Become a Writer Today

Turn Your Book into a Six-Figure Asset with Alinka Rutkowska

June 10, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
Turn Your Book into a Six-Figure Asset with Alinka Rutkowska
Show Notes Transcript

Alinka Rutkowska is the CEO of Leaders Press, a company that helps non-fiction authors, specifically in the business genre, hit the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best Seller List.

In this interview, Alinka highlighted the importance of having an email list.

While it's true that Amazon and Facebook ads can help you sell books, it's an email list that is the most effective way to keep in touch with your readers and let them know when your work is live.

Alinka also discusses how to generate interest in your email list by giving away something for free and using that to build a relationship with your readers.

Click the link in the resources below to access Alinka's latest webinar.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Using your book as an authority builder
  • Why would someone outsource their book?
  • Building your email list using lead magnets
  • What it takes to make the Wall Street Journal or USA Today Best-Seller List
  • Finding authors to create anthologies
  • Using bonuses as part of a launch strategy


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Alinka: Well, the main reason is that — well, we work with entrepreneurs, CEOs, businesspeople, consultants, speakers and, first of all, they realize that they want a book for the reasons that we mentioned so the authority, credibility, they want to increase their speaking gigs, they want to increase their consulting fees, they want a lead generation tool to bring in people in the door, they want to be found on Amazon, they want to get more leads, so they know they want that and then they realize that they don’t actually have the expertise to do it well themselves because they’re running a business and, you know, they don’t have the decade plus of experience that I bring in or my team brings in when we work with people.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: Can a book become a six- or even a seven-figure asset for you or for your business? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. Now, a while ago, I came across an interesting statistic about book sales. It said that many new authors don’t sell much more than 250 copies of their first book in the first year so if you do some basic maths or quick maths and you’re selling that book for between $5 and $10 on Amazon, you’re not gonna earn much more than $1,000 or $2,000 per year. 

That’s certainly not enough to quit your job and it’s certainly not enough to live off as a full-time writer. But after interviewing many authors for this podcast, what I’ve discovered is the ones earning a full-time living are not reliant on book royalties from a single book, even if they’re getting royalties at 70 percent by self-publishing. 

What they’re doing is using their book as just one part of their entire content or creative business. So, for example, a public speaker might use their book to build credibility for public speaking gigs, and then they might go to those gigs and sell even more copies of their book as part of their contract. Or if somebody is creating an online course, they could write a non-fiction book on that topic, sell it for $2 or $3 on Amazon, and use that as a lead magnet for selling courses that sell for $300 or $400 or $500 and, that way, they can earn a full-time living. Now, I’ve also interviewed a few non-fiction authors who have a back catalog of books and they rely on their first book to sell the next book and they have a series of books on similar topics and that’s how they’re able to earn a living.

So, if you’re getting ready to write your first book or write your next book, I’d encourage you to ask three simple questions: Who is my book for? What is my book about? And why am I writing this book? Figuring out who your book is for will help you market and promote the book, knowing what your book is about is obviously going to help you write that book much more easily, and asking yourself “Why am I writing this book?” will keep you motivated when the writing gets a little bit tough. 

Now, many new authors write a book for a number of different reasons: they have a story that they want to share with the world, they want to make an impact with their message, or they want to earn money as a full-time writer. All of those approaches are valid, but knowing why you want to write a book is important because it will help you decide to keep going when you feel like procrastinating and it would also inform some of the creative choices that you’re going to make about your book and whether it’s for the market, for you, or for a combination of those approaches.

Now, this week, I caught up with Alinka Rutkowska. She’s the CEO of Leaders Press. Her company helps nonfiction authors, specifically in the business genre, hit the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Best Seller List. One of my key takeaways from my interview with Alinka was the importance of having an e-mail list if you’re an author. While Amazon ads and Facebook ads can help you sell books, an e-mail list is still the most effective way to keep in touch with readers and to let them know when your work is live.

