Things I Wish I Knew When I First Published: #1 NYT Bestseller Rachel Van Dyken Talks About Her Biggest Mistakes In Publishing

Sarah Robinson: Guys, I looooooove Rachel van Dyken. She’s been a friend to me since the beginning, and I’m so honored to know her. Not once has she ever let me down, and she often goes above and beyond helping…anyone!

She is an inspiration. Plain and simple. The woman has written ~55 books in 6 years, while somehow managing being a wife, a mother, going to events, and being a cross-fit queen. All of that would be impossible for literally any human being, and yet, Rachel makes it happen!

I’m super excited to announce her as the next author in the “Things I Wish I Knew When I First Published” blog series where bestselling authors confess their biggest mistakes and what they learned from them! If you missed the first article, see it here

Buckle up–this is going to get sassy!

RVD Is Here, The Party Can Start!

Rachel van Dyken: I think my tale is pretty much like every other authors out there. I started off completely clueless and most days I still feel that way. What worked five years ago doesn’t work now, and what I thought was so totally AWESOME back in 2011 when my first book was published, has me widening my eyes going NO, NO, NO, DON’T DO THIS, DON’T DO IT!

So here’s a little note to myself and to any new or perhaps seasoned author out there of the Things Not To Do.

Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

1. Don’t Respond to the Negative

Don’t, just don’t, respond to negative reviews. Negative reviews are like bad colds, or the fact that Brussel sprouts, no matter HOW MUCH GARLIC you put on them, smell bad. They just do. It’s a fact of life. And even though it seems justifiable to hop on Amazon and respond in a totally logical way to someone who “just didn’t get the book” or who “clearly didn’t read it right,” or someone who was obviously just having a “really rough day.”

I can guaran-freaking-tee you that no reader is going to be like, “Gee, Rachel, I totally get your point, how could I be so blind? I mean. Am I even existing?” And then I’ll be like, “It’s okay, we all make mistakes. Hey, you want to get coffee.” *Cue joint laughter* End scene.

This is not your reality. It will never be your reality.

Even if you’re super nice, it still feels like an attack and it’s still wrong. Stay away. Stay away from it all. I know Sarah said something similar in her blog post (read here!), but bad reviews make you a better author. Yup, you heard it here too. My worst reviews have helped me write the BEST books, at least in my mind. 😉

Insert story time. There was once a book I was proud of, I mean, okay so I’m proud of every book. But I BLED all over this one. It was before mafia was big again and I was so pumped to write a book about mafia about an Elite school ran by the mafia, SHEER GENIUS *pats self on back* a publisher picked it up. And in my mind I was like this is it…and I had so many. SO. Many. Bad reviews. And not just from readers, no, because that would at least keep me from sobbing into my pillow at night, but actual PEERS! Authors that I later found out were running those blog sites were like yeah this is basically the worst book ever published. I was crushed. I mean, their words MEANT something to me and mine? They meant nothing to them! HOW CAN THIS BE? This, dear author friends is what I like to call, being human, having an opinion and not being a sheep, or a goat, or a robot. It’s okay if not everyone loves your book. It’s okay if only grandma buys it then forces people at the check out line to buy it too b/c she won’t stop talking and she won’t stop pointing at the poor checker with her broccoli.

My point? It’s okay! Get back on that horse and write another book, alright? Do it because you LOVE IT, not because you need approval from everyone. Thats why we are in this business anyways, because we love it!


Everything you do can, and WILL, be used against us on all social media sites at all times. I KNOW it’s hard to keep your well justified opinion to yourself and I get that authors are people I DO, you know, since I’m a person, a mom, a wife…I feel you. I do. But do yourself a favor and just write the books. Give yourself a few seconds before you post that rant, talk it through. Thats what friends are for right? Happy  hours? Wine days?  Okay maybe not days.

But the point is this: whenever Im frustrated with publishing or with anything I have a few key people I KNOW that I can trust in my life that are absolute vaults. Use those people. Don’t use your own timeline because yes you may have some people that are like RIGHT ON but in the process of getting that stuff off your chest, you’re bound to offend readers, readers who may take that and go NOPE never again. And that sucks. It sucks for everyone. Is it fair?  No. But thats life. So please, promote the happy, again isn’t that why we’re authors in the first place? To make the world a better place? To offer and escape from reality? Be that escape. Don’t be the reminder.

3. Invest In Yourself

You have to believe in yourself first before anyone else is going to follow. It’s true. I wish it was a lie. My husband preaches this to me on a daily basis. You HAVE to invest in your own stories. I’m always reminded of this, if my story isn’t a sacrifice of my time, my energy, my emotions, my  money, then why put it out in the first place?

