New York Times best-selling author, Rachel Van Dyken discusses how having an authentic online presence offers something tangible to readers and allows authors to stay relevant in the ever-changing publishing world. She talks to us why she decided to be a hybrid author and discusses her upcoming novel Fashion Jungle which she co-wrote with model Kathy Ireland.
Rachel Van Dyken has been writing for ten years and has published over 80 books to date. Her books have been published in 12 different languages, one of which was adapted into a movie. Rachel is a hybrid author, working with traditional publishers as well as self-publishing her own content. Rachel does not write because she wants to work, she writes because it is her passion.
Mafia Romance and the Editing Process
In between writing for traditional publishers, Rachel Van Dyken likes the control she has over her self-published titles. She has been contributing to the same Mafia romance series since 2011. When her traditionally published projects are finished, she spends three weeks consumed in writing Mafia Romance. The editing process is typically one week for content/developmental edits, another two weeks for proofreading, line editing, and additional read-throughs.
Rachel uses the program Ulysses while writing her books. It is easy to use and does the formatting, such as inserting chapters, so that she can write straight through. Rachel is not tech savvy, so when she says it is easy to use, she means it. She also uses style sheets and notes to keep track of important information for her series. Ulysses is also phone accessible, allowing her to make notes wherever she goes.
Becoming a Bestselling Hybrid Author
Rachel Van Dyken submitted her first book to multiple publishers, none of whom were interested. “Agents were laughing at me.” An indie romance publisher, which has since gone out of business, accepted her manuscript. It had not even included chapter breaks. The publisher produced Rachel’s first book, a romantic comedy, as well as a historical romance.
“Both [books] did really well and the second one hit the USA Today bestseller list. This was a shock to everyone.” Rachel was an avid reader and assumed she knew the publishing process. Her publisher essentially trained her, particularly on the editing process.
A year later, Rachel’s publisher submitted another book that was rejected by traditional publishers. She decided to self-publish and the book ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. After this success, Rachel acquired her agent and has been a hybrid author ever since.
Staying Relevant in Today’s Publishing World
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It is important to be realistic about your goals and the writing process. As an author, Rachel responds to all her messages personally and believes that authors themselves are their brand, not only their books.
Rachel Van Dyken wants her fans to see her as authentic and relatable, so she made the choice to have a public social media presence. If readers of one genre like her voice they are more likely to explore her novels in other genres. Part of this authentic image comes from sharing her pain and struggles with the world. She considers her fans as part of a reading community and wants to offer them meaningful and tangible insights into her life.
Uplifting the Author Community
Some newer authors have the misconception that they will get rich fast. Rachel views the success of other authors as her own success. It is easy to get caught up with the success of other authors and compare your achievements to theirs. Rachel views the publishing industry as a space for friendly competition, rather than the pressure to compete with other authors. There is no arbitrary level of success to measure up to and authors should focus on constantly improving.
Rachel, Joni, and Steph talked about the welcoming atmosphere at Romance Writers of America events. Women want other women to succeed and the friendliness toward others, particularly newcomers, is very positive. Authors are naturally introverted having to act confident and extroverted. Until you become comfortable among other authors, you have to push yourself to engage with the author community. According to Rachel, “that fear is what holds back your career.”
Rachel read A Curse So Dark and Lonely by YA author Brigid Kemmerer and absolutely loved it. They started corresponding after Rachel reached out to Brigid over email. Rachel also recommends reading books by Christi Caldwell, Julia Quinn, and J.R. Ward.
The Best Decisions Rachel Has Made as a Business Owner
Rachel Van Dyken stressed the value of hiring a lawyer, especially when it comes to doing taxes as a self-published author. Her biggest advice to authors is to hire a lawyer before they start generating income. Rachel’s husband recently became VP of her corporation when she realized she could not manage her self-publishing projects on her own. Rachel trusts him with her business and her life (aw!). Rachel recommends hiring an accountant as a first step for authors to handle the financial elements of their business. Accountants can help authors plan ahead with their finances in case of issues, such as underestimating the amount of taxes they owe.
Why Rachel is All About Romance
Rachel used to be a school counsellor at a Christian school. She also helped children with mental illnesses and developmental problems, as well as taught cheerleading at 5 am before school. During this time, Rachel’s only escape was reading. She took the children to the library almost every day and taught them how to adjust to different environments through reading. Rachel would check out her own books from the library and stay up until 3 am reading. During her office downtime one day she started writing stories. Rachel would send her sister chapters of her book every day, who encouraged her to publish them.
Current and Upcoming Projects
Rachel’s upcoming novel, Fashion Jungle is a book she co-wrote with Kathy Ireland on her life in the modelling industry. The book includes dark topics including mental illness and drug use, countering people’s ideas of glamour in the modeling industry. The book also encourages women to be confident in themselves, rather than relying on other people for validation.
Rachel Van Dyken runs a Facebook group featuring her Elite Lounge. She shares chapters as she writes them, posts writing prompts and projects, hosts guest authors, promotes meditation, and more. The group is subscription-based and includes Live sessions, posts, and threads. Rachel also posts her books on Radish’s online storytelling platform, where teen and young adult readers are particularly prominent on Radish. It is a place for writers to be discovered and content quickly goes viral on the site.
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Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor. She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and, adorable son.