Vellum Is Simply The Best Ebook App
Ebook self-publishers need look no further for the best production tool out there
Seriously, just buy Vellum
Not long ago, I wrote an article about essential tools for indie publishers. It was written based on my experience designing and bringing to market a book for print. I’ve learned a lot since then, and have recently completed work on an ebook version. I’m so excited about an ebook production application that I found, that I just had to share it as an update here.
It’s called Vellum. (And it’s Mac only, sorry Windows!)
While I love my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, now that I know about Vellum, InDesign seems like a big fat waste of time if your objective is to put out ebooks. In fact, when I tried to export my existing InDesign .indd file as an EPUB natively, I almost puked due to all the effort it would have taken me to correct the whole thing. In comparison to that, Vellum is fast, easy, and the quality of the finished product is great. I went from raw text to finished product in a little under two and a half hours.
Show, don’t tell…
Here are some screenshots that show how dead simple this app makes ebook publishing:
As you can see, on the left pane is the navigator with all your chapters or sections. On the right you can choose from various devices to see in real time how your work will look on various ebook reader platforms.
You can download the app and work in it for free, even saving your work files. You pay only when you decide to generate exports, and once you do, you can pick which platforms to export for:
Most of the formatting happens in blocks that are very simple to use (easier than WordPress blocks by far):
Here’s an example with a “verse” block selected:
There are a number of pre-built styles, so you don’t need to fool around with trying to download and adjust templates or anything like that. They “just work” and look amazing.
There’s even a handy full page image option, if you’re a book-map lover like me!
Differences made plain
Bear in mind, of course, that ebook readers are all different. So what you see in one reader may be different than what you see in another. Fortunately, Vellum has got you covered.
Here’s my cover in their iPad preview:
And in the Kobo Glo:
Vellum also handles print
The only slight drawback to Vellum is price. If you’re just a dabbler or operating on a shoe-string budget, it might not be for you. But if I had to do the last six months over again, and buy only one tool, it would be 💯 hands-down Vellum. It even handles print as one of its options.
Here’s my table of contents for the print preview (did I mention it auto-generates Tables of Contents 😍)?
I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, though, so I only paid for the ebook version. I figure I already have my print version set up in InDesign, and am not ready to redo that whole thing just now. According to their site, you can upgrade to the ebook + print version within 30 days for the difference in price. After that time, you have to pay a bit more to upgrade. That’s a little weird to me, but so far, it’s literally the only drawback I can find.
There’s a Purchasing FAQ page here, and I have to say that their help documents are uniformly top notch.
We've made Vellum a free download so that you can try it out before you make a purchase. After you install Vellum on…
I did poke around a little with the print settings, and there are many trim sizes available, including my favorite, 4.25"x7" pocket size.
Distribution not included
Whether you choose to produce ebooks or print versions, you will still have to find distribution (as well as printing, if you go that route).
Sadly, I can no longer recommend Lulu.com for print-on-demand, following the month+ long debacle that has ensued with their site “upgrade” that completely borked user data across the board. So I would say don’t go there.
Instead, I’m excited to be in the review stage of using PublishDrive.com, which is an aggregator distribution service. Basically, you upload one entry for your ebook, and it pushes out to various platforms on your behalf from one central hub. You can do one title for free, and then after that, it operates on a monthly subscription model depending on how many titles you have. Since it’s based on subscription, you keep ALL your royalties — they don’t take a percent cut after the costs set by platforms. In a similar vein, there is also Draft2Digital, which is another aggregator. I’ve heard some good things in YouTube videos about them, but when I went to sign up on their site, there was some confusion that stopped me from completing the sign up process. Their main advertising says they take only a 10% cut, but their sign-up agreement says 15%. Given that this is a business which is ENTIRELY about getting the details just right, this made me think twice, and went over to PublishDrive instead.
From the intel I’ve gathered, it seems both Draft2Digital and PublishDrive offer some print fulfillment options, but both still seem to be in a somewhat beta state. I haven’t used either, so can’t talk about that, but will do an update if I end up using either (or both).
Another of my favorite platforms for selling digital goods online is actually Gumroad. It’s super fast and easy, and you can even embed product pages directly into Medium posts, like below.
See the results for yourself!
If you’ve gained any value from the information here, and would like to see the quality of a finished product rapidly deployed using Vellum, I would be thrilled if you picked up a copy via the Gumroad link below. You should be able to purchase it right from this page, or by going to their site.
As always, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share this post with your writer and ebook friends on social media!