State of the Writer, May 2011 edition

I’ve been absent, and mostly quiet. I noticed this year that I am almost always absent during the early months of the year, and usually for at least the last one; I’m not sure if this is in response to the lessening of the sunlight, because I’ve never actually valued sunlight all that much.

I have been working, though. I’ve just finished the last-but-one stage of Cast in Ruin, which is a review of the copy-edited manuscript; the last stage is the review of the Harlequin version of page proofs, which shouldn’t be for a month or two. I’m working on final revisions of Skirmish now. I also realized that the 50,000 words of Touch as it existed weren’t the right 50,000 words (the short version: at 50k words, I suddenly realized that the book as it’s written is written from the wrong viewpoint character; the right viewpoint character was not at all obvious to me until that point), and I’ve set them aside for now, to concentrate on Cast in Peril (as it is now called). I submitted one new novella, Anne, to Russell Davis’ Courts of the Fey.

You’ll note, in that list, that new writing is not perhaps the order of the day. Or month. I wrote many, many pages of War, and jettisoned them. I finally have a prologue, many, many pages later, that I’m happy with. The West novels generally cause me grief at the very beginning because while I’m certain of characters & place, I’m not always certain which is the right viewpoint–and sometimes writing the beginning makes me realize that the certainty of characters and place was perhaps misplaced. I’m looking, as I write, for the moment when the book snaps into focus and the words are absolutely the right beginning for the book. I now have the right beginning for the book.

Last, but not least, I’ve been figuring out the formats for epubs. Many of my short stories were written for anthologies that are no longer in print, and I’ve been considering re-releasing them in kindle/ebook format. The research into this has reminded me of how little I wanted to be a publisher or an editor when I first started writing; there’s some need for each separate story–if they’re sold separately–to have an individual cover, and I lack, among other things, any artistic talent whatsoever. There’s some excitement at the idea of putting these stories where people can actually read them, though.

The books are trickier. A number of my writer friends are beginning to put their shorter and out-of-print works up at various ebook sites via Smashwords. Smashwords, however, requires that the publisher/author own all of the electronic rights. And with the exception of the short fiction, I don’t.

DAW owns the North American rights to ebooks for all of my DAW titles, but the earlier paper books are lost in the backlog of all of their previous backlist, awaiting conversion. DAW does not own the rest of the world English rights, and I am strongly considering making the backlist of at least the current three books available on amazon.co.uk — but each book is the work of about two full-time weeks, because the manuscript formats I do have are absent any of the later copy-edits and proofing, and they would have to be checked against the book. I also, as mentioned above, don’t have anything approximating cover art, and as an artist, I’m a good writer.

For the Luna Sagara books, all ebook rights are owned by the publisher for all markets–I have no say at all in the timing or the production of their arrival in their various constituencies. Unlike every other short I’ve written, the Luna novella for Harvest Moon, is also entirely under the purview of HLQ for the duration.

So at the moment I’m going over the short fiction, and I have a question: I was considering put up a collection–the one that would have been published by MeishaMerlin, had their doors remained open. That one contained all of the extant West-related shorts, as well as a few others. Someone pointed out that my readers are likely to have some of those stories, and it might make more sense to offer them separately.

Offering them separately would take more time, because of the aforementioned necessary covers.

Any thoughts?

57 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lyssabits
    May 15, 2011 @ 04:13:07

    As someone who tracked down most of the West short stories in their original anthologies through used book sellers.. just release them all in one collection. ;) Seriously, if it’s easier for you, and gets them out to readers more quickly, saving me a couple of bucks doesn’t really seem like enough incentive to make you do the extra work. Plus they’re in a different format, which some people would value all by itself. Says the girl who ALSO buys a paper copy and an e-book copy of all the Cast novels. ;) I’m probably weird though.

    Reply

  2. Sascha
    May 15, 2011 @ 04:14:50

    Considering the shenanigans we’ve had to go through to get anthology copies of some of your short stories, I’ll take them any way I can get them that doesn’t require me to comb the internet for hours and finally order a book full of stories from an obscure used bookstore in Peoria, IL (or something) for $10.

    Just because I own the anthology containing the story about the Ospreys does not mean I will be miffed when I buy another anthology containing it. It will still be cheaper and less time consuming than tracking them all down separately on the Internet. AND they’ll be in my electronic library which is an awesome bonus!