So if you’re listening to this and you don’t have an e-mail list, I’d encourage you to set one up today. Now, I use ConvertKit on Become a Writer Today to build and grow my e-mail list and I have a review of ConvertKit which you can check out on the site and it’s a tool I’d recommend you use. But you don’t have to use ConvertKit. Just get your e-mail list up and running, attract readers to it by giving away something free like a lead magnet and that’s something Alinka talks about in this week’s interview, and then build a relationship with your readers by sending them helpful content related to the book that you’re going to write.

You could share updates about what you’re working on, you could share chapters from the book, or you could ask them to read early advanced copies. And then when the time comes to promote and launch your book, some of your e-mail lists will be engaged and they’ll hopefully buy copies of your book. Now, of course, it can take time to build up a sizable e-mail list and Alinka mentions in this week’s interview how many people you need on your e-mail list if you want to hit a bestseller list yourself without the help of other authors.

I was a bit surprised by how many e-mail subscribers you need to hit the Wall Street Journal or USA Today Best Seller list but Alinka also offers another approach which you can use if you have a smaller e-mail list but you still want to become a best-selling author and have the credibility of reaching one of those lists and I’d encourage you to check out her approach and how she helps new authors do just that.

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Now, let’s go over to this week’s interview with Alinka and I asked her how can a book become a six- or a seven-figure asset for an author today?

Alinka: Yeah, so let’s take the helicopter view here. Basically, we like to look at the book as you can call it a big business card or the door into your office or into your building. So, how is somebody going to find you? Well, first, they need to find the door or the sign and that’s what the book is. So, when you have a book on Amazon or on your page or in your bag that you can give to, you know, a strategic person when the time is right, you know, that’s like opening the doors of your office and having the first meeting with you. 

So, the great thing about the book is that it’s an instant authority builder so you’re instantly an authority because you wrote this book so you obviously have expertise. Otherwise, you know, you wouldn’t have however many pages written.
And if you can also say that you’re a best-selling author and there are various levels of, you know, being a best seller, but if you can say that you’re an author, you’re a best-selling author, you have a book, people start to listen, and when the right people find you and read the book and, in their eyes, you become the authority and the expert, then they want to do business with you because people want to, you know, reduce any uncertainty in their decisions by following the authority, by following the leader, by following the expert. That’s why your book is so crucial and that’s why it’s, we could say one of the best, but I think it’s the best way to get people in the door.

Bryan: So you’re getting people in the door to maybe sell courses, consulting, public speaking, any of those things.

Alinka: Exactly. Anything. And, well, we use books to offer our ghostwriting, book launching, book marketing services so, you know, that’s really aligned, but whatever you have that makes you an expert, you could use a book. Like we just had one of our authors who became a USA Today best-selling author who’s primarily a speaker say that she doubled her speaking fee after she became a USA Today best-selling author and she’s already booking appointments at her new rate.

So, you know, really easy, just like that, she doubled and, no problem, people are happy to pay, you know, the double rate because now they’re bringing onstage not only a speaker but also a USA Today best-selling author. So, that’s for a speaker. If you do courses, you know, before somebody will go in and buy your software or hire you to do your course for you, in their eyes, you need to be the authority. Otherwise, they’re not going to pull out their credit card and give you their business. 

So, the book is one of the best ways to establish that and then you just have to make sure that they actually read it so it’s even easier to get them on board.

Bryan: Some of the non-fiction authors I’ve spoken to have just one book whereas others have many books, like Daniel Pink, I guess, you know, has lots of different best-selling books. Is one book enough or do you find the most successful clients or people who are earning the most have more than one?

Alinka: Well, you will see that the most successful have more than one but you have to start somewhere and, for sure, the biggest jump is from no book to one book, you know? Like from no children to one child.

Bryan: Yeah, that’s a good comparison.

Alinka: Yeah, completely new reality. And then, you know, the second child is still — it’s a change but, you know, you already have some experience and usually the second child, I don’t know if it’s true, turns out better. You’re more experienced. I’m a first child.

Bryan: Hopefully, hopefully. Yeah, I’ve got three kids so, yeah, first child is the hardest.

Alinka: Right, yeah. So the first book is also the hardest and the hardest to market and you might be making mistakes, especially if you’re doing it yourself, you know? If you’re working with professionals from the start, then you’re likely to have a successful book right away when you’re guided from the book idea phase.

