Why I'm Cheating On Scrivener Vellum Stole My Heart
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After championing darling Scrivener as my writing tool of choice for the past year and a half, I admit, I’ve been cheating on him lately.

Well, not exactly cheating. More like buddying up with another partner at the same time.

I recently purchased a copy of Vellum, the delicious book formatting program for the Mac.

Velum’s slogan is ‘Create Beautiful Books’, and that’s exactly what it does.

Vellum Create Beautiful Books
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Not only does Vellum produce beautiful outputs for every platform with a couple of clicks, it’s also really nice to write directly into. I know, I know… that’s not what it was made for, but I really love the clean feel to its interface and the instant preview you get while writing.

Handy, right?

So am I breaking up with Scrivener in favour of Vellum?

Not exactly.

The way I see it, Scrivener and Vellum are two distinct tools, best used for their intended purpose.

So what’s the difference?

Scrivener is best for story development and writing, and Vellum for formatting your books beautifully. Click To Tweet

Here’s why I like Scrivener and am not ditching it:

You can make as much mess as you like. If you use Scrivener, you’ll know how messy it can get with all the chapters, research, documents you’ve discarded that you may or may not go back to, text styles all over the place because you cut and pasted and never got round to formatting things properly. I think sometimes Scrivener can feel a bit MUCH, you know? But if you’re writing a full-length novel, it is THE tool that’s going to give you that place to make your mess, which you need to do before you get your house in order.

Corkboard View. One of the features in Scrivener that I love is the corkboard view – it allows you to get an overview of all your chapters, and to drag them to rearrange instantly. It’s a nice visual on your overall project.

A place for everything. I love all the extra areas where you can place research and character or location sketches, which means everything to do with your book is kept in one document. Vellum doesn’t have these features, because it’s a formatting tool, NOT a story development tool.

In future, Scrivener will still be my writing platform, but when it comes to outputting ready for upload to Amazon and the various stores, I will export my Scrivener project into a Word document, then use Vellum to format it.

Here’s why Vellum 100% gets my vote for formatting:

Vellum, doesn’t allow you to make any sort of mess. In fact, it positively tidies up after you without so much as a pause to check if you’re ok with that. I am, as it happens.

There’s little to no text formatting to worry about. When you import your Word document (or drag it onto the chaptering area in an existing Vellum project), Vellum will immediately attempt to locate the beginning of all chapters, and place each in a separate chapter within Vellum, giving all the text within each chapter a consistent typeface and size. How thoughtful!

If you need to format any of your text differently, such as centred text or a bulleted list, you can do this simply by selecting the required text and using the formatting dropdown:

Vellum text formatting options
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Vellum loves ORDER and BEAUTY. If you drag a chapter into a new position, it immediately renumbers your chapters and refreshes the table of contents for you, and gives you a wink as it does it. Ok, it doesn’t wink, but I feel like it wants to.

Changing your book’s look and feel is as easy as pie. With a few clicks to select your preferred heading style and to pick your favourite from the set of images that sit within the chapter heading (or none at all, if you prefer), it really is a breeze to change the whole mood within a few clicks. Here are a couple of the heading styles (there are many more to choose from).

Vellum Heading Style
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Vellum Heading Style
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Settings and formatting are instantly reflected instantly in the preview pane. No matter what you’re doing within Vellum, the user interface is beautiful and simple. And within the preview pane, you can even select which device you’d like to see your book on, be it Kindle Fire, iPad, Android device and of course, as a print book, and it will display your book exactly as it will appear on that device.

Vellum Device Preview Options
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Vellum iPad Device Preview
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Vellum doesn’t offer you options that don’t work. With several preset book styles, plus options for the style of every part of your book from headings to ornamental breaks to images, Vellum knows what looks good. Hurrah, you don’t need to be a designer to use this tool effectively!

Vellum knows that the print version of your book needs to contain only black and white text and images, but still keeps pictures in colour for your eBook versions. This means you never have to go through the task of converting colour pictures to greyscale and having two versions of any pages that contain images, for the different platforms. Genius.

Vellum is also made for box-sets and collections. If you have a series of books and want to create a box-set to upload to Amazon, you can even combine several existing Vellum projects into one and have a separate Volume for each, or you can create new Volumes directly inside the Vellum project each time you add a new book to your series. Very handy, given that series have potential for greater long-term income than single books.

You’re always just a couple of clicks away from generating output files for ALL eBook formats plus a print book. Long gone are the days of generating one format out output at once (as is the way in Scrivener). You can select as many or as few of the platforms as you like, and they’ll all be generated in one click. Vellum book generation is quick, and each different store’s style of eBook comes with its own appropriately-sized cover image, ready to upload with the formatted text. For your print book, you should already have your cover design finalised. Vellum doesn’t require your print cover file, you will simply upload your ready-made cover in conjunction with your Vellum-formatted print manuscript.

Vellum Select Platforms For Generation
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Files upload to Amazon and the other platforms without a hitch. Having tested the outputs from Vellum and fired them off to the various platforms, I’m already finding there are no formatting or technical issues with the files. If ever you’re pulled up by the stores, it’s usually something silly you’ve done yourself such as pick the wrong paperback size or include Amazon links inside an iBooks eBook. Output files simply work, and you can’t ask for anything more.

Should you purchase Vellum?

If you write more than a handful of books every year, or you just want the best quality books for your readers, Vellum could be worth the investment long-term.

The company behind Vellum (180g) state that all future upgrades will be free, which seems a good deal, given the initial investment.

If you only write one or two books a year or have written a one-off book such as a memoir, then Vellum is probably not going to give you good payback, unless you’ve got a sure-fire blockbuster on your hands, perhaps?

All I know is that Vellum is a quality product, and I know I’ll be using it for many years to come.

Learn more about Vellum here.

What if you want your book beautifully formatted using Vellum but aren’t ready to invest? Why not let me format your book for you?

I offer a book formatting service, so if you’d like help getting your book ready to publish, just message me for details via my Contact page, and let’s get your book looking gorgeous!

Janice.

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