    And honestly, if it results in new stories being offered for sale, do whatever works for you. I’ll buy them any way you present them.

    Reply

  3. Andrea H.
    May 15, 2011 @ 04:27:04

    Having tracked down and read most, but not all, of the West shorts, I’d say that being able to buy all of them together would be awesome.

    Reply

  4. Hugh Shannon Myers
    May 15, 2011 @ 04:34:46

    One of the things I noticed with the short fiction, is that they all are particularly important to the story arc(s) found in the novels. The possible exception to this are is ‘The Weapon’ and it is in-directly important in terms of fleshing out the story of Veralaan. Without spoiling, ‘The Black Ospreys’ provides information post book 6—‘The Sun Sword’. And so on. To my mind I think that all of the shorter works are necessary for complete understanding and enjoyment of the longer works. Clearly from my point of view, you need to get these scattered works into the hands of your readers [too late for me, I’ve got them all :) ] The question is how? As individual files? PDFs? Epubs? A single publication? For money? You’ve partially started down ‘a road’ in that ‘Echos’ is available as a download. I think that you were correct with the comment about the MeishaMerlin solution—good cover art and a single volume! Just out of curiosity, does there exist behind their ‘closed doors’ any digital text? Might save some work regardless of which way you go. Regards single versus separate, I don’t think your readers will be too troubled. For them the text is important—although we all like good cover art!

    Reply

  5. Nova
    May 15, 2011 @ 05:10:01

    As someone who also buys the paper copy AND the digital copy, I don’t really care how you publish the stories; like the others, I’ll buy them however you publish them. That said, I think having all the shorts in one single bundle would be the best as (again a repeat) I don’t have to hunt down each individual one, which I think most readers could probably appreciate.

    Reply

  6. ElizabethN
    May 15, 2011 @ 06:24:51

    I would buy either combined or separate stories. I’ve seen several authors release stories as both singles and in anthologies with pricing to match the length.

    If the MeishaMerlin release involves the least amount of clean-up, cover creation etc then definitely go that route. Then think about releasing individual stories if desired.

    Reply

  7. Aaron
    May 15, 2011 @ 09:06:58

    I agree with the previous statements and recommend publishing the West stories in one volume, ebook or otherwise. Those of us who’ve gone to the bother of collecting (in whole or part) the short stories from the anthologies are probably the ones *least* likely to raise a fuss for having to buy a full trade paperback or ebook. Also, you save new readers from having to sort out what-is-what from your extensive bibliography and save yourself from the extant cost of trying to format them individually.

    Glad to hear you survived the holidays intact :)

    Reply

  8. Frédéricke
    May 15, 2011 @ 11:07:30

    Je suis une fan( et certainement pas la seule) française des chroniques d’ Elantra. Les éditions Harlequin ont arrété la publication de la série LUNA; donc depuis environ 2 ans, après CAST IN FURY, les aventures de Kaylin ne sont plus publiées en français ce qui est dommage pour les fans . J’espère que un autre éditeur prendra la relève pour que enfin nous puissions suivre la suite des aventures de Kaylin Neya…

    Reply

  9. Carol Duffy
    May 15, 2011 @ 12:48:45

    Having also hunted down all of the anthologies, I would love to be able to have all of the West stories in one place. I also think it would be easier for new readers. Having said that, do whatever is easiest for you :)

    Reply

  10. Genna Warner
    May 15, 2011 @ 14:32:52

    I have to add my voice to the fray stating that how ever it is easier then please do it that way. I just want the short stories. :) I haven’t been able to track them down. I won’t buy used books over the internet because I don’t trust the sellers description of the condition of the book. I’m extremely picky about the condition of used books. :) So one books, many books it doesn’t matter as long as I can purchase them new.

    Reply

  11. technomom
    May 15, 2011 @ 17:11:11

    I’m right there with the others – please publish the entire collection. I would certainly purchase it, as I think many of your fans would. Better more stories than less!

    Reply

  12. Christine
    May 15, 2011 @ 17:31:05

    I also would prefer having all the short stories in one book. I would prefer it in paper rather than e-format since I don’t have an e-reader though…
    I’ve only been able to find the anthology with “Warlord” in it and some of the others I read from the library’s copy so I know how hard it is to find them. So this news is really great for me!
    Thanks Michelle!

    Reply

  13. Ann Kopchik
    May 15, 2011 @ 18:00:38

    As someone who hasn’t chased down all the collections with your West shorts, but was starting to think about doing just that:

    I would buy the separate versions, but I’d vastly prefer all of them together.

    On a completely different topic: Will you be coming down to Confluence this year?

    Reply

  14. Viviana
    May 15, 2011 @ 18:27:27

    I’m all for putting the short fiction in one collection. When other writers have put out full collections of their short fiction, I have always purchased them, even if I have some of the stories in the original compilations.

    If nothing else, it saves me from having to remember which story was in what book ;-)

    Reply

  15. Hugh Shannon Myers
    May 15, 2011 @ 19:48:03

    I just realized that there is one problem with publishing them as a single work. Total length would only be 305 pages! Much, much to short. :) Would need new and really good (long) introductions!!

    Reply

  16. MaryW
    May 15, 2011 @ 20:57:20

    Put me with the majority of the comments – if 1 book is the least work for you, then it would be wonderful. But you can self publish in formats acceptable to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. as well as other ebook retailers. I do like the idea of a good cover but your work is more interesting than the cover. In the last month both Ilona Andrews and Sharon Lee have made some of their titles or Point of View available this way. Of the publishers whose websites I frequent, Baen allows the reader the most freedom in downloading books in the multiple formats that the reader may want and they are still available at Amazon et al. Not having an ereader until recently, they were downloaded in rtf. Then Amazon and other retailers offered software for electronic devices, so they were downloaded again. Now, with an ereader I can download again in the format the the ereader uses. But I will take your stories anyway that I can get them. Chasing out of print books can get very expensive as can ordering books from other countries.

    I also agree with Hugh Shannon Myers: a good, long introduction would be a great addition.

    Reply

  17. Kez
    May 15, 2011 @ 21:36:07

    With eBooks it is remarkably easy once you have the formatting to offer the books individually or as a collection. Or even to offer them individually with the option to buy the whole collection (being multiple files) at once. Depending on what format you want to release the ebooks in predominately there are a number of open source programmes which make the formatting a lot easier.

    As for cover art perhaps you could run a fan art competition? I’ve seen it done with a lot of the lesser known authors that I read and the artists get the prestige of having their artwork attached to a story which they love and also free publicity in that their works are distributed with the book. A distribution channel which they may otherwise have not been able to achieve.

    Reply

  18. Estara
    May 15, 2011 @ 21:40:24

    If you know Sharon Lee, you might ask for her experiences there, she’s just been releasing Liaden chapbooks in Kindle-format the last month or two (she’s rolanni on LJ). She uses the old chapbook covers and they aren’t all that pretty either.

    If you went with single stories I could see you picking or commissioning an emblem (something simple in black and white?) for the Sun Sword world (like the Liaden series has the Dragon and Tree) and putting that on each single story as a cover and then have a strong font for the name and to establish corporate identity.

    Re: formatting – there are people who offer to do that for authors, but it would be costly.

    Re: A painted cover – I have no idea what they cost, but have you seen Andrea K. Höst’s covers for her self-published books? I can recommend The Champion of the Rose, by the way.

    Reply

  19. Michelle Sagara
    May 16, 2011 @ 03:21:11

    Re: formatting – there are people who offer to do that for authors, but it would be costly.

    At this point, it’s not the formatting that’s the stumbling block – it’s the line-editing/copy-editing/proofing that the printed books have undergone. In the future, when I’m reviewing copy-edits and page proofs, I’ll enter the changes in the electronic versions I have, so they’ll be completely up to date.

    But there’s a reason we’re generally given 7-14 days to review copy-edits and page proofs — and even given that time, we’re always going to miss something.

    The versions I have are post editorial requested revisions, but prior to any small line-edits, copy-edits and proof-reading, and that’s the stage that’s going to take all of the time on my end.

    That and finding cover art. I may try to .pdf the final and use Lulu or another pod service for people who really want a printed book, but that also changes the cover needs.