So, we do have, you know, primarily one lead generator right now for Leaders Press. It’s called Outsource Your Book, but right now, we are working on two other lead generator books, shorter books, and their purpose is to bring in more of our target audience in the door.

Bryan: So under what circumstances would somebody outsource their book?

Alinka: Well, the main reason is that — well, we work with entrepreneurs, CEOs, businesspeople, consultants, speakers and, first of all, they realize that they want a book for the reasons that we mentioned so the authority, credibility, they want to increase their speaking gigs, they want to increase their consulting fees, they want a lead generation tool to bring in people in the door, they want to be found on Amazon, they want to get more leads, so they know they want that and then they realize that they don’t actually have the expertise to do it well themselves because they’re running a business and, you know, they don’t have the decade plus of experience that I bring in or my team brings in when we work with people.

And so being aware of that, they, you know, look for the right who, you know? There’s this book called Who Not How so you don’t need to learn how to do the whole thing, you just hire the right who who already has everything in place to do it for you. So they’re aware that they want a great book for the purposes we mentioned, authority, credibility, leads, legacy, and they prefer to hire somebody to get it done well from scratch and they usually want what we offer, what our USP is, which is getting the book into bookstores.

We have an agreement with Simon & Schuster so our books go into bookstores through that distribution system and we get people — we get our offers on the USA Today Best-Selling List which is also something that publishers do not guarantee and we can guarantee it because, you know, we’ve sent right now more than 90 authors on the USA Today Best-Seller List. These are the reasons why somebody would be a good fit.

Bryan: If somebody’s listening to this and they’re wondering about the rights for their book, who owns the publishing rights?

Alinka: The author.

Bryan: So you handle the marketing and distribution?

Alinka: Yes.

Bryan: Okay. Okay, makes sense. So what does it take to hit the Wall Street Journal or USA Today Best-Seller List?

Alinka: These are very complicated launches, takes a lot of book sales. Just to give you the bare minimum, you need to sell about 6,000 to 7,000 books in a week. Now, if you create a pre-order, the pre-orders will count so if this is a brand new release, so you release it, you do the pre-order three months before they’re released and then your promo period is the launch week so all the pre-orders will count but it doesn’t have to be a new one.

Yeah, it can be a book that’s already out there. And you’re looking at 6,000, 7,000 sales for USA Today. Five hundred of them have to be outside Amazon so it has to be available on another retailer. So if you’re in KDP Select, you’re not gonna hit the list. If you’re looking to do that, you cannot be in there, you need to be wide. 

So it takes a lot to orchestrate it because, you know, you need to get people to buy all those books in that short amount of time and, you know, if you think about — you can Google this, if you think that an average book sells about 200 or 250 copies in its lifetime and you’re now thinking about selling 7,000 in a week —

Bryan: It’s a lot.

Alinka: Takes an orchestrated effort.

Bryan: Yeah. So, that orchestrated effort, does that mean somebody needs to have a really big platform to do it?

Alinka: Right, I actually wrote a Forbes article about this. If you start calculating the conversion rates that you’d get on let’s — I know how big does your list have to be so that when you mail it, how many people open and how many people click the link and then how many people convert on the Amazon page, you need to have like half a million — a list of half a million subscribers to try to pull it off on your own. 

So, if you don’t have half a million subscribers, US based because only US sales count, then what you can do is bring together, you know, potentially 30 authors who have 20,000 and, you know, do it together with an anthology or get together 30 partners who can get you, you know, 2,000 — who can get you the right amount of sales so 30 people with 20,000 subscribers or 300 people with 2,000 subscribers so you have to do the math so that you know, you know, what the expectations are. 

You know, “This person is gonna mail, how many sales am I gonna get out of it? Am I gonna get 2? Am I gonna get 20? Am I gonna get 200?” So it’s really complicated to get a lot of partners to mail at the same time, which is basically what we do. We orchestrate these launches months, months, months in advance and we know how many sales it takes, like you know how many sales it takes now, so we have the conversions and we make it happen.

