Vellum Review: Is It Worth It?

In this Vellum review, we explain how this self-publishing can help you prepare a book for publication.

If you're the kind of self-published author that believes in doing everything yourself, then Vellum is a one-stop-shop for formatting your manuscripts and taking control of your book design.

When I first became an indie author back in 2017, I made the decision to do as much as possible by myself. At the time, I was bootstrapping and I wanted to keep as much of the book development as in-house as possible. Starting a self-publishing imprint was expensive.

Searching for eBook formatting software though turned out to be an ordeal by fire. Nothing satisfied me — I tried Scrivener and I thought I had what I needed. But then something annoyed me about it, I ditched it, and my search continued.

At one point, I was so desperate, I even tried Amazon's abysmal and embarrassing pre-made templates on Kindle. Then somebody suggested Vellum and I immediately fell in love. Now, there was no going back. I was hooked.

Vellum Review: Making Formatting Easy

Vellum review

Vellum very quickly became an indispensable part of my self-publishing set-up, even though the one-off cost of $97 gave me serious heartburn. But it quickly paid itself back in book sales as readers complimented me on my beautiful books. The fonts just popped, the paragraphs, spacing and headings all lined up neatly, the back matter and title page sparkled. It just worked. 

There's just one slight hiccup — it's only available for Mac users. If you don't have MacOS, you're completely out of luck.

If you're a Mac-owning self-publishing author, on the lookout for easy formatting software for your book, then read on to find out why your search should start and end with Vellum.

Why You Can Trust Me

So why should you listen to me extolling the virtues of Vellum? What makes me an expert?

During the past four years, I've written and self-published 17 books — with number 18 on the way — all of which were effortlessly formatted as digital files by Vellum. And here's the thing about me — I'm incredibly fussy. Just the slightest fault is enough to make me have a hissy fit and demand my money back. It has to work all the time as advertised, otherwise, I turn a bright shade of purple.

So when I say Vellum is the greatest piece of formatting software in the history of formatting software, you'd better believe it. That thing has been put through a very rigorous and bruising testing process, and it passed with flying colors.

What is Vellum?

When you are submitting your eBook or print book manuscript for approval to publishing platforms, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital, they have very strict standards for how the eBook should be formatted. The reader's experience is paramount. Just one issue with the first paragraph will have it rejected and thrown back at you to be fixed.

That's why it's absolutely essential that you get the right book formatting software from day one — and stick with it. Once you learn how to format your books, it becomes second nature to transfer your manuscripts to the software, get them ready for publication, and then spit out the eBook formats you need.

Using Vellum is simple — it definitely falls under the category of “even your grandmother could use it.” There's a minimal learning curve, so minimal in fact that I learned within less than an hour how everything worked. What's even better is you can download Vellum for free, format your book on it, and only pay the $97 activation fee when you're ready to generate your eBook files. So there's absolutely no risk in giving it a go.

Key features

So now that I've whetted your appetite, it's time to go all-in and delve into the features of what Vellum offers.

One-Click Import Of Your Manuscript

Import your manuscript on Vellum
To get your manuscript into Vellum, you need to import a Microsoft Word Docx document

The first step is to get your manuscript into Vellum. This is done by importing a Microsoft Word docx document with a couple of clicks. Since my word processor of choice is Google Docs, it's not an issue converting my file into a Word file. But if you're using say Apple Pages or LibreOffice, you have to ensure the conversion to docx doesn't mess up your manuscript. 

I suppose you could use Calibre to make a docx file but I've found Calibre to be a rather clunky experience.

Choose The Style Of The Pages

You can choose the style of the pages
You can choose between drop caps, ornamental breaks, chapter titles, how you want photos and quotes to be styled, and much more

Once the manuscript has been loaded, you can then choose the style of your pages and chapter headers by scrolling through what's on offer. There are not many to choose from which is one of the few weaknesses of Vellum.

But you can choose between drop caps, ornamental breaks, chapter titles, how you want photos and quotes to be styled, and much more. The entire interior design and formatting options are covered and you end up with a stunning-looking file that would rival anything that a traditional publishing house would be able to come up with.

Choose Your Font

You can choose the font style
If you don't see the font you're looking for, you can click to see more fonts and choose

In Vellum's preferences, you can choose your font. If you don't see the font you're looking for, you can click to see more fonts and choose the one you want. But don't go crazy. After all, this isn't really a scenario where you need Comic Sans.

Split Chapters Into Two With a Right-Click

You can split chapters
When you choose “Split Chapter at Cursor”, the rest of the chapter will now be placed in a new chapter and subsequent chapters

Once you see your chapters loaded into Vellum, you may decide when previewing them, that a chapter may be too long and needs to be split into two chapters. 

Simply place your cursor where you want the chapter to be split and right-click with your mouse or trackpad. Now choose “Split Chapter at Cursor”. The rest of the chapter will now be placed in a new chapter and subsequent chapters will automatically re-number themselves.

Easy Insertion of Metadata

You can add metadata
You can quickly and easily type in these details, as well as upload a logo

Metadata refers to things like the book's title, the author's name, the name of the translator, editor, or cover designer, the ISBN number, and more. You can quickly and easily type in these details, as well as upload a logo if you have your own publishing imprint.

Upload Your Cover

You can upload your own cover photo
Vellum will advise you if the cover is big enough

In the metadata section, you can also upload your cover. Vellum will advise you if the cover is big enough, and if not you should resize it to conform to Vellum‘s advice.

Easy Generating & Inserting of Front & Back Matter

Front and back matter
You can even generate a blank page if you want to do something which is not covered by any of the other categories

Front and back matter is where Vellum really shines. The software gives you a multitude of options as to what to include before and after your story. Although for obvious reasons, you shouldn't choose too many — you don't want your reader fuming with frustration trying to find your story in among all the front matter!

Vellum offers features such as a table of contents, a copyright page, a blurbs page, a page to list all of your other work, a page to embed your social media links, endnotes, and much more. You can even generate a blank page if you want to do something which is not covered by any of the other categories.

View Previous Versions & Restore To a Previous Version

You can view previous & restore previous versions
Find the version you're looking for then hit the “Restore” button

Sometimes rewrites don't always go as planned, and you need to go back to the previous version. Instead of tediously deleting your changes and trying to remember what you had written before, just view the previous versions that Vellum keeps track of. Find the version you're looking for then hit the “Restore” button. Bingo, you'll be reverted back!

Always Preview Your Progress

You can always review your progress
Make one change and it instantly updates in the preview

Another really great feature of Vellum is having a preview pane on the right-hand side, which shows you your progress in real-time. Make one change and it instantly updates in the preview. This way, you can see how the page will look to the reader, and if everything is formatting the way it should.

Multiple options on the print edition
You have multiple options on what the print edition will look like

You can also see how the page looks in different eReaders. By dropping down a menu, you can choose between a Kindle paperwhiteKindle Fire, Apple iPad, and iPhoneNookKoboAndroid tablet, and what the print edition will look like.

Generate Your eBook In Different Formats & Trim Sizes

You can generate your ebook in different formats
Simply click the “Generate” button and choose which formats you want

When the book manuscript has been finished and formatted, it's then time to generate the necessary digital files to be uploaded to AmazonNookiBooks, Barnes and Noble, and wherever else you sell. 

Simply click the “Generate” button and choose which formats you want. It makes a Kindle MOBI file, an ePUB file, a print file, and a specially formatted ePUB file for AppleNookKobo, and Android

You can generate your ebook in different formats
It has every conceivable trim size you could want, including large print versions

Also, remember to choose your trim size. It has every conceivable trim size you could want, including large print versions!

FAQs on Vellum Review

Is Vellum free to use?

Yes, until the point where you need to generate your eBook files. Then you need to pay the $97 one-off fee to unlock the rest of the software.

Can you write a book in Vellum?

Actually you can. I've written several books directly into Vellum, thinking I could shorten the writing process and format as I go. It's not the best process, but it's definitely doable if you like living on the edge.

Is Vellum available for other operating systems other than Mac?

Unfortunately not.

Can you use Vellum to make box sets?

Yes absolutely. Just open the books in separate Vellum windows, highlight the chapters and drag them into the box set Vellum window. Then rearrange as needed.

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Author

  • Mark has been a freelance technology writer since 2004 when he wrote a regular eBay column for AuctionBytes (now renamed eCommerceBytes). He also contributed articles to the now-defunct Bookologist, Google Tutor, and a few other sites now lost to time (although you could probably find them on the Wayback Machine). Then came a couple of years of soul-destroying English teaching work before MakeUseOf asked him in 2007 to become the managing editor.

Vellum Review
  • Ease of Use
  • Features
  • Value for Money
4.33

Vellum Review: The Bottom Line

Since I have been cheerleading for the Vellum software in this whole article, it's no surprise when I say that I highly recommend it. If you have a Mac computer, look upon the $97 fee as a worthwhile upfront investment in the future and just go for it.

As I indicated above, there are some downsides to Vellum, chief among them being the limited number of design templates. But that isn't a huge drawback when you consider what else you get.

Pros

  • Vellum is an easy way to generate box sets — just drag in all your Vellum book files into the software and rearrange into the right order.
  • The $97 one-off activation fee enables you to make unlimited eBooks.
  • With just a few clicks, you can make a digital manuscript look so good that a traditional publisher would weep.
  • The software is constantly being worked on by the developer and updated with new features.
  • Add all kinds of front and back matter to your books such as a table of contents, an acknowledgments page, epilogue, prologue, social media links, and more.

Cons

  • Vellum is only available for MacOS users.
  • The $97 fee may be off-putting for some people.
  • Vellum has a very limited number of design templates and fonts to choose from.
  • To generate a Kindle-compatible file, you also need to install an Amazon program on your Mac computer. It's a safe program but still a pain.
  • Once the file is in Vellum, you can't export the file to PDF or even to a new Microsoft Word document file.
  • You can only export as a RTF file, losing your formatting.
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