Formatting with Vellum

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Vellum software logo
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

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When getting ready to format my first book for publication, I spent a lot of time in Scrivener working to get the compile just right. There were a couple of things I could never get fixed to my liking, so I broke down and bought Vellum.

Vellum is an application that helps easily format an ebook or print book for uploading to retailer sites. It is a Mac only application. You can download a free version to play around with. Then when you’re ready to produce the file(s), you can purchase either the ebook only version or the version that does both ebooks and print books.

One more thing I’ll say before we get into the steps to format in Vellum. Their Help pages are pretty good. Y’all know I love good help files.

Please note my writing environment: I write using Scrivener v3 on MacOS, and I produce both ebooks and paperback files. The instructions below are tailored to my environment. Your situation may vary, so adjust these as needed.

A Word about .DOCX Documents

While Scrivener is my writing tool of choice, Vellum will import MS Word and Pages docs as well. Basically, any file with a .docx extension.

If you import a document from Word or Pages, Vellum recommends formatting the chapter headers with the Heading 1 style beforehand. (Check out this article for step-by-step instructions on how to do this in Word.)

Now, on with the tutorial…

Scrivener

Before we talk about compiling, let’s discuss Front and Back Matter.

Front Matter

The Front Matter of the book are the pages that appear before the story begins. These are the title pages, the copyright pages, dedication, etc.

The Front Matter pages that appear in your ebook might differ from what you have in your print book. And neither match what appears in your raw manuscript. Because of that, Scrivener’s default template has a different folder for each format under the main Front Matter folder.

After watching a video from Bethany Atazadeh, I followed her example and structured the front matter for my print book with an additional Title Page for easy signing.

So in my print book, I have two title pages (one with the title only and the second, a full title page complete with publisher info), a copyright, dedication, and epigraph page. Notice that the copyright page on the paperback comes before the complete title page.

  • Title Page (font only)
  • Copyright page
  • Complete Title Page with publisher information

My ebook has only one title page. Notice that the copyright page on the ebook comes after the complete title page.

  • Complete Title Page with publisher information
  • Copyright page

And, of course, both the ebook and the print book have the dedication and epigraph pages.

list of pages in Paperback and Ebook folders
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

There’s a neat little trick I figured out with Vellum that allows me to use one .docx file to produce both ebook and print formats. Setting Scrivener up to take advantage of these features makes my Front Matter folder look strange, but it works nicely in Vellum, so stay with me here.

Vellum Front Matter

In Scrivener, under the Front Matter folder, I set up a folder named Vellum. Within that folder, I set up the following pages.

  • Title Page (title only)
  • Copyright (paperback)
  • Title Page (complete)
  • Copyright (ebook)
  • Dedication
  • Epigraph

The copyright pages are exact duplicates, just named differently. During the Vellum set up, we’ll hide these pages in one format and include them in the other. And vice versa. (Keep reading to see how this works.)

Note: These Front Matter pages should use a section layout with a page break option in the Scrivener compile format. (For help with Scrivener’s Compile feature, see this article.)

list of pages in Vellum folder
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Back Matter

The Back Matter is where you put any author notes, acknowledgements, links to your other books, previews of your next book, etc.

Right now, I use the same back matter in both my ebook and print book formats, so I only have one folder for Back Matter in Scrivener. This may be different for you.

list of pages in back matter folder
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Compile and Export from Scrivener

By the time you are ready to format, you have likely already compiled your Scrivener file several times, either to review the manuscript yourself or send it to an editor.

This time we’re going to compile to a Vellum format instead of an ebook or print format. Here’s how:

  1. File > Compile > Word document > Vellum format
  2. Verify Book Information (right pane)
    1. Documents tab (right pane, left list icon)
    2. Verify all documents are checked
    3. Add Front Matter using the Vellum folder
    4. Add Back Matter
  3. Metadata tab (right pane, tag icon)
    1. Verify the Title, Author, and Company information for the book
    2. Add other relevant metadata
  4. Check Section Layouts
    1. Front Matter must use “Page Breaks” section layout format.
screenshot of Scrivener compile window
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Import into Vellum and Style

Import and Review Pages

  1. Open Vellum and click Import Word File… and select document.
  2. Verify the number of chapters and chapter headings are correct.
  3. Add metadata and book cover:
    1. Select the Book Title at the very top of the Contents pane.
    2. Complete the Title Info(series, eBook ISBN, etc.)
    3. Click on Ebook Cover and upload the cover image.
screenshot of Vellum title page
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Convert and Update Pages

Because we’ve exported all of our Front Matter pages, we need to do some housekeeping here. Each page in the Front Matter gets special attention.

  1. Vellum-created Title Page: Hide the default Title Page created by Vellum.
    1. Update the publisher info on the page.
    2. Right-click on Title Page in left list and click Remove.
  2. Imported Title Page (title only):
    1. Rename from Untitled to Title Blank
    2. Adjust title image graphic size as needed
    3. Hide for eBooks: Gear icon > Include in > Print Only
    4. Hide Header: Gear icon > Hide Heading in Book
  3. Imported Copyright (print) page:
    1. (Optional) Uncheck “Created with Vellum” setting at bottom.
    2. Rename to Copyright Print
    3. Hide for eBooks: Gear icon > Include in > Print Only
  4. Imported Title Page (complete):
    1. Rename from Untitled to Title Full
    2. Remove Heading Image: Gear icon > Remove Header image
    3. Hide Header: Gear icon > Hide Heading in Book
    4. Add title graphic to body
      1. Drag and drop header image to editor on page.
      2. Adjust title image graphic size as needed (usually larger)
    5. Edit Publisher logo:
      1. Change logo size to smaller.
      2. Add caption for location: Gear icon > Add Caption.
      3. Enter location information for the Publisher. (Example: “Houston, Texas USA”)
  5. Copyright Page:
    1. Rename to Copyright eBook.
    2. Convert to Copyright: Gear icon > Convert to… > Copyright
    3. Hide for print books: Gear icon > Include in > eBook only
  6. Untitled Pages: Convert any unrecognized pages to the appropriate page type.
    1. Click on the first Untitled page on the left-side list.
    2. Click Gear icon > Convert to and select page type (Dedication, Epigraph, etc.)
    3. Repeat as needed.