    Reply

    • Hilda
      May 20, 2011 @ 01:23:06

      About the cover. I know we all like those amazing covers, but if this is rush and difficult… what about on your own handwriting:

      TO MY FANS
      SHORT STORIES
      BY

      MICHELLE SAGARA-WEST

      Reply

  20. DeDe
    May 16, 2011 @ 16:01:47

    LOL – Is it wrong that there’s a tiny part of me (where the evil snickering resides) that wants to see what cover art you’d come up with? I can loan you a box of crayons. :-) I’m with the others – whatever’s easiest for you.

    Reply

  21. Aaron
    May 16, 2011 @ 17:09:52

    Can you not use OCR technology to scan in published in-print copies and then massage the format to text that an e-book coverter would recognize? That would seem to be easier than making line-by-line comparisons between your draft versions and the printed word.

    The only problem I can foresee is OCR’s quirkiness with quotation marks, but I have little experience in the area.

    Reply

    • Ann Kopchik (amergina)
      May 16, 2011 @ 18:04:35

      I’m hardly an expert, but having done a bit of OCRing…

      You’d have to compare the OCR output with the in-print copy anyway, since the process will introduce errors. (misread letters, etc.) At that point, you might as well compare the draft copy with the published version, rather than spending the time to OCR. There may end up being less errors (or less downright goofy errors, like fi’s becoming h’s for example) than with OCR-produced text, and you bypass the time spent OCRing the printed version.

      Reply

  22. Mary Allen
    May 16, 2011 @ 18:12:21

    Michelle,

    I just want it done as soon as possible – am tired of re-reading your work to get my fix and have only been able to find three of the short stories. S L Viehl has a blog for writers Paperback writer that deals a lot with doing cover art and putting stuff out. It might help. I am getting an electronic reader for my birthday so either would work for me but I really like holding a book. I love everything you write just wish it was faster.

    Reply

  23. Michelle Sagara
    May 17, 2011 @ 05:32:44

    I just realized that there is one problem with publishing them as a single work. Total length would only be 305 pages! Much, much to short. :) Would need new and really good (long) introductions!!

    I laughed out loud at that while drinking coffee. I also virtually threw the nearest non-fatally heavy item in your direction.

    And Ann Kopchik is absolutely correct – it’s the proofing of the OCR’d text vs. the proofing of the text as it is; they’ll take about the same amount of time. If I had no electronic version at all (I have none of the Sundered books in any format anymore), OCR would be necessary.

    I am now looking into cover art, even minimal cover art, and the possibility of PoD printing through something like Lulu for people who don’t have ebook readers and might want physical text.

    Reply

  24. Michelle Sagara
    May 17, 2011 @ 05:40:50

    And also

    @Ann: Yes, we’re planning to attend Confluence again this year :)

    Reply

  25. Michael
    May 17, 2011 @ 16:38:29

    Ooh, I kind of feel ashamed as a fan for not realising there were short stories as well…

    A “collected” volume would be great as I haven’t read any of them, and it doesn’t sound like those who have have any huge objections. Please please please make it available on Amazon.co.uk as well though – is there a reason all the West books aren’t available over here? (I like my dead tree copies, but Kindle reading is just so much more convenient).

    Reply

    • Michelle Sagara
      May 18, 2011 @ 03:45:20

      A “collected” volume would be great as I haven’t read any of them, and it doesn’t sound like those who have have any huge objections. Please please please make it available on Amazon.co.uk as well though – is there a reason all the West books aren’t available over here? (I like my dead tree copies, but Kindle reading is just so much more convenient).

      Because of the way book distribution works, authors sell rights to publishers by territory. For the DAW books, the rights sold for the Hunter books were world English – which means they could sell those books in the UK for the kindle (I thought I had kept those rights, but clearly my memory is suspect). HOWEVER, at the moment none of the first eight books are available electronically anywhere.

      The latter three, the House War books, were done as ebooks. Those books, however, DAW bought North Americans for. So there is no UK kindle version of those books because there is no UK publisher.

      One of the things I hope to do is to make them available for UK kindle (and world English in general, although I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t have an Australian presence).

      So the West-related short stories will be available anywhere.

