I love Scrivener.
It is the best writing tool and I couldn’t imagine writing without it now. I’ve also been using Scrivener to format my ebooks for the last five years and that has been fine.
In the last few weeks, a reader reported that a couple of my books had a formatting issue with the Kindle Look Inside on Amazon.com.
I checked and found that the spacing and alignment was screwed up. But in my Scrivener file and my KDP Preview, and even in the ebook itself, the formatting was fine. It was just a problem in the Look Inside Previewer. Perhaps there was an update inside Amazon that interacted with the particular way my formatting worked. Who knows? But whatever it was, I needed to fix it.
Because it was costing me sales.
Paying a formatter is one option, but when you publish a lot and you like to update back matter and fix typos or issues yourself, then having control is more important.
Then I heard about Vellum.
Their tagline is Easily Create Beautiful Ebooks, and that’s exactly what the software does. Here are some of the highlights for me:
- It’s incredibly easy to use. You just import a Word docx file and you can basically use it as-is
- You can also use the various Book Styles to change the look to something funkier
- You can preview the design as it will look in the various ebook readers, within the program
- It has template pages like Copyright, About the Author and More Books by the Author which have extra functionality, like areas for social media links and default text.
- You can import images and it will format them correctly, with extra text and links and resizing
- It makes boxsets REALLY easy. Seriously, if you haven’t done boxsets yet, as a single author or with multi-authors, then check it out. Here’s the specific Vellum boxset help page.
- It outputs the various formats for each of the stores and includes store specific book links in the Back Matter
It's basically the best tool for the ebook formatting job.
I use a lot of online tools (here's a list), and each has one job. By using Scrivener to format, I was trying to make that tool do more than one job. I'm super thrilled to find a tool that specializes in formatting.
There is one downside. It's Mac only. Sorry, PC people.
My new formatting process
I write in Scrivener and do my own self-edits in Scrivener. Then I export a Word doc to send to my editor.
When I get the changes back, I make them back into Scrivener.
Just to be clear. I still do all the writing and editing in Scrivener. It’s an awesome writing tool and I love love love it. (Here’s a video on how I use it).
But once the book is done, I export as a Word docx and open in Vellum. I use the formatting templates to add the back matter and check everything is beautiful, including adding the Ornamental Breaks to make the book look more professional.
Then I check the formatting on the various devices – which you can do within Vellum! Then I export to the various formats and upload to the stores. Easy peasy.
Click here for my tutorial on how to format your ebooks and print books with Vellum
So right now, I’m currently re-publishing all my ebooks with Vellum versions to give them the same look and feel, plus I'm updating the back matter as I go. The content hasn't changed, just the formatting. If you have my books, you should be able to re-download new versions. (Or you can always email me if you want a new formatted book.)
A word on change
As I mentioned in the blog post on the Digital Commerce Summit, we are living in a time of exponential change.
There are new tools, new opportunities and new markets opening every day. Things we did even a few months ago might not work any more.
We have to be prepared to change our opinions and our practices.
This can be difficult. But it can also be exciting.
I’m learning so much on this business trip that I have a number of other big changes coming in 2017. I’m pretty excited about it, to be honest. I’m a change junkie 🙂 I'll tell you more about it when my thinking is clearer but for now, I'm heading back to my formatting! (Click here to check out Vellum).
How do you format your ebooks? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.
when you just want to make changes to the front or the back matter, do you have to make the changes in word and reformat the whole file again? Or can you make small amendments in the mobi or epub files in Vellum?
Joanna Penn says
You can make small amendments in Vellum and then just re-generate the files 🙂 It’s super quick.
Elyse Douglas says
Do you have to use Mac? Is there a Windows version I can use?
Joanna Penn says
It is Mac only, but this will help – https://paulteague.com/how-to-use-vellum-on-a-pc/
Tim Cahill says
I used Vellum to publish my first book last weekend. It reaaly went pretty well.
However, even after proofing the manuscript, I noticed a couple of typos. I wanted to make a quick change and then upload it back to Amazon KDP, but I can’ find the manusc ript in Vellum to make the change!
Joanna Penn says
You would have saved the project as a Vellum file. I have folders on my drive for every book and always save the Vellum project there. Only you can find that file!