First Impressions of Vellum App

VellumAs many of you know, I’m giving away a free eBook short for people who preorder Snitch: A Shea Stevens Thriller.

I really wanted this bonus giveaway to be something spectacular to let me readers know how much I truly appreciate their support. So I decided to check out a new eBook formatting app called Vellum.

Prior to using Vellum, I have created eBooks using Calibre and Scrivener. While the eBooks generated by Calibre and Scrivener were certainly readable, they lacked the panache of eBooks created by traditional publishers.

Enter Vellum.

My Experience Creating an Ebook With Vellum

Vellum screenshot

There was a bit of a learning curve working with Vellum, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And I found great documentation and support from both the developers and experienced users. There is a dedicated Vellum thread on the Kindle discussion board. Also, they respond quickly to questions on Twitter.

It did take me a while to figure out the best way to compile from Scrivener into something that Vellum can import.

Short answer: compile to a .DOCX file and include front and back matter. I ended up creating a specific compile format just for Vellum, which is easy to do in Scrivener.

The Results

The results were far superior than what I was getting from Scrivener (which is still the best tool for outlining, writing, and editing) and Calibre (which is fun to play with, but not ready for prime time).

The eBook itself is beautiful. It’s easy to select from Vellum’s list of formatting styles and element styles, including drop caps, ornamental breaks, and store-specific purchase links (.mobi files link to Amazon, other formats link to their respective stores).

I have viewed the resulting eBooks on my Mac Book Pro, on my iPhone, and my Kindle Fire tablet. All look fabulous. Drop caps on Kindles were an issue for a while, but Vellum nails it.

Pricing Tiers

Another thing to consider is price. They basically have three price tiers. For a single title (produced in all formats), the price is $29.99. That’s a chunk of change for just one book.

The next tier is for 10 titles at a cost of $99. This is the one I went with for now, as a fledgling hybrid author. I may upgrade to the third tier later.

The final tier is $199 for an unlimited number of titles. If you’re an indie author and in it for the long haul, this is probably the tier for you, if you can afford it. If not, start with the 10-title tier and upgrade later if you need to.

Also, on these first two tiers, BE SURE TO HAVE YOUR TITLE AND AUTHOR NAME ABSOLUTELY CORRECT before you generate the eBook files, because you can’t change them once you do.

You can save your work without generating. Just can’t change the title and author name after you generate. You can change the content and other metadata, however.

This has to do with the limited number of books you can generate under these plans and to keep people from trying to game the system.

On the unlimited plan, you can change the title and author name from what I understand since you are no longer limited on the number of titles you generate.

eBooks are Great But What About Print?

The developers at 180g, the company that created Vellum, are focused on adding the ability to format printed books. They are hoping to roll out this capability later this year.

I’m very excited about that, even though I don’t currently have any projects in the works that would need it. Good to know for the future.

Limitations and Other Considerations

The one big limitation right now is that Vellum is available Mac only! So if you’re strictly a PC user, Vellum isn’t for you. The developers eventually plan to make a PC version, but not in the near future.

Another thing you should know is about Kindle. When you sideload (download a .mobi file onto a Kindle device via email or USB), Kindle puts the book in Documents library rather than the Books library. This isn’t a failing of Vellum so much as an issue/incentive from Amazon to get you to buy books directly from them.

There is a service call BookFunnel that can serve as a workaround, but that’s a whole other topic for a different blog post.

I do wish there were more styles to choose from. I don’t know if they are working on creating new styles currently. But perhaps as more authors use the product, they will pressure the fine folks at 180g to give us more variety. I also wish some of the controls were a little more granular in terms of individual formatting of front and back matter.

If you are looking to create illustrated children’s books, Vellum isn’t designed to handle that. Hiring an eBook formatter would still be your best bet in that case. But for novels and non-fiction books without a lot of images in the text, it’s ideal.

Conclusion

If you are an indie/hybrid author AND a Mac user, Vellum is a great tool for creating eBooks. I look forward to using it to make the third book in the Shea Stevens thriller series, as well as further improvements in the app itself.

If you’d like to receive “Boost: A Shea Stevens Thriller”, the eBook short I created with Vellum,  all you have to do is preorder your copy of Snitch BEFORE January 31, 2017, and email your receipt to dharmapromo@gmail.com.

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