      Reply

  26. Rosemarie Parker
    May 17, 2011 @ 16:51:07

    I like the one collection option myself. I’d buy it just so I can file it under the right author, unlike the various anthologies in which the stories have already appeared. Someone mentioned Sharon Lee’s chapbooks. My experience with them suggests that the compilation volume is preferable, even with some duplication. You can’t price individual stories low enough that a reader doesn’t feel a wee bit miffed at finally buying a compilation (mostly repeat but with 1-2 stories found nowhere else) at only a couple dollars more than one single. Makes sense when you think of the processing, but if the stories are all available at close to the same time, please put out one volume, even in a “plain brown paper” cover (whatever that would be electronically). Looking forward to it!

    Reply

  27. Emily
    May 17, 2011 @ 23:51:37

    I’ve got several of them in individual books, but honestly, offer it however is easiest for you and gets it to us quickest. :) There are still a couple that I haven’t been able to get, and I certainly don’t mind having found the random collections – I’ve found authors I like very much that way.

    And I’m waiting breathlessly for Ruin and Skirmish – I very much love both the West and Sagara books, and unfortunately read altogether way to fast for my authors, budget or library to keep up with…

    Reply

  28. David Youngs
    May 18, 2011 @ 02:08:11

    I saw this week an anthology by Robin Hobb and her other name: two sections, one for each. And some worry about whether it would work.
    Maybe you could put it out like an Ace Double.

    Reply

  29. Aaron
    May 18, 2011 @ 02:50:14

    Also, thank you for “Cast in Peril”. :)

    Reply

  30. Theresa
    May 18, 2011 @ 02:52:21

    I would love to get all your short stories in one collection. Especially if I can get it for my Kindle. On a side note, I am currently unemployed, so if you need someone to make changes to your electronic files send them my way.

    Reply

  31. Heather
    May 18, 2011 @ 03:34:16

    Looking for a copy of a book that is no longer printed can be a pain. But that is when old copys can be sold acording to their worth. Imagine if e-books can be brought back and purchase acording to the demand of the consumer.
    When ask the quiestion of how I sean short stores have been publish and sold a couple of ideas come to mind.
    1. An Author can put the story on e-book for $0.00 to what the story is worth. Some readers need to purches their books on their e-books readers. For the simple reson of they do not have the space, or the resores to get the product. This alows the fans to pick their reading materal with out the strace of will this store carry the book. Or with stores that they have alread or do not want. You could also say it save trees that alow as to breath.
    Though e-books are evermantal you will have fans that like too sit down to a paper back book and relaxed.
    2. An Auther can work with a Publisher and other Authors too publish short stores that have simaler topics.
    Sometimes fans miss out on the story becouse they do not know the title of the book that the short store is in.
    3. An Author can puts many short stories together in a book. Some times fans like seval sories togeather in one book so they can save space. The books they have may be appraise or get rid of.

    You can find example on some of the Author web site.
    Like:

    http://www.ilona-andrews.com/

    http://www.tamora-pierce.com/

    Reply

  32. Michelle Sagara
    May 18, 2011 @ 03:46:51

    Oh, and Michael – for some reason your first post hit the spam filter here. I don’t get notified when a message is classified as spam; I will get a notification if a message is sent to moderation queue. The moderation queue is automatic, and I think it generally happens if there are links within the post, but as I’m sitting at the computer writing, I’ll approve things fairly quickly.

    But yours was delayed because it was in the spam folder. I honestly don’t know why.

    Reply

  33. Hilda
    May 20, 2011 @ 00:59:39

    I have been away from computers for over two weeks and… WOW. Of course I’m dying to get all the short stories in one book. This time, however, it may be easier, once the work starts, I think, to have both the written version and the e version available together. I may be wrong because both versions seem to be difficult to complete together. Do it as best for you and we will all be happy.
    Would it be possible to have each story related to particular novels in the series? Really, I can’t even imagine where do you get the time to do everything we know you are doing. Are the days where you live longer than 24 hours?

    Reply

  34. Melanie
    May 20, 2011 @ 16:15:58

    I have looked and looked for your short storys… I would love a BOOK of them… I do not want an e reader.

    Reply

  35. Roger
    May 21, 2011 @ 03:30:45

    It would be great if all your short stories are in one bundle.

    Is War the fifth book in the HOUSE WAR sequence?

    Reply

  36. AT
    May 21, 2011 @ 03:36:42

    I am a big fan of making collected works available in E format and would love all the West short Stories.

