Casus Vellum

One of the first questions I had when I got into this game was “How do I turn my words into an e-book?”

It all seemed very difficult for a technical dunce like myself. The simple act of creating a title page was a challenge, and I never did get a table of contents I liked. Putting out a print version was just fantasy.

Things like indenting paragraphs and dropped capitals could be done – I knew that – but how?

I googled e-book formatting, hoping to find a workable step-by-step recipe I could follow. There was a lot of information out there, and the most welcome news was that Scrivener, the awesome writing app I had been using for some time, could output the various files I needed.

The absolute best top-notch program on the market was, everyone said, something called Vellum. I took a look at it, but when I checked out the price, my credit card began to whimper.

Four stories later, I found that I could write something, run it through Scrivener and Calibre, upload it to Kindle Direct, and it would come out more or less okay. Adequate, rather than polished, and certainly on par with my peers in presentation.

But, you know, I’ve been reading books since I was a toddler, and there are few things I like more than a really good physical book. Those Folio Book editions just fill me with happiness: each one a work of art in design and production. The fonts are carefully chosen, there’s just the right amount of white space, every detail is thoughtfully implemented.

Now, a simple e-book doesn’t need to be a timeless classic bound in leather with four colour illustrations, but I could see a gulf between what I could put out with my current tools and what I wanted my readers to see.

Every typo, every inconsistency, every poorly formatted title page, every awkwardly placed chapter title, every little thing takes the reader away from the story, and grates back into the everyday world. Instead of being engrossed in a fantasy, they are jolted into the subway carriage or the bus stop or the lounge room of normality.

So I gritted my teeth, downloaded a free copy, loaded up one of my stories, and really looked into Vellum. The free download is the whole program, except for the ability to generate output files. Nothing is held back; you can preview the finished product, play around with styles and fonts, experiment with different formats.

It didn’t take long to sell me. Not only could it produce a quality product in every ebook and print format, it didn’t need a masters degree to operate. And when I needed help, there were gorgeous step-by-step instructions available. Clearly these people had quality as their aim, and I wanted to get aboard with that.

I’m going to have to sell a tonne of stories to pay for the thing, but they’ll be easier to sell. And I’ll feel a lot happier about my output. I might be cranking out drek, but it will be good quality drek to look at.


publishing, writing ,


    1. Scrivener works brilliantly with Vellum. They complement each other nicely. Maybe Scrivener can do what Vellum does, but it would take a tonne of effort and time.


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