Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rachael Steil

I am so excited to highlight Rachael’s work.  She was one of the first local authors I met, and her advice has been a cornerstone to the development of my own book, Stories of Elders.  Rachael is the author of Running in Silence, a memoir in which she bravely describes her experience with eating disorder in the athletic field.  Her second book is due in 2019.  Join us on August 28 at 12:30pm in the Fempreneur Forum on Facebook to talk to her about her journey as an author.

How did you get started with writing?  What was the process like from start to book?

I began writing (at first, drawing) “books” (stories) at a very young age–I think around 6 years old. I was always fascinated with books and aspired to be an author someday. I was also an avid reader as a little girl, and I’m so thankful for that. They say reading is one of the best ways to learn to write well–along with writing each day, of course.

I continued to love writing through high school and college. When I developed an eating disorder in college, I began writing about it each day in a journal, and later posted some of those journal entries on a website I started in 2012 (runninginsilence.com). I gained a following through that. With a story to tell and a passion for writing, I decided to transform my journal entries into a book. I began editing this manuscript in the summer of 2013 with my professor and advisor Dr. Brent Chesley of Aquinas College for an Independent Study project, continued to edit on my own after graduation, did some heavy editing and revision with an editor I hired, signed a contract with my publisher (Koehler Books) in early 2016, and had the book published November 2016. It was a long road of revision and editing over and over again until I had to let it go.

What do you love about the writing / publishing process?

I enjoy the process of trying to transform the rough draft into something that would make the reader feel like they were LIVING or watching the scene/moment. I think that’s so powerful with writing–that words on a page can do that. So it’s probably the revision that I love, and then, once published, readers telling me they feel like they were watching a movie while reading Running in Silence. I still have a lot to learn and improve on as a writer, but the writing and publishing process was such a great experience and will help me as I work on my second book.

What do you hate about the writing / publishing process?

There was a point where I was so sick of rereading Running in Silence that I couldn’t look at it any longer. I think if I would have set it aside for a few years, it would have been easier to edit and revise more, but then I would probably never get it published. I’m such a perfectionist, so even now I don’t dare to read my published work because there’s always something I want to fix, and you can’t quite do that once it’s published. Letting go is the toughest part.

How did you find a publisher?

I initially sent out queries to agents for about a year to try to get a traditional publisher. I was getting great feedback, but the biggest problem was that I didn’t have a large enough following on my Running in Silence social media platforms (publishers want to make sure you have a large following that will buy your book right away). I was told that if I didn’t get an agent after a year of sending out queries, to seek alternate routes of publishing–especially in this day and age where we have various options (self-publishing, hybrid deals, etc). My mom had a friend from the Grand Rapids Women’s City Club who had a friend who was an editor and author with Koehler Books in Virginia. Thus the connection was made, the Publisher liked what he saw, and encouraged me to go the self-help route through a hybrid publishing deal (half traditional, half self-published) with Koehler Books.

Tell me a story from one of your book events / publishing process. 

I’ve had both success and failure through this journey, so I want to emphasize that this was a HUGE learning process. For one of my first events, only two guests came (not including my parents, the photographer, and someone else helping me to organize it). The event wasn’t a failure per-say because we had a great small group discussion through it, but it was not what I had expected/hoped for.

I’ve also had some success later down the road–being able to speak to schools around the country about my book and eating disorders in athletes, including at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. The student athletes were so welcoming and excited about what I was doing, and one guest drove an hour and a half to see the talk. I had only met her through social media prior, so to meet in person, hug, and feel so emotional that all we could do was hug through our tears, was an amazing moment.

How has your book been important for the development of your brand? 

I’ve listened to many speaker podcasts that urge speakers to write a book, and I realized I went the other way around–I wrote a book first and then became a speaker. Being an author has helped to get me more speaking engagements because it gives me credibility. Plus many who have read the book have reached out to ask me to come speak.

So the book helped me to not just be a writer, but also a speaker. Combining both of those has led me to find the message I want to send–that athletes everywhere are prone to eating disorders, we need to raise more awareness, and provide better education and training to the athletic community. My brand was developed slowly over time by finding what I could do with my writing, then what I could do with my speaking, and then what the biggest message was behind all of this.

What do you suggest for entrepreneurs who want to write a book, but feel overwhelmed?

Write each day, and don’t worry about writing “perfectly.” I heard a while back how some writers call first drafts “SRD”s (“Shitty Rough Drafts”). THIS IS SO TRUE. And it’s totally fine. If you write from the heart and just let your mind and pen wander, you’ll at least have something written to work with. No one but YOU has to read it the first time around, and you can spend so much time revising from there.

Take notes throughout the day, too–anything that pops up in your mind to add to your book. If you don’t write it down, you will NOT likely remember it. Chip at it day by day. Veronica even gave me the advice to write/edit right when I get up each morning, so that I DO get it in each day. This has been so helpful (especially as I’m currently working on my second book).

Learn more about Rachael’s work on the Running in Silence website.