Vellum for Ebook Building

One of my projects for this year is to update Future of Memories with new technology and new projects. When the first edition was published, there were few applications to support custom book layout for ebooks. I found the booksellers’ automated conversion results very disappointing – especially for a book with lots of graphics. Since then we’ve seen a lot of improvements to both book conversion and reader apps. Although PDF remains the best option for custom layouts with lots of graphics and images, there are a lot more options available for ebook formats today.

Recently I stumbled onto a lovely app called Vellum [Mac – free]. Its purpose is to provide a visual method to work on your book’s layout and preview the results. It is NOT a writing platform although you can add and edit content in the app. Once your manuscript is finished, the text is imported into Vellum and you begin styling. Using Vellum, you can assign headings, block quotes and alignment. You can also add images, ornamental breaks and links. At any time, you can use the preview panel to see what your project will look like on an iPad, iPhone, Kindle Paperwhite and Simple NOOK (see the gallery below for examples).

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When inserting images, Vellum provides a panel for selecting options and will warn you if your image is too small for the display size you’ve chosen. You can also assign a link to the image.

Image Panel in Vellum

In addition to your manuscript and any added images, Vellum includes a title page form where you input the title, author and other needed information. You can also add additional elements like forward, copyright, dedication, about the author and more.

Once everything is ready, click the Purchase icon at the top of the screen to begin the build process. Although the app is free, Vellum charges $29.95 to make the generation process accessible. Once your in-app purchase is completed, the generation feature is activated for this book. You can use it to create book packages for Kindle, NOOK and iBooks. (Note: you will need to install the Kindlegen app from Amazon before generating the Kindle version with Vellum. See Vellum instructions for details.) You can proof your books, make corrections and regenerate as needed. When everything is the way you want it, you upload your book packages to your author accounts at Amazon, NOOK and Apple.

Vellum is a gorgeous app and quite easy to use. It gives me control over the conversion process – especially proofing the conversion results – and I can insure that my book will look great before I send it to the booksellers. My manuscript is still has a long way to go before I’m ready to start working on the layout, but Vellum will definitely be part of that process.

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