If its not a sacrifice to you, if its not absolutely terrifying to you, causing you to emotionally unravel and stand naked in front of everyone–it’s not going to impact them. Period. If that means waiting a few months to release, well than thats the way it goes. If that means re-writing something. Rewrite it.

*cue, the Full House Dad talk music*

When I first started writing, I was working three jobs, making around $21,000 a year…and thats me being generous, my husband had just gotten injured at his awesome job, making him jobless, and me the bread winner. Um yeah. I worked at a non profit and I worked for the state. Things were not looking up, but I KNEW I had to write. It was this burning thing in me that I couldn’t ignore. Husband, in all his wisdom was like you have to do an ad, otherwise people won’t see you. Meanwhile I”m like? Um, groceries? LIVING? We were making it, but just barely.

He gave me $50.00 and was like I keep seeing Facebook ads. Do one of those. And I was like I don’t even know how to do this. And his answer was, invest in your dream. It will pay off some day. I remember having tears in my eyes as I looked back at him like, you don’t think I’m losing my mind? This isn’t stupid? I mean it’s a romance novel and he was like yeah but I love you and I love what you love…meaning, I love your romance novel. I did it. I spent that fifty dollars, and the next month when I got my $10.00 royalty check, I re-invested it, and it turned into a snow ball effect. Spending what at times was around 6 hours on social media alone, collecting, slowly but surely, readers who would give me feedback and agree to be on my street team.

4. Which Brings Me To My Next Point…

Yes, I all capped this.  It’s a marathon. Not a sprint.

I know. I know. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people and go WELL they had INSTANT success, but we don’t know those people right? The every day struggles? You have NO idea if they have been working on that novel for 20 years were rejected by hundreds of publishers only to throw their book out there and list.

The point is this….Focus on you and KNOW without a doubt that it’s not a sprint. It’s a career right? Meaning, it’s a marathon, with times you want to quit, times you want to slow down, times you want to stop running all together. You don’t WANT to be the sprinter that wins the race only to be forgotten tomorrow. Be the marathoner, slow and steady, be the person who builds and builds and builds their brand, not based on one book but based on multiple books, multiple genres.

Do that. And you’ll find success, which brings me into my last and final point…

5. Stop the Negativity

Dream Big. Speak it into existence–use your words! I know I may sound crazy, but I grew up with the whole mantra, dress for the job you want not the job you have. We’ve all heard this right? I think the same goes for writing. DREAM BIG don’t let your current circumstances dictate your future. And if that means literally sitting in front of a mirror like a crazy person and going, “This book is going to do great. I have words to say. This is going to be a success. This is going to impact people .Someone in the world NEEDS these words.”
Do it.

I’m not even ashamed to admit how many times during the day I’m with my son and he’s talking gibberish to me and I’m all like, “This book may only change one life, thats enough, right buddy?” He makes some noncommittal sound lol but the point is this. Envision success, envision what you want as an author, envision the way you want your readers to see you and do that!

In ending, I could literally talk all day about the things I do wrong. The things I still do wrong. The lack of branding. The fact that I can’t focus on one thing at one time without losing my mind. The fact that I get down on myself. I overwork myself. I stress out. I order pizza more than what’s natural. I cry over reviews (still) even though I know they make me better. JUST KNOW, this career is rough.

It is. But it’s so worth it.

Because words matter. Your words matter. I can’t stress that enough. It’s not about fame. It’s not about money. It’s about being a world changer, and ain’t nobody gonna do that, but you 😉



PS: Feel free to leave a comment with your own experiences, or with comments for Rachel! 

PSS: The blog posts in this series will go out via my newsletter as well, so subscribe HERE in case you miss it! And I’ve got an entire advise page on my website for writers!


Rachel Van Dyken is the #1 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’s written 55 books in 6 years, and reached #1 on New York Times TWICE. She’s also the sweetest author I’ve ever met.
Shop her books on Amazon here.


  1. Erika Kelly on October 26, 2016 at 7:13 am

    What an awesomely positive and inspiring post! Thank you for that!

  2. Sonya on October 26, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Another great post. Love it!

  3. Amy on October 27, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Absolutely fantastic! I’m looking forward to this whole series!

  4. Cassie on October 27, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Everything RVD says is GOLD! I love it! I’ve also read Sarah’s stuff and it’s GREAT!

  5. Bruce Kallhoff on December 7, 2016 at 12:03 am

    This is a fantastic resource. Thank you!

  6. Philomena on March 18, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Love this!

  7. on May 21, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes which will make the largest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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