you can sum up these ten points in one sentence it would be: Self-publishing is not easy. In fact it’s not the most profitable route to take to make fast money. Many times you’ll actually spend more money trying to get it published/marketed than your actual profit when you factor in royalty rates. However if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to put out a solid book and have a solid plan to market your book to your target audience you have a chance of getting your book out there to the fans that will actually appreciate your book while gaining sales in the process. With self-publishing you really have to be willing to put in the work to see results. It’s a learning process that will push you in ways you never thought possible.  Even if you take nothing else from the experience, you’ll be a better writer than you were yesterday.

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The things I’ve learned about self-publishing doesn’t end with this list. I’ve learned so many things about the process from illustrations to copyright protection which is important for any writer to have.

Fun infographic on copywriting. Credit goes to Reedsy

 

How to Attract Readers?

Some books turn you off whether it’s spelling mistakes, cheesy cliches, or Mary-Sue characters. On the other end of the spectrum there are books that attract you. Some books instantly jump out at you whether you’re perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, or scrolling through the pages of Amazon. You just have this urge to pick the book up or click on it to see what it’s all about. What attracts a reader to a book depends on multiple factors from genre preferences to an attractive character plastered on the front cover. With so many books flooding the market you want your book to stand out, but how? What will attract readers?

Flip the Turn-offs into Turn-ons

As an indie writer, I’ve found myself asking that question even after my book was published. Obviously avoiding the three writing traps I discussed in my last post is a step in the right direction. For example, having near perfect spelling/grammar will improve the flow of the story. However it’s only the beginning. Most readers expect a published book to be well-written and error free. You not only want to avoid writing traps in your story, but you want to strive to do the opposite. For example, instead of writing a Mary-Sue character, create a character that is different. Maybe they have a quark or a different world view. Whatever it is, you want to flesh them out so that they feel like real people with real fears, desires and idiosyncrasies.

Tip: Next time you read a book filled with your favorite characters, think about why you liked those characters? An example of this was a detailed post I did on one of my favorite characters of a popular dystopian novel on what made her real and likable. If you’re a writer, set out to create the kind of characters that you would want to meet. Chances are other readers may find those characters appealing.

However before a reader can learn how interesting your set of characters are or the wonderful world you created, they have to actually read your story. At least the first page. Otherwise they will never know how interesting you think your plot or characters are. As I alluded to earlier, there’s no one-size-fit-all approach to attracting readers. I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact if I did I would be a best-selling author by now. However after reading other books and analyzing why I was drawn to certain ones, here are the common elements I’ve learned that play the biggest role in attracting readers.

  • An interesting premise or plot – With so many recycled story lines and overused cliches, when a writer does come out with an original story line readers will take notice especially those hungry for something new and fresh. Whether you’re hearing about the book through word-of-mouth or the blurb, the premise of the story needs to fill your mind with intrigue from the questions it raises to the built-in conflict that leaves you wondering how this story is going to turn out. For more information on writing an effective blurb you can read on here.
  • Eye-popping cover – Despite the common saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover,” people do base their judgments from first impressions. Sight is one of the most powerful and seductive of your five senses. This is true of most people and if you’re a visual person, an eye-grabbing book cover can be a powerful determining factor in choosing one book over another. The imagery coupled with the font should not only be visually pleasing but should clue the reader on what the book is about. Certain imagery will attract certain readers but having attractive characters is the easiest way to attract readers. Just look at popular romance books. They play on basic human nature which is that we are naturally drawn to beauty. Granted this method won’t work for every story. This is where knowing your audience comes into play. While it’s good to be unique, it’s advisable to still follow some expectations of the given genre you’re writing in. Whether people are seeking out books in a given genre/sub-genre or subject matter, many readers tend to gravitate to what they’re familiar with.
  • Catchy title – Sometimes just reading the title is enough to pique your curiosity. Although there are exceptions, keeping it short and snappy will not only pique the reader’s curiosity but make it more memorable. In a sea of books, new writers in particular want people to remember their book.
  • Interest-grabbing introduction – Once the reader responds to the lure, whether the plot sounded promising or the book cover intrigued them, this is the part where you hook the reader. The first few lines are arguably the make or break point and in my opinion the hardest part to get right. If you fail to hook the reader by the first page, there’s a high chance the reader will drop the book and move on to something else. Even if the reader continues on to finish the rest of chapter one, something needs to happen. While you don’t have to write out an action-packed scene to keep your reader’s attention, you should be setting up the inciting incident that propels the main plot forward. Questions need to be raised. The tone of the book should be taking shape at this point, giving the reader an idea of what they can expect going forward. If the beginning fails to grab the reader’s interest soon, whatever interest they initially had will quickly fizzle out.

There are many factors that affects our choices that I haven’t touched on. Sometimes we simply base our choices on what we’re familiar with. Perhaps we have a certain author that we love so we seek out books by that author because we like their writing style. But when analyzing why I pick a book to read even if I’m not familiar with the author or the book, the four elements I mentioned earlier are what initially draw me to the story. And I’m betting that’s true of most readers as well.

If one or more of these elements are executed well, the writer is doing pretty good. Of course you want to give attention to each of the four elements. For instance you can have an amazing blurb but your cover comes across amateurish. Or you may have an eye-popping cover but your introduction fails to hold your reader’s attention and they end up dropping the book. However if you can manage to nail all four elements, you have a book too irresistible to pass up!

So what’s the most important element to initially attract readers? I’ll leave that for you to decide in the comments.

Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish?

I wondered for a time whether it was better that I stuck to self-publishing or if I should have gone the traditional route. Now I know why my choice to self-publish was the best choice for me given what my goals were. This is the most insightful and objective post that I’ve run across on the subject of both types of publishing. I recommend this to every new writer who find themselves unsure of the path they want to take.

A Writer's Path

Doors

by A.G. Young

So today we’re talking about if you should Self Publish or Traditionally Publish that baby you have been working on for months or years. This of course is no easy question to answer, and also very highly personal to each writer. So I am going to discuss my opinion on the matter. And a little forewarning, because of the topic of this post, this is going to be a long one.

Before you can answer this main question, you must answer a few others first. Let’s see what those are.

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