Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She’s the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and Last Will and Testament, as well as over five billion tweets at @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.
You currently have 2 YA books on the market (and one to be released this month), as well as 1 NA book. Did you take the self-publishing route with all of these? If so, do you think self-published worked well for all of them, or do you think publishing with a company could have been more beneficial for any of your books?
Nope—my YAs are traditionally published, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Those books are in libraries—including school libraries—and were in bookstores and allowed me to do events and panels…I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of those things, and especially my f/f YA was really important to me to be accessible and widespread for queer teen girls. I don’t think I could’ve had nearly the same reach if I’d self-published it.
When you finished writing your first book, did you submit it to any publishing agencies prior to self-publishing?
This was a tricky situation for me, because I was represented by an agent, and she really liked the book and wanted to submit it, but I wanted to self-publish it, so we compromised on a very small sub list. I ended up asking her to pull it early (I assume you’re referring to my first book I self-pubbed; my actual first book is a different response).
What are the benefits of self-publishing as opposed to working with a publishing company?
I think pretty much all self-pub authors would say the same thing here: the control. I love being in control of my pricing, my metadata, my cover, my…everything. For a control freak like me, it’s a perfect situation.
What is the most difficult thing about self-publishing? What is the most rewarding?
Publicity in general, especially getting people to give you a shot when they’ve been burned by a lot of self-pub books that weren’t edited first, is definitely a challenge. A lot of bloggers won’t review self-pub books, and I don’t blame them at all, but it’s definitely hard. So, on the flip side, it’s definitely rewarding when people take a shot on my book who wouldn’t usually and end up loving it.
In the publishing world, there is a stigma that self-publishing is an easier way to get works out there as opposed to publishing through an agency. As a self-published author, what are your thoughts on that?
I mean, I wouldn’t call that a stigma so much as a fact—of course it gets works out there more easily. I could self-pub this interview right now. I think people get very hung up on self-pub stigmas as unfair, but to me that’s intellectually dishonest. It is easier to write a good book? No. Is it harder in some ways because you’re also your book’s publisher? Of course. But the fact that no one’s making you edit, making you hire a copy editor, making you proofread…yes, of course that’s easier. Hopefully you do all that stuff anyway, but again, it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend no one skips those steps.
There are numerous resources for self-publishing, including websites where you can pay to get started and books you can read. In your opinion, what are some of the best resources available to those who are interested in self-publishing?
To be honest, it was different for me than for some because I do have a really great network; it never even occurred to me to pay for any resources. Other authors (especially Elizabeth Briggs and Riley Edgewood) were everything. But I know the K-boards have been helpful to other people, and Facebook groups with other authors can be great, and like I said above, reading people’s experiences is great. I know people really love Susan Kaye Quinn’s site, and for me, Leah Raeder’s Absolute Write thread when she self-pubbed Unteachable originally was really helpful. (Which sounds funny to say because we’re very good friends now, but I didn’t know her then!) There’s no replacement for talking to people who know what they’re doing.
How did you first learn about self-publishing? Did you learn as you went, or did you do a lot of research before getting started?
I’d read a whole bunch of self-published books first, so I observed other people’s choices, talked to some of the authors, read threads they posted online about the experience, etc. I definitely learned as I went—there were things I didn’t even know I needed to know—but I was really lucky to have some awesome friends guide me through that stuff.
Do you think there are certain genres of books that work better in the self-publishing world than others? If so, why?
Absolutely Contemporary New Adult, and maybe Contemp Romance. The things that do best are the things people read A) quickly and B) digitally, and what’s really the big draw to NA in self-pub is that traditional publishing wasn’t doing it; it was the only way to get NA for a while, and people were already used to shopping that way, so even when traditional publishers started handling it, people didn’t care. They were perfectly happy with what they were getting from self-pub authors. In contrast, categories that’ve traditionally had quality control via gatekeepers are far less primed for self-pub, which is why I don’t recommend it for YA authors.
Would you recommend self-publishing to all authors or only some? Why?
If you’re not comfortable doing your own publicity and having a social media presence, and you don’t have a lot of money to burn or a great network, self-publishing is going to be a brutal uphill battle.
How do you feel about the stereotypes of self-publishing?
The same way I feel about other stereotypes—there are some people who exemplify exactly why they’re stereotypes, and there are also plenty of people who defy expectations. In New Adult in particular, I don’t see a marked difference between the quality of good self-pub books and trad-pub books. I don’t get mad when people assume my book might suck because it’s self-pubbed; I just hope I prove them wrong.
When you are not self-publishing novels, what do you do?
I also traditionally publish novels, plus in my day job, I’m an associate editor of mathematics at an academic publishing house. I’m also a blogger at the B&N Teen Blog, which is a lot of fun.
Do your hobbies your own personal life impact your writing?
At this point, pretty much all my hobbies are reading/writing related, so yes, they definitely do!
Is there anything else you would like to add about self-publishing or writing?
Being intellectually honest with yourself is really important, as you may have gathered, is a tenet of mine. It drives me batty when I see people take one exception and use it to justify their choices, or ignore what the market is saying and then get surprised at the results. Like when people use Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell as proof NA can be huge, even without sex, etc. No—that book is YA. It doesn’t matter that you think it’s NA, or that it’s set in college; you can’t ignore who printed it, what stores sold it, what publications reviewed it, who libraries buy it for, or what format it’s printed in. Obviously you don’t have to follow trends—do whatever you want! But expect corresponding results, too. That’s the key.