Change Style

  1. Click the Style icon in the upper right corner of the left contents pane.
  2. Select the general style to use. (I used the Recital style.)
  3. Click on the Configure style icon in the upper right of the highlighted style window.
    1. Change each element as needed.
    2. Note: Drop caps don’t always work in chapters where there’s a secondary heading (Two weeks later…), so make sure you check any chapters that differ.
  4. Review the following for any formatting issues:
    1. Front and Back Matter pages
    2. Chapter heading pages
    3. Any pages within content containing special headings or formats (e.g., “Two weeks later…”)
  5. Save the style configuration if you want to use it again (like in a series).
screenshot of Vellum style options
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Save the Vellum File!

Don’t forget to save the file. (Pro Tip: Develop the habit of saving frequently for those “just in case” moments.)

Tip: If you change your manuscript later, you can re-import from the original file using File > Reimport Word File… This will import your updated manuscript and replace the content that was previously imported. Front or back matter that you’ve added to Vellum will remain in place.

Generate Files

You can do everything up to this point using the free version of Vellum. But you can only generate files once you’ve purchased the software. As mentioned above, if you’re only producing ebooks, you can buy a less expensive version of the application. To generate both ebooks and print books, you must buy the full version.

  1. Click on the Generate button in the far upper right.
  2. Click the options () button next to the “Generate for” label.
  3. Select the different platforms for which you plan to to upload ebook files. (Note: Aggregators such as D2D require the Generic format.)
  4. Click the Print Settings… button to configure settings for print books, such as trim size and margins.
  5. Click Done when finished with the print settings, then Continue.
  6. Click the folder icon next to the “In folder” label and select the folder where you wish to save your files.
  7. Click Generate.
Screenshot of Vellum generate screen
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Vellum will create a folder for each retailer, which contains the EPUB and cover image files that meet that retailer’s requirements.

list of folders
Screenshot by Lancy McCall

Proof Each Format

You can check each file using the information given on this link to proof each eBook: https://help.vellum.pub/proofing/

Amazon KDP

  • Use the Kindle Previewer app to review the Kindle EPUB file.
  • You can download this app from Amazon here.

Apple

  • Use the Books app on your Mac to view the Apple EPUB file.

Google

  • Sign into Google Play using the Chrome browser.
  • Go to Google Play > Books > Your Library
  • Click the Upload files button in the upper-right and select the Google Play EPUB file.
  • Upon uploading, you’ll be able to view it from within Chrome.

Print Edition

  • Use the Preview app on your Mac to open the PDF print edition.
  • Change the view: View > Two Pages.

Barnes & Noble Nook

  • Vellum Help says to use the Adobe Digital Editions app for viewing the Nook files, but this application is no longer available. At least I couldn’t find it. Not sure if there is a different app you can use for this.

Kobo

  • Download the Kobo Desktop App to preview the Kobo file.
  • Copy the Kobo EPUB file to the Documents > Digital Editions folder on your laptop.
  • Open the Kobo Desktop App.
  • Go to MyBooks and press CMD-Shift-S to refresh your Kobo library.
  • Double-click on the book’s cover to open it.

Once you’ve checked to make sure everything looks okay, you’re ready to publish!

Additional Info: Platform Specs

The Vellum Help pages were full of information about the different retailers. For example, Apple Books is great about picture books so they accept larger files. However, Barnes & Noble has tighter size restrictions. (This is why Vellum creates different files for each retailer.)

Store Size Max Limits

  • Apple Books – 2048mb
  • Amazon – 650mb
  • Barnes & Noble – 20mb
  • Google Play – 2048mb
  • Kobo – 100mb

Vellum resolution limits:

  • Apple Books – Very High
  • Amazon Kindle – High
  • Barnes & Noble Nook – Low
  • Google Play – High
  • Kobo – Medium
  • Generic – Low (to accommodate all)
    • Note: This low resolution is why Vellum recommends loading directly to retailers rather than via an aggregator for books with images.

Wrap Up

I was pretty happy with the result from Vellum and it didn’t take me long to figure out how to use it. It comes with some pretty cool formatting options, including different chapter headings, drop caps, etc.

I had no issues with uploading my files to the retailers in the following manner:

  • Uploaded the ebook directly to Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo using the specific .ePub and .jpg files generated for each retailer.
  • Uploaded the ebook indirectly to Apple via Draft2Digital using the generic .ePub file generated. (No images in my book, so this seemed fine.)
  • Uploaded the print book directly to Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram Spark using the one .pdf file generated.

Overall, I’m thrilled that I bought Vellum. It made the formatting step a lot easier.

Have you played with Vellum? Any cool tricks you want to share with others? Drop a line in the comment section below and let us know what you think.


Happy Writing!


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