    Reply

  37. Aaron
    May 21, 2011 @ 03:50:16

    I understand that these were incomplete/cut scenes, but you may want to consider including or even expounding on:

    1. Meralonne vs. Anduvin (held back from Sea of Sorrows)

    2. Kiriel’s Investiture (from http://msagara.livejournal.com/41039.html)

    P.S. I’m sorry if I’m being pedantic, but people ask about these in e-mail and the yahoo group periodically.

    Reply

  38. Ruby
    May 25, 2011 @ 05:07:15

    Random question, Michelle. Is there any chance of your sun sword series being released into ebook formats? My paperbacks are getting worn out and I would love to have an ebook format to carry around.

    Reply

  39. Aaron
    May 25, 2011 @ 06:20:22

    Ruby – from what I understand, it’s not a matter of willingness; it’s a matter of resources. DAW is still relatively small operation and they’re trying to prioritize their backlog of books that don’t exist in an easily configurable digital format. Which means they have to scan and/or transcribe the texts by hand.

    Reply

  40. Edward
    May 25, 2011 @ 20:09:42

    Ah and there I was going to mention the Steve Miller / Sharon Lee shift to Baen’s Epublishing after all those troubles as well, but I see someone beat me to it. Although it does kind of amuse me about how deathly they used to be against electronic copies due to the idea of piracy, and now it’s been embraced under the way Baen handles it.

    With short stories I think the anthology collection would work better then individually. Of course depending on just how many of the short stories are around, if they’re only electronic versions they could be paired up or such depending on themes of the stories. Heh, or even put up one or two of them on your website to really tempt the fans into chasing the rest down…

    Reply

  41. Sara
    May 26, 2011 @ 08:37:56

    Hello there! I was actually hoping that the Sunsword series would be available ont he Kindle as well? Clearly not a priority, you have so much going on, but any plans to go there? Thanks so much-

    Reply

  42. Aaron
    May 26, 2011 @ 09:03:57

    Sara – I think we would all love Sun Sword in an e-book format. But as stated above, it’s not a matter of desire as much as it is an issue of resources. You’d be better served by politely contacting DAW publishing group and let your interest be known, since they hold both the rights and the staff dedicated to converting those texts to e-books.

    Reply

  43. Leanne
    May 31, 2011 @ 15:45:58

    I have a suggestion for both the art and the proofing: fans.

    You have a LARGE and active fan base, and I suspect you’ve got at least a couple people out there doing fan art that could be used for covers. Make a contest out of it and send signed copies of something to the winners. (Or, offer a thousand-word (or whatever) ‘deleted or omitted scene’ of the artist’s choosing as a reward, or something like that.)

    As for e-reader formatting… I suspect you could get enough volunteers to cover proofing the short (“short”) stories against the books. I’d be willing to do a short story, for example; I’ve published non-fiction of my own so I’m used to working with randomly edited files. You would need to share the electronic copies you have with your copy-edit-enterers, but you know enough of the people on the Yahoo list to be able to trust a good number of them.

    And ditto on the requests above that some of the other deleted scenes that you’ve shared periodically with the Yahoo list be included in any short story anthology you put out. :-)

    Reply

  44. Michelle Sagara
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 10:04:08

    When you’re done beating me with it would you mind signing it for me?

    :D

    Absolutely. I don’t consider myself entirely responsible for anything I might actually write in it (except my signature), since I feel I have Been Provoked.

    Reply

  45. Michael
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 11:30:37

    Well, if the past is any indicator, you should probably add a few blank pages to the front of the book then…

    Reply

  46. H.Renee
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 02:48:07

    You could have a contest for cover art, with the best entry being a cover to X short story or collection and maybe a free copy. I mean, if you own the rights, that’s allowed as far as I can tell. Write up a contract of some sort for the person and go. I, for one, would be so delighted to have my artwork on a book cover that I would be happy just to see it.

    Just remember to TinyEye or otherwise search and be sure the graphic isn’t stolen. Maybe a contest where they have to mail you the original to your PO Box or something. :)

    Reply

  47. Barry Mossman
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 17:01:39

    I love the Elantra series but I do have a tiny quibble.Our heroine never takes a bath or puts on clean clothes,always picks ‘em up off the floor

    Reply

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