Bryan: Are you also relying on paid advertising?

Alinka: No, we’re not.

Bryan: So it’s entirely based on the size of somebody’s list and their platform.

Alinka: It’s all e-mail marketing.

Bryan: Okay. Okay. So, that’s an interesting approach. I was involved in an anthology a few months ago and the person running it was also using Facebook ads to promote their book. Have you tried Facebook ads or do you just see better returns with e-mail?

Alinka: I have tried all kinds of ads and I’ve seen much better returns with e-mail marketing. I see much better returns with the digital knocking on doors, you know? Like going door to door and talking to people digitally, that’s what I see is working. 

I’ve done Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads, Google ads and we abandoned that effort because, for us, for our model, for what we do, e-mail marketing works much better. And then we have a lot of different outreach going on depending on what we want to offer, but for our model, the ads are not really working, but I know that for other businesses, they’re working well which is why they’re doing it.

Bryan: Okay. Interesting. Interesting approach. So, let’s talk about the anthology for a few minutes. How many authors typically contribute to a successful anthology?

Alinka: Typically, we have 30 authors in an anthology.

Bryan: Does it take you long to gather that many authors together? Because I can imagine it’s like herding cats.

Alinka: It is. Yeah, so we have about a couple months of registration time that we allow for it and then we close it and authors have another two weeks or so to deliver their chapters. If they don’t want to write them, we can interview them, ghostwrite it for them because that’s what we do, essentially.

And then we get that all edited, put it in a book and, you know, we do our thing. We launch it to USA Today Best-Seller. It is like herding cats. It’s part of the unique selling proposition because if somebody was to do it on their own, like if you were to do it on your own, you have to be herding cats and now I have a team, like now we’re more than 20 people so I don’t physically do it, my team members take care of it, but when I did my very first launch, I was responsible for everything, like that goes back in 2018, and I didn’t realize how involved I was mentally until it was over and then I saw just how much time and mental bandwidth I had to actually run my business because I was just so all in. All my energy was in, for seven months, into orchestrating that launch so I don’t ever want to do it again on my own.

Bryan: I can imagine. So, I think you said you’ve launched over 70 books in three years. You must literally go from launch to launch.

Alinka: Right, so it’s 91 authors, more than 90 authors. There are anthologies in this as well but we are always launching something. So, we’re doing, with Leaders Press, about two book launches every week. Not all of them are USA Today launches, we also do Amazon launches so we have different tiers of what we can do, you know? Amazon launches are much easier than USA Today. There’s much less pressure. And there are various — authors have various needs as well but we’re always in launch mode. It’s just our normal way of being. We’re always launching,

Bryan: Wow, impressive. Impressive. In terms of genre, what genres do you focus on?

Alinka: We focus on non-fiction and especially business entrepreneurship, anything that’s in that category. It can be leadership, finance, IT, you know, self-improvement, anything non-fiction by an author who is considered or could be perceived as a leader in their niche so that’s what Leaders Press stands for.

Bryan: Makes sense, makes sense. When you’re vetting a potential client to work with, what do you look for from them?

Alinka: Well, you know, they need to have a book idea that’s specific, not, you know, “Write me a book on marketing.” So they actually have a framework, they actually have experience that they want to share and we help them formulate that and we also vet authors for, you know, good standing because, you know, some people might have some lawsuits going on, things like that. We don’t really want to get anywhere near publishing an author that could potentially get us, you know, into trouble. So we also sort of look at the author in terms of, you know, is there anything weird going on? We have important relationships with Simon & Schuster as our distributor so we want to make sure that, you know, all our authors’ profiles are in good standing but that is, you know, 95 percent of who we talk to.

Bryan: Okay. Okay. For contributors to the anthologies, do you give them specific guidelines about what you want in a chapter?

Alinka: Yes, there are specific guidelines or questions that they can follow. It’s a 2,000-word chapter. There’s a bio that they get to include and a link to their website or landing page so it’s really easy to just follow that and get it done really quickly. I mean, in one sitting, as an author, you can probably confirm that you can write 2,000 words.

