New slots opening in the following weeks!


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Hi everyone,

This is just a quick PSA to tell you that new translation slots will open in the next few weeks. This is a great opportunity for self-published authors looking to branch into a foreign market that already welcomed several bestselling indie authors. If you’re interested, or you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

Useful Notes: How can I find a good translator?


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Well, hopefully, if you’re looking for an Italian translator, you already found one here 🙂 However, just in case you were looking for a translator in another language (or [sob] another Italian translator), in this post you will find some tips.

Note that, in the past, I already published several posts about how to avoid scammers, how much you should pay for a translation, and so on. This post is about how to find a freelancer that suits your need. To my knowledge, there are three common ways of doing so: asking your author friends, checking out some websites, or contacting an agency. All of them have upsides and downsides.

Word of mouth

This is perhaps the most common way authors find me: when asked for it, a satisfied client recommends a translator – with whom they worked – to their friends. This way of finding a freelancer to work with has several upsides: the only thing you have to do is ask your author friends if they know a good translator, and since they already worked with the person in question, their firsthand experience will be invaluable.

There’s also a downside: sadly, not every author can judge a translator properly. A lot of people have commissioned (and paid for, and published) bad translations without realizing it. Not every reader leaves reviews, and a bad – or just sub-par – translator can keep working unnoticed for quite a long wile. If possible, ask your author friends if they have any confirmation about the translator’s skills (such as positive comments in the reviews, or at least a lack of negative comments about the quality of the translation).

Window shopping

Another way you can find a translator is search for “[language] book translations” or something similar on your favorite search engine and look at the various web pages that will appear. A serious professional will have most or all of the following on their website:

  • a detailed explanation of what they do (ie. “I translate all sorts of novels”, “I specialize in historical romance”, “I have experience with fiction and non-fiction alike”)
  • clear and up-to-date rates (people who encourage you to inquire about costs tend to be quite expensive, perhaps even excessively so)
  • a list of satisfied clients
  • a list of the books they translated
  • any relevant personal information (studies, languages spoken natively, etc.)

Empty websites are suspicious, as are poor grammar and long, self-praising blocks of text that actually give you no information at all.

The upside of window shopping is that, well, it can be fun. It also allows you to see for yourself what you may be buying. The downside is that all the information come through an interested party (the translator), so it may not be 100% accurate.

Translation agencies

There are a lot of translation agencies out there, many of which will be able to translate any book you want (although it seems that a lot of them focus more, or even exclusively, on non-fiction). Serious ones will have a professional website and a person  (usually an account manager) whom you’ll be able to contact if you have any questions. The upside of working with an agency is that many of them are quire serious about their reputations, and will pursue high quality standards. The downside… well, a translation agency is, essentially, a middleman. They will slap their own mark-up on whatever the translator gets, which may increase the cost quite a bit… and if it doesn’t, they are probably paying a low wage to their translator, which usually doesn’t guarantee good quality.


Which method do I recommend? In my experience, word of mouth is usually a good start, followed by a quick search to see if the translator has gotten good reviews and/or seems legit. If you don’t know any author who could recommend you a translator, you’re left with the option between window shopping or looking for an agency. The one you choose generally depends on your budget and on the kind of relationship you want with your translator: agencies tend to be more expensive and impersonal, while individual freelancers are usually cheaper, and working with them creates a more personal relationship. The choice is up to you.

Useful Notes: 5 ways to better characterize Italian characters


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In the last Useful Notes post, I talked about some episodes of Italian history that I thought could be interesting for authors. This time I’d like to give you a few tips on how to make your Italian characters sound more real. Just like the other post, this one is merely a primer, not a full guide to Italian speech patterns; however, I hope it’ll manage to at least guide your research in the right direction. 🙂

So, about making those character more well-defined…

Use double negatives

In standard English, two negatives make a positive: “I didn’t do nothing” literally means “I did something.” The same isn’t true in Italian, though: “Non ho fatto niente” translates word for word as “I didn’t do nothing”, but actually means “I didn’t do anything“. That’s because, apparently, the two negatives reinforce, rather than cancel out, each other. If your Italian character doesn’t have a perfect grasp of English, having them negate something twice is a good way of showing it.

