Welcome to this Vellum review. Back in the day, Vellum was the best and most loved book formatting software. However, things have changed, and it no longer gets my #1 recommendation.
It's now the most expensive option, lacks features that others formatting software has, and still only works on Mac.
Furthermore, there are other options, that not only surpassed Vellum but have future features coming out that will be incredible.
So, if you're looking to get Vellum, I wouldn't recommend it. You're paying too much for too little. If you'd like to see what I mean and see how this compares to others, then check this out. Otherwise, read on to see what Vellum can do and what it can't.
Table of contents
However, if you'd like to learn more about Vellum, then in this Vellum software review, I’ll show you how Vellum works to format a beautiful book.
In this article, you will learn:
- Vellum's Pricing
- System requirements
- Key features of Vellum
- What I like (and don’t like) about Vellum
- Is Vellum right for you?
What is Vellum?
Vellum book formatting software is an intuitive tool from 180g, a software company founded by former Pixar employees. Vellum’s mission is “to create beautiful books.”
Using Vellum, authors can easily create elegant print books and eBooks that can be quickly exported to the required format. Unfortunately, Vellum only works on Apple laptops and desktop computers.
Although you can use Vellum as a word processor, I wouldn’t recommend it.
For example, Command + Z only ever undoes one letter at a time. Read this article on the Best Book Writing Software instead, if you need a writing software. Also, Atticus, mentioned above, has a word processor system inside of it.
Who is Vellum best for?
Vellum works well for all types of authors. I started using the software with my very first novel. It's not only an excellent tool for publishing beautiful books, but it's also helpful in sending out digital copies of books to beta readers.
Bestselling authors used to use Vellum software for high-performing projects, like James Scott Bell’s gripping thriller Your Son Is Alive and J.T. Ellison’s Taylor Jackson box set. However, over time, more authors have shifted to Atticus.
The actual word “vellum” means “fine calfskin prepared for writing.” It is still used today for some religious texts and archival purposes.
Does Vellum work on iPad? No, Vellum does not work on iPad. The developers have gone so far as to say they will never develop Vellum that works on iOS or PC.
Is Vellum available for PC? No, unfortunately, Vellum is not available on PC. This is probably its most significant downside besides its steep price. However, PC users can access Vellum software through MacinCloud (which you can learn about here), a paid cloud service that allows you to access a Mac and use the Vellum software through it. However, it charges you by the hour which can be expensive a bit a ridiculous.
Are there any Vellum alternatives? Yes, there are a couple of Vellum alternatives, however, the biggest one to consider is Atticus.
Velum Review: How much does it cost?
- Free — Vellum starts as an “unlimited” free trial. You get hands-on experience with the software and see what it's capable of — at no cost and with no limit to how long the free trial lasts. The only limitation is you can't generate copies of your book in the free version, which is kind of the whole point.
- Vellum Ebooks costs a one-time fee of $199.99. It allows for unlimited eBook generation but no print editions.
- Vellum Press costs a one-time fee of $249.99. It allows for both unlimited eBook and print edition generation.
Isn't That Expensive?
Comparing this to Atticus, Atticus only costs $147 for both eBook and Print edition – saving $102 for the same capability.
With Vellum, once you purchase a license, you can get a refund within 30 days if you're not satisfied.
On the fence about spending the money on a formatting software though? Take the time to calculate what a program like Vellum will save you in terms of time and money.
How many hours of manual formatting would Vellum save you? How much money will you save using Vellum or Atticus instead of hiring a professional formatting service?
In this video, I take you step-by-step through the process of importing your book into Vellum and adding front and back matter. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes.
System requirements for Vellum:
- Mac only. If you’re a Windows user, Vellum isn’t available for you unless you use MacinCloud.
- Certain Mac editions only. At the time of this writing, you need to have Catalina, or newer to run the latest versions of Vellum. In general, Vellum constantly requires the newest versions of macOS.
- 60 MB free space. According to Vellum.com, “You will need at least 60 MB free space on your computer to install Vellum. Books that you generate will require additional space.”
The creators of Vellum at 180g have stated they will not develop any PC or iOS version in the foreseeable future.