Bryan: Yeah, you can, indeed. Yeah, you can. When the book is published, how do you decide whose name goes on the book?

Alinka: All the authors’ names go on the book. Like if you go to see Quitless or if you go to see Best Seller Success Secrets or Write and Grow Rich or our anthologies, you will see that at the very bottom, all the names are listed on the cover. They’re very small so you can’t actually see them, you know, when you look at the thumbnail, but they’re there and when we spoke to USA Today, to the team at USA Today, the way they make the decision is, you know, whether your name is on the cover, because, you know, sometimes you’re able to get all the names on Amazon, like we do, but there are authors who are attempting to do anthologies, they’re not able to get all the names listed on Amazon and so they said that they really look at the name on the cover. If your name is on the cover, then you are a USA Today Best-Selling Author, and all our authors’ names are on the cover.

Bryan: What do the authors do once they have their book launched or the book launched?

Alinka: Well, they celebrate. They’re very happy, you know? They increase their fees, they get more speaking gigs, they can put “USA Today Best-Selling Author” on their other book covers, both existing and upcoming. I see that they change their LinkedIn title so a lot of people that we work with are really high-level entrepreneurs of very successful, profitable businesses doing extremely well, like seven-, eight-figure businesses and more, and they no longer say, “Founder or CEO of” as the first thing, they say, “USA Today Best-Selling Author and CEO of,” you know, their company so it is a big deal for them.

Bryan: Okay. Do you believe the approach would work for other genres?

Alinka: Yes, absolutely.

Bryan: It’s just you’ve focused on non-fiction. How did you get into launching books like this in the first place?

Alinka: Well, you know, I’ve always been fascinated by best-selling status. I guess I’m a high achiever and, you know, I like number one and getting all the accolades so there was that. I was able to really quickly understand how that worked. When I did my first book in 2010, you know, then it was my dream for a while to, you know, hit the USA Today Best-Seller List. I was thinking, I mean, that would just be the ultimate thing like, you know, if I could achieve that so, you know, I’ve been daydreaming about this for a while and I was hoping somebody would invite me to an anthology that I actually didn’t have to do any work in terms of organizing and I’ve been thinking about it for months, nobody’s invited me to be part of an anthology so I thought, “How about I just, you know, take fate in my own hands and do it myself?” and that’s what happened in 2018. And so, after that, you know, I thought, “Well, we did it once so how about we do it again?” and, for a long time, I didn’t wanna get anywhere near it because I was so drained after that experience but, since then, my team — I mean, it was essentially me in 2018 and now we have a team of 20 so it’s not really myself doing it. I’m driving the vision but I’m not actually part of the nitty gritty. So, with the right support, we’re able to replicate the results.

Bryan: So does your team handle the ghostwriting from the interviews and also the cover design and book art?

Alinka: Yeah, everything.

Bryan: Did it take you long to build up that team?

Alinka: Well, you know, Leaders Press and it’s — and the way it’s today, the idea started in 2017 so when I started in 2017, it was myself, I had an assistant and a writer so there was three of us. And now there’s more than 20 so we have, you know, a team of project managers who take the authors on the journey from idea through strategy, book outlining, interviews, and then they send those transcriptions to the ghostwriter. I have ghostwriters who write the book then that comes back. 

We have an editing team, formatting team. There’s the cover design that we also do in house and then we have the whole marketing put together and also distribution. It’s a very, you know, complicated partnership. Complicated in terms of everything that’s going on to actually get books into bookstores, you know? You have to get the book to the printers like two months in advance and they have to send it where it belongs and there’s, you know, you pay for shipping and inventory and there are these — you have to give them the metadata many, many months in advance, Simon & Schuster from there and pre-sell or, you know, you could say pre-sell the books to retailers many months in advance. 

I mean, there’s this whole complicated machine that’s going on for every author that we work with that they don’t really see or, you know, necessarily to know about. Well, all they know is that, you know, it’s gonna be in bookstores and it’s traditional distribution but it’s actually quite sophisticated and we do need the team to manage all this so it’s from scratch to launch.