… or some common slips of the tongue

Words like grazie (“thank you”) and prego (“you’re welcome”) are second nature for most polite Italians. It would be easy, for a speaker of that language not well versed in English (or simply not used to speak it conversationally), to use them by instinct. For the same reason, an Italian character may use  (don’t forget the accent) instead of “yes”, or the Italian pronunciation of “no” (which sounds closer to the French non) in lieu of the English one. This doesn’t necessary implies ignorance on the character’s part: the person may just be nervous or in a hurry.

Don’t forget to put articles (almost) everywhere

Unlike English, the Italian language makes ample use of definite articles, even when referring to generic things. For example, Italians “go to the work” instead of going “to work”, drink the milk instead of drinking milk, and so on. This isn’t universal: we have sex, not the sex, for example. But it’s a general speech pattern that you can keep in mind to make your characters sound more realistic, especially if they have a very basic comprehension of English.

Play with gestures

That the same gesture may have completely different meanings in different cultures is widely known. You can employ this to your advantage by having an Italian character use the wrong gesture in a given situation or misinterpret someone else’s. For example, the so-called sign of the horns has positive implications in the American culture, as well as in several Norther European ones; in Italy, making this gesture at someone (especially men) means you’re calling them a cuckold. The same goes for the V sign, which in Italy is considered to have less to do with “victory” than it has with female genitalia. Just remember to do a very thorough research, or things could get embarrassing.

Do not make them Sicilian

Alright, we all know that that the South is where most Italian immigrants came (and still come) from. But you can do better. Make your Italian characters from Veneto, Friuli or Piemonte, the three Northern regions that produced more than 47% of the Italian emigration between 1875 and 1900. Veneto (yes, that’s the region where Venice is), in particular, used to have a lot of poverty in certain areas; my late father, a History teacher in high school, used to say that veneti (people from Veneto) used to be called terroni del nord (“Northern terroni“, the latter being a slur to indicate Southern Italians) because they were so poor. Piemonte (Piedmont) also used to heave sacks of heavy poverty, particularly in the country area of the Langhe. If you have the opportunity, do a bit of research about the part of Italy your character is from, focusing on the local dialects and some words that a person from those areas may be likely to use often in their daily life. Nothing like having your character from Brescia call their friend vecio (lit. “old man”), or babao (lit. “idiot”) when they screw up, to make them sound authentic. Although your readers might need notes. 😛

Useful Notes: Four Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Italy


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I know many authors that like to write about Italy, my country. Sometimes it’s just a brief paragraph about one of their characters’ travels; other times, one of said character is Italian; and in some cases, the whole story is set in Italy. I decided to write this post to provide some food for thoughts (more like a snack, really) to any author who might be interested in learning something new and perhaps use it as inspiration for story details, or – who knows? – perhaps even a whole plot or sub-plot. Do what you want with this; I’ll just leave it here 🙂

The Italian language didn’t exist until the late 1800s

When you have a character in, say, Medieval Europe, and you want to show that he knows a lot of languages, you may be tempted to put Italian alongside the mandatory French and Latin. Unfortunately, that may be an historical faux pas, considering that Italian as a language didn’t even exist at the time.

Until the unification happened in 1861, with the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, the country was divided into a number of more-or-less independent countries, and everyone spoke their own language. Today we call those languages “dialects”, but they really are individual Romance languages, in some cases with foreign or ancient influences (Sicilian has some Arabic notes to it, for example, and there are words and expressions in my native, Northern Italian dialect that remind of French). A person from Naples and a person from Milan, each one speaking in their native dialect, will find it very hard to understand each other, unless they had some kind of contact with the other person’s language in the past. Before the unification, and especially before the national schooling system, but even more especially before the birth of national media such as newspapers and the radio (that’s right, we’re talking Nineteenth century here), the person from Milan and the person from Naples did not have a common language.

To put this in perspective, here’s a few sentences in Italian and in my native dialect (which doesn’t sound today as it would, say, 500 years ago, but still):

English: I don’t know.
Italian: Non lo so.
Dialect: Me so mia.

English: Push the button.
Italian: Premi il pulsante.
Dialect: Schisa el butun.

English: You eat like a pig!
Italian: Mangi come un porco!
Dialect: Ta manget come un porsel!

Yep, I know: that sounds like Orchish. And you haven’t heard the people in the mountains next to my home talk. I also probably should have put some accents and other phonetic things in there, but you get the picture.

“But what about Dante!” you might say? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Dante never wrote a single line in Italian. He wrote his poetry in educated Florentine, while most of his prose was written in Latin. In fact, although the Divina Commedia is still studied in schools, if you open an Italian textbook and find a piece of that poem, you will notice that more than half of the page is devoted to notes; the whole thing would be almost impossible to understand without them.

The “unification” of Italy was more like a colonial war

This is a touchy subject in modern Italy, and something that “official” history has been struggling to recognize, but the unification of Italy was essentially Piedmont (a strongly militaristic state) conquering a big chunk of the peninsula, with all the consequences that you may imagine. Particularly in the South, the transition from the old Bourbon monarchy to the new Savoy one resulted in the worsening of living conditions for pretty much everybody: among other things, taxes were raised, local (thriving) industries were forcefully closed to favor the Northern ones, and dissent was met with armed repression. As a result, banditry began plaguing the South almost overnight. Of course, most of these “bandits” were the modern equivalent of politically persecuted minorities, not to mention a good number of soldiers from the Bourbon armed forces who refused to lay down their arms. A situation of constant war developed and continued for many years; at the same time, corruption and crime became endemic, as it naturally happens when someone forces you to choose between illegality and starvation. Even today, the South is without a doubt the most economically depressed area of the peninsula.

Now, all that may sound a bit harsh. Without a doubt, there were lots of ideals behind the unification of Italy, but the results were mixed and the scars are still there, even today.

Speaking of colonial wars, Italy was the only European country to ever lose one in Africa

Not that winning one is something to be proud of, but still.

In 1889, the Italian government and the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II signed the Treaty of Wuchale, with which Menelik gave the Italian possession of northern Eritreea in exchange for a nice sum of money and some other things. The treaty was written in two languages: Amharic and Italian. The problem (and this should emphasize how important good translations are) was that the Italian version was a little different from the Amharic one. How? Well, here’s how Article 17 looked like:

Amharic version: His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia may use the Government of His Majesty the King of Italy for all business dealings he has with other powers or governments.
Italian version: His Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia agrees to use the Government of His Majesty the King of Italy for all business dealings he has with other powers or governments.

Today, historians still don’t agree on whether this difference was a mistake or an intentional manipulation, and in the latter case, on who is guilty. On one hand, it seems strange that Menelik, the ruler of a newly unified country, would want to put his own foreign policy in the hands of a European government; it seems more likely that the Italian government was looking for a casus belli to attack and conquer Ethiopia. On the other, Menelik himself could have planned on taking advantage of the situation by cashing the Italian money and then denounce the treaty, which he actually did in 1893.

In the end, war happened and the Italian got butchered. Which is what normally happens when your army is run by idiots. A few examples? As a defensive precaution, the Italians built a fortress at Makalle that wasn’t even completed before it saw its first siege, and didn’t even have an independent or easily defensible water source (in Africa); and in the decisive battle of Adwa, they went into combat following battlefield maps that didn’t even get major landscape features right. In the end, the Italians lost the war and were forced to negotiate peace, becoming the first and only European nation to get their ass kicked in the pursuit of profit at the expense of faraway-living people.

The Mafia helped the Allies during WWII

This is a little known fact, but it’s been known for a while that, when the Allies landed in Sicily, they found some pretty shady figures ready to help them. The Mafia provided the Americans with intelligence and connections, not to mention more “mundane” services such as interpreting. How much the help of organized crime weighted in the war is unknown, but the fact that it happened is pretty much undeniable.

The most interesting question is: why in the world would the Mafia help the Allies? The answer is morbidly fascinating. Fascism was a totalitarian regime; as such, it couldn’t tolerate not to be the only authority in the land. The underground, deeply-rooted power of the Mafia defied that. Therefore, the Fascist government was openly hostile to the Mafia, and the Mafia didn’t like that. This is why they were more than happy to help whoever was fighting the Fascists in that moment, ie. the Allies.