8 Key Features of Vellum Software
Vellum offers 8 intuitive key features:
- Import capabilities
- Book styles
- Box set creation
- Preview mode
- Layout design
- Title and author metadata
- Ebook generator
- Print edition generator
Let’s take a look at each key feature.
1. Import Capabilities
Vellum’s import capabilities are very user-friendly. Although it can only import a Word document (DOCX files), the process is quick and painless.
Vellum can usually detect chapter headings and automatically separates chapters for you.
Even though you can customize most of it, all your bold, italics, and underlined formatting should carry over.
Below, you can see that Vellum only opens Vellum files and DOCX files. It does not open DOC, PDF, RTF, or ODT file formats.
2. Book Styles
One of Vellum’s key benefits is access to ready-made professional book styles, whether in print or digital format.
Rather than having to customize every option for your book’s style, Vellum offers a range of “book styles” that you can easily select and apply to your book.
This makes it easy to choose a style appropriate for your book’s tone and content.
You can think of book styles as a filter for a photograph. When you choose a style, Vellum alters some of the aesthetic elements of a book in one fell swoop.
This is a huge timesaver.
Vellum book styles allow you to choose an aesthetic theme for your book, which changes the following aspects:
- Headings: Allows you to customize the look of chapter titles in your book
- First Paragraph: If your book makes use of a stylized first paragraph, you can change its appearance here
- Block Quotation: If your book features distinct block quotations, you can ensure their appearance is exactly as you want
- Paragraph After Break: Choose how you want your paragraph to appear after a break in writing
- Photograph: Impacts how visual content will show up in your book’s format
- Caption: Choose the style of captions for images in your work
- Header and Footer: Customize the visual feel of your book’s headers and footers
- Body: Alter the appearance of your book’s body text
- Ornamental Break: Instead of a boring scene or chapter break icon, you can use any image for your ornamental breaks. Check out the screenshot below. On the left, an ornamental break is shown as ***, but on the right, it shows what the ornamental break will actually look like.
Vellum’s 8 ready-made book styles include:
- Meridian: Classic and clean
- Trace: Clean and modern with interesting headings
- Artisanal: Interesting aesthetic with retro touches
- Kindred: An attractive and clear book layout
- Sudo: A style with very distinct headings that would work well for grittier fiction genres
- Oxford: A classic aesthetic with traditional heading styles
- Parcel: A modern book layout that feels spacious (my personal favorite and the one I use for my science fiction mystery novels)
- Chroma: Distinctively modern style with attractive colored headings
Vellum does not constrain you with styles. You can still quickly and easily customize any aspect of your book’s appearance, tweaking the pre-made builds until they meet your exact requirements.
3. Preview Mode
In Vellum’s Preview Mode, you can see exactly what your book will look like in print or on various devices, such as:
- Kindle Fire
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Nook Simple Touch
- Kobo Clara
- Android tablet
Most formatting software will have a great Preview Mode, but Vellum’s is exceptionally comprehensive and easy to navigate.
4. Layout Design
Vellum has helpful import capabilities, great book style templates, and a handy Preview Mode. But you will still need to make some layout design adjustments to your book.
Vellum software will help you make these layout design choices:
- Line spacing
- Drop caps
- Ornamental breaks
- Layout for photos and tables
- Section breaks
- Widow and orphans
Fortunately, you don’t have to make a lot of design decisions if you choose a ready-made book style. But Vellum helps with the layout design decisions you still need to make.
Interior design is an art form, one that most of us don’t fully understand. I’m not saying that Vellum will make your book’s layout perfect. A human formatter with book design experience is always a safe bet.
5. Box Set Creation
Box sets are a valuable weapon in your book marketing arsenal. Thankfully, Vellum is designed with box set creation in mind.
Whether you're offering several installments of your own series in one package or teaming up with other authors to offer readers a smorgasbord of stories, box sets are one of the most effective ways to increase your sales.
Vellum offers these box set creation features:
- A special Vellum element — a “volume” — represents each book in the box set. Within the “volume” element, you can see the particular chapters for each book in the set.