Bryan: It sounds like it. It sounds like it. So I interviewed an author a few weeks ago and his approach is just to write books. He just wants to earn an income from getting his books out into the world. He doesn’t want to do public speaking or courses or anything like that. Would something like this be the right approach for him?

Alinka: Well, you know, it depends. The people that we work with, they usually have another business going on so they do the book to increase their business, to grow their business, or to leave a legacy. We don’t really work with people who wants to only live off of royalties so, you know, I have, at the very beginning when I got started with books, my first book brought me more royalties than my corporate salary did —

Bryan: Yeah.

Alinka: — but these expectations are not realistic to have so I was lucky and that was, you know, the end of 2010 so the landscape was completely different. For authors who want to live off of book royalties, I would recommend that they actually dig into the publishing world, learn how to self-publish books with the quality that a traditional publisher would publish, and learn to do marketing and not go through a traditional publisher necessarily but take all the royalty that Amazon gives them.

Because when you’re doing a book traditionally, off of a, you know, paperback, any author will tell you they’re probably making $1 off the paperback. If you’re doing it — if you’re self-publishing, you could be doing $5, $6, $7, depending on your pricing and what people want to buy what that sweet spot ends up being. And then you dig into, you know, AMS ads so you learn how to advertise your books.

So, that’s your full-time job, right? That is your full-time job. You write, you market, you do ad, and like that, there’s several people I know that are able to pull a really good income, by many standards. But, you know, when you actually have a business that you’re running already, you don’t want to be learning publishing, you want to hire it out, become the authority, you know, or have even more authority than you already have, know that you’re getting traditional publishing, traditional distribution, and, you know, USA Today Best-Selling status but what all you do is provide the knowledge, the wisdom that then gets written onto the pages of the book and all the rest is taken care of, like if you’re an entrepreneur with a team, there’s a lot of things that you don’t touch. You drive the vision. It’s the same thing for the book.
You drive the vision, you want it in bookstores, you want it on the list, you know what content you want, and we execute that vision.

Bryan: Good approach. I know you’re focused on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal. Does this approach have any impact on the New York Times Best Selling List?

Alinka: It may or it may not. As few people know, New York Times is an editorial list so you might have the sales to get you on the list but the folks over at New York Times might not like your face, your publisher, your book cover and they will not include you on the list.

Bryan: Okay, okay, makes sense. And, finally, you mentioned that bonuses are a big part of your launch strategy. If somebody’s listening to this and they’re getting a bonus page ready for their book, what would you recommend they put on it?

Alinka: Bonuses are definitely great when you have a mailing list so you can incentivize those purchases. You have to see whatever is of high perceived value to your audience and whatever you can give away without sacrificing too much so it could be a course that you did two years ago that you’re not really pushing anymore that has a high perceived value and people would want that, then, yes. I wouldn’t necessarily offer, you know, one-on-one coaching sessions because then you end up with potentially 7,000 of those or probably one-third of the people would, you know, want it and then part of it would claim it but you’re still — you’re gonna have the next 10 years of your life —

Bryan: Taken over, yeah.

Alinka: So, something that can be delivered digitally. If you want to do a live thing, then do a group Zoom meeting where you’ll either answer questions, you know, or share some wisdom or maybe you have five secrets that you shared in the book and you’re gonna do a session where you share the sixth secret that has not been published, something like that.

Bryan: My key takeaway from talking to you is that authors really need to build an e-mail list. That’s probably their most important asset.

Alinka: Yep.

Bryan: So, if somebody wants to work with you, Alinka, or learn more information about Leaders Press, where should they go?

Alinka: Go there and we have a really neat quiz that you can take that will evaluate, help you evaluate what type of book you should write, if it’s a longer book, a shorter book, if you should go for the list, or do what. You can also get a copy of our lead gen book called Outsource Your Book. There’s both an audio book and a PDF and, in that book, I go over the 17 steps of creating a best-selling book and how you can outsource it but you can either outsource it or do it yourself. And those are, I think, the two most important assets that you can find there. So and you’ll get your journey started.

Bryan: Thank you, Alinka. 

Alinka: Thank you, Bryan. Thank you to your listeners.

Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books and discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.