And this is it for this post, folks. If you found it interesting, please let me know by leaving a comment or contacting me 🙂


New translation slots are OPEN!


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Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I am now accepting new clients! I will, of course, keep working with my current ones, but I got some openings in my schedule that will allow me to take on some new writers.

Would you like to reach thousands of new readers abroad? Are you interested in working with a translator that has left several New York Times and USA Today bestelling authors deeply satisfied? The only thing you need to do is contact me. I will reply ASAP.

My 2016 in numbers


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(psst: yeah, I know it’s March already, but I’ve been busy)

2016 was an incredible year for me. I translated 29 books, and no, that’s not a typo. That’s one less than 30. That’s the fruit of long hours of work and an infinite amount of passion. That’s what happens when you love your job. 🙂

Seven authors chose to trust me with their work; among them were both old acquaintances – such as Tanya Anne CrosbyAmber Kell, and Suzan Tisdale – and new friends – including Glynnis CampbellBrenda Hiatt and Cynthia Wright. There was not one person among all of them with whom I’d not be happy to work again in the future. I know I’m lucky among my fellow translators to have found such people.

I don’t really know what to say about these numbers. They’re amazing. I got to work on a quantity of books from a number of incredibly talented and award-winning authors. It’s an honor and a privilege that I’d never thought I’d manage to earn. And yet I did, and for that, I’m grateful.

There’s one sadly low number among all these, and it’s the number of posts I published: only five. There’s a couple reasons for that: first, as you may have noticed, I’ve been extremely busy, and wasn’t able to update the blog section of this website too often. Second, I’ve come to realize that said blog section is only a minor part of my business. I’m not a blogger and I don’t aspire to be one. I will try to publish more often and to bring you more useful information, but I don’t expect my blog page to become some kind of reference point on the Internet. Why should I work in that direction instead of striving to become an even better translator?

Overall, 2016 has been the best year in my translator career so far. I can only hope that 2017 would be equally fruitful. 🙂

Translators Are Authors Too


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In a previous post, I discussed the unfair and disastrous practice of revenue sharing (aka the “Translate for Royalties” model, or TfR). If you didn’t read the previous article, or just don’t want to re-read it, let me refresh your memory: offering your translator a share of the royalties instead of real money is a Bad Thing. You’re asking a professional to work professionally for a promise of payment that may or may not come true. Very bad.

With this article, I want to focus on one aspect in particular of the TfR model, one that perhaps clarifies more than any other the fact that such a model is totally unfair to translators: author control.

But wait! you may say. Author control is a great thing. Author control is everything! And you are right… when said control is about your creations. However (and this is something every author who whishes to be translated should have clear), translations are the translator’s creations. Yes, that’s right: what, if not an act of creativity, would you call taking a book and rewriting it in another language? But in a deal that follows the TfR model, the translator has little or no control over the product of their work.

Let’s begin with something really basic: pricing. In a TfR deal, the translator gets a share of the royalties, right? Well, what if the author decides to price the book at 0.99 dollars, euro or whatever? The translator would be getting a handful of pennies per copy sold. Which is kind of abysmal, especially if the book we’re talking about is quite long. Sure, this strategy may help the other books in a series and/or other books by the same author sell better… but what if those books are going to translated by another person (some authors employ multiple translators in order to have all their backlist and new releases translated quickly)? And anyway, why should the translator be undercut by a decision in which they had no say?

The same is potentially true about everything else that affects the price or the availability of the books – promos, giveaways and the like. Author decides to make the book free for a week? Translator isn’t getting any money for the copies sold during that week. Author decides to give a free copy of the book to anyone who will write a honest review? Translator isn’t getting any money for copies given away. Sure, all these decisions may be right and eventually pay off – but why should I, a competent adult, trust another person to “make the right decision” about something that affects my income? I did my job, and hopefully I did it well. Why does the money I’m going to get for it depend on someone else’s choices?

