Vellum Simplifies Ebook Conversion So Authors Can Focus On Their Craft

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Vellum software interface

Vellum software interface

Authors who want to create their own digital books are often frustrated when converting their manuscripts into ebooks. A Seattle software company called 180g  has created a tool, Vellum, that handles the technical ins-and-outs of building EPUB, MOBI, and iBook files—simplifying ebook conversion and giving authors more time to focus on their craft.

Vellum ebook creation software, introduced today, runs on Mac OS X and allows authors and small publishers to easily create beautiful ebooks for iBooks, Kindle, and Nook without any prior experience or training.

“Authors love writing and love getting their work to fans,” said 180g cofounder Brad West, “But they’re tearing their hair out creating ebooks.” Vellum lets authors import a manuscript from Microsoft Word; add front and back matter such as Copyright, Epigraph, Acknowledgments; fix typos; rewrite chapters; choose typesetting styles; and add features like drop caps and ornaments. “Vellum’s responsive design ensures beautiful results on any device,” said West.

Helping authors share their creativity

Brad West and his partner, Brad Andalman, met while working together in the software and production departments of Pixar Animation Studios. After more than a decade at Pixar, West and Andalman were ready to start their own company. They were unsure of the exact type of business to create, but  knew they wanted to use their skills as software coders to help others share their creative pursuits. Eventually, their brainstorming conversations came around to ebooks.

“We both love reading and talking about books,” said West, “We’d heard about self publishing, but had no idea how to do it.” So West and Andalman sat down and mapped out the process of creating an ebook. “It took us like all day,” said West. They asked themselves, “How on earth are authors absorbing and understanding this complicated problem?”

Choose heading options in Vellum

Choose heading options in Vellum

Simplifying the process of converting manuscripts into ebooks

West and Andalman concluded that today’s self-publishing process, with its proprietary formats and assortment of conversion tools, is time consuming, frustrating, and difficult. And, to top it off, after hours of exasperating work, many authors are disappointed with the end result. “Authors tear their hair out, then end up giving up on something, like making the formatting or Table of Contents work the way they envisioned,” said West.

The pair saw an opportunity to create a software tool designed from the ground up to simplify the process of converting manuscripts into great-looking ebooks that work in all formats—EPUB, MOBI and iBooks.

Free to try, pay when you publish

“We want to get this software in the hands of authors,” said West. “So we made Vellum free top download.” Currently the software is available only for Mac OS X 10.8 or later (including Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks).

Authors pay nothing to download Vellum, import a manuscript, explore the typography and layout options, and preview their ebooks. When an author is satisfied with the layout and is ready to generate an actual ebook, they’re charged a $49.99 in-app purchase. The ebooks that are generated can be distributed to early readers. Or, the author can immediately start selling it on Amazon, Nook, and the Apple iBookstore.

As long as the book title, subtitle, and author remain the same, authors can make changes to that ebook at no extra cost, which is handy if they discover typos or receive feedback from early readers.

Vellum lets you preview your ebook on ereader devices.

Vellum lets you preview your ebook on ereader devices.

Authors interested in publishing multiple titles can purchase bundles of three or five books for $99.99 or $149.99 respectively.

Vellum’s creators are “Good at the nerdy stuff”

“Authors and small publishers have been confused and frustrated by the complicated process of creating eBooks,” said West. “We know authors are good at their craft. We’re good at the nerdy stuff. Authors can use our tool to create something they can be proud of.”

9 thoughts on “Vellum Simplifies Ebook Conversion So Authors Can Focus On Their Craft

  1. David Mark Brown

    This is nuts. I paid $40 for Scrivener (Literature by Latte) and the software formats everything for the rest of my writing career. Why on earth would I pay $49 a pop!? Stop the madness, people. Stop using Microsoft Word and make your life much easier.

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  3. Mark DAntoni

    The examples shown are simple fiction books. There are less-costly options for converting a book to epub. But the value could be for those authors who really feel helpless about the whole process. What about complicated non-fiction books that require special attention?

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  5. Michael W. Perry

    I’ll add something else that matters. That $50 fee will let you do revisions without paying again. My downsides to the payment scheme are:

    1. As I understand it, authors buy options in advance. Those for whom money is tight will end up paying $50 over and over again. I’d rather the fees were charged incrementally. The first book would be charged $50, as would the second, but the second would come with a free third book. The fourth would again charge $50, but would come (since authors have now paid $150) with a free fourth and fifth book. After that, the company might charge a flat $25/book fee with an occasional bonus. After all, the author has already more than paid for the app ($15o). He’d now only paying for upgrades.

    I’m not even sure that would reduce Vellum’s income, since each ebook paid for comes with a built-in incentive to stay with Vellum. The more an author publishes, the less he pays.

    2. Where I’d most like to use Vellum is releasing a series of free mini-ebooks based on print books I published years ago–mostly for college students. But if the books are going to be free, I can’t afford to pay to publish them. Vellum’s pay to play scheme may be reasonable for ebooks that’ll be earning income. It isn’t for those that won’t. And that leaves out a lot of people, teachers, college professors and authors.

    I’m not sure what the answer to the second problem is, but it does mean that Vellum is least appealing financially where it is most appealing practically.

    Also, at present the app lacks features I consider a must-have, particularly pop-up notes and an ability to rearrange scenes as well as chapters. It’d be great if the company would commit itself to adding those features ASAP.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books (formerly of Seattle)

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  7. Veritas

    This is ludicrous. The software only works on Macs and Macs have iBooks Author which is far more capable and much more elegant than Vellum. Vellum handles text only, no graphics at all, and it does not allow links. I see no advantage with Vellum, only negatives.

  8. jason

    i recently downloaded vellum and they’ve changed their pricing scheme.
    1 book – 49.99
    10 books 149.99
    unlimited 199.99

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