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How I Turned a Vocal Story into a Book

From Short Story to Self-Published

By Bri CraigPublished 10 months ago Updated 3 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - September 2023
Official Cover Art for The Wailings ~ Created by Lizbé Coetzee

The day has arrived where I can finally hold a book that I've written in my own hands - and I have Vocal to thank for it.

I know I'm not the first Vocal writer to have this accomplishment. I believe Mike Singleton, Natasja Rose, and others have also gone down the path of self-publishing. But I'm so proud to have made it here, and I could not have done it without the support of my friends, and the gentle nudge of Vocal Challenges to keep me writing.

So let's talk about the journey!

The Beginnings

This story begins with the Painted Prose Vocal Challenge. If you are unfamiliar, The Painted Prose Challenge was a Vocal writing challenge from this summer in which writers were challenged to "Write a story inspired by a work of art." I wanted to choose a piece by the phenomenal surrealist painter, Marion Elizabeth Adnams. Torn between two images, I was eventually drawn to her painting, L’infante égarée (The Lost Infanta). I felt drawn to the imagery of this artwork, from the broody, malevolent background to the intriguing paper doll in the foreground. And thus, the original horror short story was born:

This was one of those stories that I ended up feeling extremely excited about and inspired by - it felt like there was so much more to the story than what I was able to show in the original. Maybe not a full-length novel, but perhaps something novella-length. So I started brainstorming, and launched full speed ahead into this project.

The story netted a coveted top story spot on Vocal, but ultimately did not place in the challenge.*

*Shoutout to my good friend and fellow Vocal creator, Stephen A Roddewig, his excellent story netted a well-deserved second place in the challenge. I don't know how he manages to stay humble about it.

As happy as I was for my friend, I'll admit that the challenge loss was certainly disappointing. I think if I had focused too much on the short story not placing in the challenge, it could have derailed the entire project. But fortunately for me, I actually was able to stay true to my vision and push through anyways. In a way, my enthusiasm for the project saved me from letting the challenge results influence my own relationship with my story. I was still excited by its potential, and wanted to see this concept expand into something bigger and better.

The Preparations

So first thing's first, I needed to needed to actually complete the novella. I set a daily word goal of 600 words, and spend my lunch breaks typing away on my personal laptop. I didn't write every day, but I tried my best to write almost every day. In the end, finishing the novella took me about two months, and I had the first draft complete by the end of August 2023.

Now was the time for unfamiliar territory.... self publishing.

I could go on and on about self-publishing vs traditional publishing. I have a little bit of experience in both. But the choice to self-publish was made partially because this is a novella... and let's be honest, agents and publishers are really only interested in full-length manuscripts.

So the first half of the month of September was dedicated to preparing for self-publishing. First, I spent my Labor day weekend editing the manuscript into a suitable next draft. Then it was time to get some other eyes on it.

I wanted to release a product that I could be completely proud of, so I made sure to get a lot of help. I have many friends in the writing sphere, so I commissioned them to (a) edit, (b) format, and (c) help me write a back blurb. I unfortunately don't have any friends who make cover art, so for that, I went onto Fiverr to find a freelancer.*

*If you're interested in these services, my cover artist was Liz C and my book formatting was done by Marissa Lete. The other two involved parties are not open to commissions.

By the way, it's cheaper to do all these things yourself. But at the end of the day, you'll almost always have a better product if you seek help from people who are objective about your work and know what they're doing. Plus, it's always nice to support your fellow creatives.

The Publishing

So with an edited, formatted manuscript and a polished piece of cover art, I was ready to publish. I chose Amazon as my distributer for my novella - and I'll be honest, I was a bit conflicted about that choice, but ultimately, Amazon is a great resource for self-publishing, and it was important to start small and focus on one distributer rather than overwhelm myself with multiple.

And, I have to hand it to them, they certainly do make it easy.

So I submitted my materials, ordered my proof copy, and as of today, September 18th, The Wailings was finally published as it's own, standalone story!

The proof copy of the book

This is the first week that the novella is available, so unfortunately, I do not yet have an update on how sales and marketing are going. But I'll be happy to post a more in-depth article about that side of things, if you all are interested.

But I'm finding that I am just so excited to be here, and to be able to hold a book that I wrote in my hands. Even better, I've felt super supported throughout the journey. From my friends who helped me prepare the novella, to my family who have let me rattle on about this for months. And I've been grateful to you, the Vocal community as well. Especially the few of you who read and left nice comments on the original short story - I reread those comments when I needed the motivation to continue, and I would not be here without you.

So thank you Vocal.

(Thank you so much).