Back in the days when I was still translating for royalties, I worked on a book by Author X. I was supposed to do a second one, but then I decided to quit the TfR world for good, so I told Author X that they should look for someone else (all in due time and following the appropriate channels). The other book, a sequel to the first one, was translated by another person and released. Well, you know what? Not long after the release of the second book, I looked at the first book’s sales and found out a huge spike… in free downloads. I made a few checks and realized that Author X had made a free promo of the book, without consulting me or telling me anything. The hundreds of free copies downloaded by readers during the one-week promo obviously didn’t bring me any gain, but I’m reasonably sure they boosted up the sales of the second book… you know, the one I didn’t translate and on which I’m not earning a share of the royalties. Cool, uh?

There’s worse. I’m not a fan of websites that promote the TfR model, but the one I used to work on at least required the translator’s authorization before making a book permanently free. Other contracts, especially those agreed upon directly by author and translator, do not necessarily grant this luxury. I’m sure that there are many translators around the world currently at the mercy of unscrupulous authors who could make the books they worked on permanently free at any moment, increasing the sales of their other books while denying compensation to the translators. Again, those who did the work have no control over decisions that could deprive them of the whole income coming from said work. How is that even remotely fair?

The total lack of author control for translators means that TfR deals can never be fair. They may work occasionally… but I think they are much more likely not to work. Which makes them a bad practice that you shouldn’t encourage.

The reason why you should look for translators with their own proofreaders


As a translator, I employ a proofer who corrects all my translations. She fixes my typos, streamlines my sentences and in general acts more like an editor than a proofreader (I, on my turn, try to pay her accordingly). Her contribution helps making sure that my clients receive a translation of the same quality or better than those commissioned and published by traditional publishers.

Of course, professional proofreading has a cost. Good work deserves good pay, and you would be surprised by how much a translator can and should invest in proofreading. This cost cannot be avoided by any serious professional, because – as every writers knows – you can’t proof your own work and expect perfection. Your eyes will see perfectly formed words instead of misspelled ones. Your brain will fill the gaps where missing words should be. It happens all the time. This is why you need another, clever pair of eyes.

Also, sometimes, a good proofreader can save a translator’s life by pointing out a solution to the problem they had been struggling with. Maybe the translator didn’t know how to translate a certain word or expression, and the proofreader did. It rarely happened to me, but it did happen. It’s like trying to tear down a wall with your bare hands, and then someone comes and points at the door that has been there all along. It’s liberating, in a way.

This is why translations are expensive: most often, they receive the contribution of more than one person. Beware of translator who don’t have their own proofers: they are more likely to leave typos and mistakes in their work, simply because their own eyes cannot catch all of them (again, this is something every writer knows). Cheaper rates may come from the fact that the translator is willing to cut the costs, but in this case, removing the cost of proofreading will reduce quality.

A translator with their own proofreader also provides you with the benefits of a partnership, which acts as a force multiplier: just like a writer and their personal translator, a translator and their personal proofreader form a work relationship that matures over time, leading to every project being better than the one who had come before. If you ever worked with a partner, you know how deep that bond gets, to the point that you can understand each other without talking and you end up producing great results. This is what happens when a good translator and a good proofreader work together. I know that my proofer is good, so I take all her suggestions into consideration. And the authors I work with greatly benefit from that.

The Reason Why Royalty-Sharing Is a Bad Practice


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I just finished to read the Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn. Full disclosure: I love this book. I think every indie writer should read it. It’s a treasure chest full of advice, encouragement and plain useful stuff that nobody should miss. If you don’t own it already, don’t waste time and get yourself a copy.

Since I admire Quinn’s enlightening work so much, it caused me great pain to read stuff like this:

I recently signed an innovative, revenue-share contract to translate Open Minds into German. There were no publishers involved, just an agreement between myself and the translator. Because it’s revenue-share, the translator (who is based in Germany) is incentivized to help tap the German market, making contact with bloggers and reviewers.

[…]If you’re a well-selling indie, you can finance all of the costs of translation on your own, but I actually think there’s an advantage to doing the revenue-share: my translator is making a business out of translating and then promoting his translated works. He’s a fellow indie author, just an ocean away.

Very cool.

