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!
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.
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.*
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.
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!
This is the first week that the novella is available, so unfortunately, I do not set 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!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme