Formatting Your Books with Vellum on Mac or PC

I’ve been reading a lot of author blog posts lately, and Vellum keeps rearing its head. Everyone that uses it says its wonderful and very easy to use, so I thought I’d give it a go this week and see if it worked for me.

Formatting is one of those things that I was more than happy to off load onto someone else. I’ve been very happy with the results from the people that used to do mine. There is a cost to this though, and of course the cost increases depending on how many different file types you want. You’ll need a .MOBI for Kindle, a .EPUB for other stores, and each of those stores may have their own requirements, so you’ll need a generic .EPUB for aggregators like Draft2Digital, and one tailored to Kobo, B&N Nook, iBooks etc. So this cost and the short delay in receiving the files, plus the lack of my ability to then edit those files can interrupt my workflow. I appreciate that book covers should only be done by a very good cover designer, and I know I can’t (shouldn’t) proof read my own books, but formatting isn’t the dark art I once thought it was, not with Vellum anyway.

The first thing you’ll hear about Vellum is that it’s Mac only. So unless you have a Mac computer running the OS that it supports, you won’t be able to use it right?…well not quite. I made the decision that I needed to try Vellum and spent a lunchtime looking at new and second hand Apple Mac computers. Wow they are pricey, but I know they are quality too and I know that Mac users are happy users, but I still didn’t want to interrupt my workflow by switching computers, not to mention the chunk of change it was going to cost me. There is another solution for us pc users and one that many authors use Vellum with quite happily, and it’s called Macincloud.

Macincloud is a virtual Mac on your Windows pc. It sounds complicated and almost like you’d need a degree in computer science to set it up, but it’s so easy anyone can do it. Once signed up to Macincloud you choose a price plan. For me their Pay as You Go option was fine at $1.00 per hour purchased in 30 hour chunks. For that you get a zipped file, inside of which are a bunch of shortcuts. These connect you to your virtual Mac with lots of different screen configurations, for example there was one called ‘Macincloud 1920×1080’ which matched the screen resolution of my laptop and worked perfectly. Connecting is as simple as double clicking the most suitable shortcut for you and logging in with your user name and password. A window pops up which you can resize or minimise down to the task bar just like any other window, and hey presto, you are working on a Mac. The best bit is that Vellum is pre-installed and you can use it for free (only register and pay if you want to output the files it produces).

Vellum costs $199 for the eBook only version and $249 for the eBook and print version. The print version produces a print ready pdf. Considering I’m paying $1.00 per hour to use Macincloud I was interested to see how much of this time I burned up formatting a book. To my amazement I had a short story formatted with all front and back matter in about 10 minutes, and a full length novel in about 15 to 20 minutes. Truly amazing and Vellum is that powerful.

Macincloud isn’t as fast as a standalone Mac computer sitting in front of you, but it’s quick enough. You’ll benefit from having a fast broadband connection when you use it (mine is 100 Mbps).

Some great features of Vellum are:

  1. Super quick import of any Docx file which is quickly and automatically formatted. All you need is your final Docx, post editing and proof reading.
  2. A choice of styles for chapters, headers, footers, ornate page breaks etc, which make your book stand out.
  3. Store Links that you can use in your back matter to link to other books. The beauty of this is that the correct store link will be presented to the reader depending on their location and the device they use. So a Kindle reader in the UK will be directed to Amazon.co.uk.
  4. Easily copy front and back matter between books to save time.
  5. Warn if your cover artwork doesn’t meet their guidelines.
  6. Create books with pictures.
  7. Easily output a print ready pdf.
  8. Auto adding of front and back matter such as the copyright page (and many more). Just update the text to relate to you and your book.
  9. View the book on other devices (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad etc), from within Vellum, testing the links on each device for the appropriate store.
  10. Output a .MOBI for Kindle, plus a different .EPUB for Kobo, B&N Nook, iBooks, Google Play and a generic .EPUB for aggregators such as Draft2Digital. Each file comes complete with a resized cover suitable for that particular store. All done in seconds with one click!

I Really like Vellum. It’s quick, full of features and helps me keep my costs down. It also produces beautiful books and I highly recommend it.

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