If you're interested in the book, or if you just want to support a fellow Vocal writer, you can find the novella here:

Interested in self-publishing your own story? I'm happy to answer any questions about my own process in the comments below. Or, as I mentioned earlier, I'm happy to write a more detailed article down the road if you'd like!

Part 2 is up now:


About the Creator

Bri Craig

Bri Craig (she/her) is a variety pack writer. She enjoys writing poetry, webcomic features, humor, short stories, and personal anecdotes. Basically, neither of us will ever know what will be posted next!

Let's connect! More about me here.

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Comments (33)

  • Alexandria Stanwyck2 months ago

    A couple questions: Is there a limit to how many pages/words something should be so it can be published with Amazon? Also, an early congrats on your poetry book publishing soon. How did you have it set up to publish on a certain date rather than right away? When I published my poetry book, I don't remember seeing that as an option, but I could have just as easily missed it. Also a very delayed congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Samuel 9 months ago

    Super dope! Would love if we could support each others Art your art is super dope followed you on Instagram and subscribed to you as well- Samuel

  • Test10 months ago

    Fascinating. Well done

  • Mariann Carroll10 months ago

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story

  • Melissa Ingoldsby10 months ago

    Your book looks so good! Congratulations 🎉 and keep up the amazing job

  • Kenny Penn10 months ago

    Thanks for sharing Bri, I would absolutely be interested in reading how the sales/marketing is going. Congrats on publishing it!

  • Real Poetic10 months ago

    Congratulations!!!!! This is amazing. 🎉👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  • Addison M10 months ago

    That's very exciting. Congratulations on such a huge milestone!

  • Naveedkk 10 months ago

    Very well written, congratulations on top story.

  • Heyyyy Bri, congratulations! I'm so excited for you! However, I'm very sorry because I somehow missed your story for the Painted Prose challenge although it made Top Story. I've opened it in a tab and I'll be getting to it soon! You're so freaking awesomeeee!

  • Morgana Miller10 months ago

    Whaaaat, that's awesome! You won the most coveted prize of all, in my book (pun kinda intended). Bet it felt great to hold this in your hands, and the cover's lovely. Now excuse me while I go one-click it on Amazon. Congratulations! 🥰

  • Lakeyia L10 months ago


  • Alexis Dean Jr.10 months ago


  • Mattie :)10 months ago

    So cool, Bri. Congratulations. That's so exciting!

  • Tina D'Angelo10 months ago

    Congratulations! I am finishing up my own Vocal challenge book, Save One Bullet. These challenges make us reach for genres we are uncomfortable with and push us past our limitations. I'm thrilled for you!

  • Mackenzie Davis10 months ago

    Ugh this is so inspiring! I gotta hop on the train, I think. Thank you for sharing this! And my congratulations! You must be over the moon. 💕 I may be back with questions about Amazon…but honestly, an in-depth article would be great to read!

  • Brin J.10 months ago

    This is so wholesome and inspiring. I love that you didn't let the fact that your story didn't win the challenge prevent you from continuing it. <3 I have a few stories from challenges I eventually want to turn into books too. First, I need to finish the book I started over a year ago😅. You're an inspiration! And I'll forever remember your success and perseverance so it can lend me strength when I need it.

  • Joelle E N✨10 months ago

    Sooo cool!

  • Carol Townend10 months ago

    Congratulations and a big well done from me!

  • Kendall Defoe 10 months ago

    I am going to look for it...and then get that manuscript I put together sent to someone, anyone, to print out! Thank you, and congratulations on this and the TS! 🏅

  • Test10 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story and publishing your novella. Sounds great 💙Anneliese

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Happy dancing with you!!! Congratulations on your published book and a Vocal Top Story!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Stephen A. Roddewig10 months ago

    1) Thanks so much for the shoutout. Easy to stay humble when there's always a new challenge to hop on 😁 2) It's been great to see this project come together from the early stages to now, including my own contribution as the [REDACTED] for the book 👀 For anyone who sees this, it's a great contribution to the horror genre full of mystery and creeping dread. This effect is magnified by the fact that's it told OUT OF ORDER, so you, the reader, often end up knowing things the protagonist has yet to experience or figure out. Impressive in its technical execution alone before factoring in the deliciously descriptive language. And this is all coming from a card-carrying member of the Horror Writers Association whose perspective is only *slightly* biased 😉

  • Heather Hubler10 months ago

    Wow, that's so amazing!!! I love that you pushed past that challenge loss and kept going. Thank you for sharing your journey :)

  • Donna Renee10 months ago

    Whoa! Congrats!!! That is so exciting 😍😍

Bri CraigWritten by Bri Craig

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