As editor of a literary magazine, my love for quality short-form writing knows no bounds. And as part of the job, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know several excellent writers.
RB Frank is witty, versatile, and packs a punch in a limited number of words. Purely out of curiosity, after becoming a true fan of her work, I looked up her author website a little over a year ago and discovered that she had also self-published a collection of short horror stories, Bite Size Reads. It was no surprise to me to discover the book is brilliantly executed.
Read on to learn what pulls RB Frank toward short-form writing, why she chose to self-publish her collection of stories, and her tips on how to get your own stories out into the world.
You are such a gifted writer! What are some of the aspects of short fiction that appeal to you?
I have to say the most appealing thing is the immediacy. There isn’t a lot of buildup so the reader is thrown into the story. To wrap up a story in a few hundred words instead of 70,000 gives the reader a faster sense of accomplishment.
There are times when you want a longer story, to languish by a pool and delve into another world. And then there are times when you say I can only read three pages before I fall asleep tonight.
I’m a fan of your collection of short stories, Bite Size Reads. What factors did you consider when you decided to self-publish the book?
The biggest factor was the freedom to produce the book the way I wanted it. There was a specific format I had in mind, where I grouped the stories by the amount of time it would take a reader to get through them.
I also knew I would have total control over the content, and that within a matter of days I could begin selling the collection, as opposed to waiting a year and a half (or more) to see it finished.
You recently released the book with a new cover. What was the deciding factor to move forward on that?
I had several comments from readers, wishing the cover was a little creepier! One particular story (“The Orchard”) always seemed to come up in conversation, so I took that as guidance for the redesign.
Once I made the decision to move forward with the new cover based on reader feedback, it was done within just a few days. That’s another reason having self-published the collection has worked in my favor.
Did you work with a cover designer for this project? If so, what was that process like for you?
For the original cover, I did work with a cover designer. However, I’ve learned a lot since then and was able to design the second cover myself, according to my new vision.
Did you work with a developmental editor and/or copy editor on Bite Size Reads?
The short answer is no, but I should have! I’ve gone in and made edits over time to get the book where it is today.
It’s absolutely true that you do not see your own mistakes, and errors get passed you. A copy editor would have saved me a lot of heartache.
What publishing and sales platforms have you used for the collection, and what has the experience been like for you?
To print the book I used Create Space, which is the publishing arm of Amazon. The site is incredibly user-friendly and the customer service is wonderful. Someone is always available to help.
What’s so amazing about Amazon is that once you are done with the book, in 24 hours it is up for sale. It also gives you the option to expand distribution for worldwide sales. The book has sold in at least 10 other countries. It’s so much fun when I go to look at the sales report and I see people all over the world buying and reading it.
I also have it up on KDP which is Kindle Direct Publishing. There’s a learning curve with eBooks, especially if you want to do things like link your table of contents to certain areas in the book. But YouTube is a Godsend! You can find a tutorial for virtually anything, and that is exactly what I did. Once I had it properly formatted, KDP offered a pretty simple process and has been a great resource for me.
What (if anything) would you do differently with your next collection?
The only thing I would do differently is to plan on working with a quality copy editor.
One thing I would not change is the formatting of the collection. I’ve gotten great feedback from my readers that they enjoy having the stories sorted by the length of time it will take them to read each one.
I know you maintain an author website and are active on social media. What marketing efforts have proven to be the most fruitful for you and your creative work?
Instagram has worked really well for me. I have a good core group of followers who I’ve built a relationship with.
Word of mouth from people I know and others who I don’t know has proven to be incredibly helpful as well. As an indie author, building that reputation is everything.
I’m not great at tooting my own horn and selling, so I’ve tried to focus on building relationships and letting readers see who I am.
What are some of the resources (blogs, books, classes etc.) that have been helpful to you as an author of short-form work?
My favorite resource is On Writing by Steven King. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted and underlined. I once took out a notebook and rewrote chapters of the book just to help myself absorb it on a deeper level.
On Twitter, I follow a lot of writing accounts and agents. Agent posts are almost mini master classes on querying, grabbing the attention of your reader, and what makes a great first page. Twitter is both a networking platform and a learning resource for me.
One of the websites that helped me when I first began writing short fiction is called Indies Unlimited. It’s a fantastic resource. I think I participated in their flash fiction challenges for nearly two years to hone the craft.
What advice would you give a writer who is looking to self-publish a collection of short fiction for the first time?
Have an author platform (a website and social media account(s)) already in place. Start long before you intend to publish. Then when you do publish it’s not like you’re just starting out, your home base is already in place.
Tell us about the next project we can expect from RB Frank!
I was an early childhood teacher for a long time, and my first love is picture books. Right now, I’m concentrating on sending out about eight manuscripts to publishers. I’m still writing short fiction when something really strikes me, but for the moment picture books are taking the front seat.
Writing them seems to be coming a lot easier right now, and when I look at the arc of my craft over the last several years I feel that the short and flash fiction has prepared me for picture books. Most picture books are less than 500 words. Every word counts, every nuance, and every sentence. So, my writing has become much tighter, and I attribute that to having honed short fiction.
RB writes in between letting the dogs out and letting the dogs in (That’s very real). You can find her on Instagram @writingoutloud, Twitter @writingoutloud2, FB @RBFrankAuthor. She runs The Fiercesome Writer blog through her website.
Elise Holland is the editor of 2 Elizabeths, a literary magazine focused on poetry and short fiction, with an emphasis on romance and women’s fiction. Her work has been published in Writer’s Digest and has appeared on Jane Friedman’s blog. Find Elise online at 2Elizabeths.com.