My reaction in a nutshell:


Translators are not “fellow indie authors” (although they do produce intellectual content). Treating them as such shows a lack of knowledge at best, a lack of respect at worst.

The “Translate for Royalties” model (“TfR model” from now on) has been gaining ground for a while. More and more authors have been experimenting with it, and a few websites began advertising it as a “free” way of reaching new markets. I believe it’s an unsustainable model that shouldn’t be encouraged, else it will result in the death of book translations (no kidding). There are two main reasons for that.

The first reason is simple: when you come to me, a translator, with a TfR proposal, you do not come bearing gifts. You come bearing risks. In fact, the TfR model is a way for an author to take a business venture (the translation) and put all the risk on their so-called “partner”. Think about it for a minute. You are telling someone to work for weeks or months, not for money, but for the promise of an unknown amount in royalties. How much will the translator earn in six months? In a year? Will that be even remotely close to their normal rates (and even in that case, will it be worth it to wait six months or a year to collect the money)? Or will the whole job turn out to be a waste of time?

Fact is, 50% of not enough is still not enough. If, at the end of the year, the translated edition of your book ends up earning us $10 in royalties (this happened; see below), for you, the author, it’s $5 in your pocket that you didn’t have before. For me, the translator, it means receiving $5 as compensation for weeks or months of work.

Would you work for weeks or months in exchange for $5? Unless we’re talking about volunteer work, I don’t think so.


“But I cannot know in advance if the translation will sell or not!” Sorry, but it’s not your translator’s problem. They have a job to do and should be paid for their time and their expertise, just like your editor and your cover designer. Come think of it, I’ve never heard of an “edit my book for royalties” model or a “do my cover for royalties” model. I wonder why.

The second reason has to do with marketing. Translators are not marketers, they didn’t study marketing and cannot be expected to improvise it. It’s completely unfair to have someone market your book for free after they already translated it for free. What are you doing to help your collective success? Nothing. While the other person is doing everything.

If that’s a relationship, I’m gonna call it an abusive one.

(no, “I wrote the book!” is not a valid excuse. The book was already published and earning you money before you decided to have it translated. You didn’t write the book specifically for your translator, so you didn’t contribute to this “partnership” at all)

The success of the TfR model would spell the death of professional translation. I’m sure of that. In a world where the income of a translator were completely uncertain (it already is quite unstable, given that it’s a freelance job), very few people could afford to translate full-time. Soon, the only translators available on the market would be young people living with their parents, and the partners and spouses of affluent people who could afford to support them. The average quality would drop, and the scarcity of freelancers available would cut the quantity considerably. It wouldn’t take long before everybody figured out that being a translator just isn’t worth it and abandoned their glorified hobby for a real, lucrative job.

The end.


How do I now all this stuff? Because I’ve experienced it. I used to offer a hybrid, cash advance + royalty sharing model (notice that I was still asking for cash up front) and I actually worked for six months on a website that promotes the TfR model (no, I’m not linking it, and I just removed their name from this post. I don’t want to give them traffic). I lost count of the words I translated during those months, but I’m sure I was well past the 500,000 line. Eleven months after I begun, do you know how much I earned in royalties for translating all those words?

$243.18. Most of which from the only two books that actually sold.

That’s an average of $0.00048 per word (and I’m being conservative with the word estimate). Less than a twentieth of a cent. But, hey, I helped authors reach new readers, right? Right?

My point is: if you want to be translated, but can’t afford to, seek out translators willing to do volunteer work. Because that’s what you’d be asking them to do if you offered them a TfR contract. At least be honest about it.

Otherwhise, if you’re seriously interested in reaching foreign markets, invest money. Find a good translator and pay their fees. They will still be interested in doing a good job (to get more work from you and to build up their reputation) and you will have paid honest money for honest work.

Nobody should be forced to work for free just to satisfy your vanity.

P.S. The saddest thing about Quinn promoting the TfR model is that, in other parts of her book, she insists that indie authors need to “invest time and money in editing/copyediting/cover art for [their] book”. Looks like we translators are children of a lesser god. The Survival Guide is still a great book, though, so buy it. Seriously.