- You can easily import existing Vellum files into the box set. You can also add books created outside of Vellum by importing them in the DOCX file format.
- If the books in the box set have been created by multiple authors, you can quickly and easily use Vellum to give credit where it’s due. Click on your title at the top of the sidebar on the left to add contributing authors.
Even if you don’t produce box sets at this point in your career, you may wish to in the future. When you do, Vellum will make it a heck of a lot easier.
6. Title Page and Author Metadata
Books are often collaborative projects. That’s why Vellum allows you to easily edit your title, subtitle, and author metadata to give credit where credit is due.
While some solo authors take a 100% DIY approach and handle everything independently, others utilize a team to produce a book.
Vellum makes it simple to create title and contributor data. This impacts both the information shown to the reader and the metadata for their e-reader device.
Vellum offers these features for contributor information and metadata:
- Automation. By adding metadata such as the name of the author and the title of the book, Vellum automatically populates aspects such as your title page and any headers — featuring the title that your book style makes use of.
- Customization. You can define your own terms for things. For example, if you want your chapters to be referred to as “sections” throughout the book, Vellum makes that easy.
- Collaboration. You can add contributor roles to the book’s metadata. There are 8 different roles you can put in the metadata: author, co-author, introduction author, foreword author, illustrator, editor, photographer, and translator.
Quick tip: You can’t use the same ISBN number for your eBook as your print book. Make sure to update the ISBN in the metadata when publishing your print book as opposed to your eBook.
7. Ebook Generator
Now, let’s talk about Vellum’s export capabilities. First, its eBook files generator.
Vellum calls the export process “Generate.” This is the stage in which you export your book outside of Vellum into the file format required for upload to a particular platform.
Vellum is a free download initially, but the ability to generate books is only available with a purchased license.
What does Vellum bring to the table in terms of eBook generation?
- Marketplace requirements. Different eBook marketplaces have different eBook formatting requirements. If you’ve ever tried to meet these manually with Calibre and Kindle Previewer, you’ll know how frustrating it can be. In Vellum, you can quickly check a box for every store you’ll be uploading to. (E.g., checking “Kindle” exports your eBook to KDP’s MOBI file format.) Vellum then generates separate folders containing everything you need to upload your book to that store in particular.
- EPUB generation. When you use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords, you’ll need a generic EPUB file. Vellum makes it quick and easy to generate a standardized EPUB.
- Proof Mode. Vellum has a dedicated Proof Mode that allows you to double-check precisely how your book will look for users of each particular eBook platform.
It’s a nice touch that Vellum allows you to quickly generate books that will work well for users of particular eBook marketplaces. This is a big efficiency booster and timesaver compared to the frustration of manually trying to meet each marketplace’s requirements.
8. Print Edition Generator
The second of Vellum’s export capabilities is its print edition generator.
Print editions of your ebooks can be a valuable additional revenue stream. As an Indie author, I've published three books. Despite being a relatively new author, I make about 30% of my sales from print editions. Sadly, many authors overlook this opportunity due to the perceived difficulty of creating an attractive print book. That's a major misconception.
If you've watched my “How to Use Vellum to Format Your Books” video included above, it takes less than 15 minutes to format the interior of a print book. If you're not doing print versions of your Vellum eBooks, you're leaving money on the table.
If you purchase a Vellum Press license, you can use Vellum software to format print editions of your book.
What does Vellum offer when it comes to print edition generation?
- Optimized formatting for print. Easily adjust your trim size, font size, and line spacing to ensure your book is optimized for the printed page. Trim sizes include popular sizes such as 5×8 and 6×9, international sizes, mass-market sizes, and large print books.
- Adjustable headers/footers. Adjust your headers and footers for the print edition.
- Preview before you export. Preview and export your print edition in the correct format to easily upload to a print-on-demand service.
The cost of a Vellum license for creating unlimited print books is $50 more than if you opt to develop eBooks alone. It’s $99 more if you buy the eBook-only version first, then decide to purchase the print license.
However, you’ll likely recoup this cost in terms of the money saved on a professional formatting service or the hours you'd spend doing it yourself.
Also, Vellum Press allows you to sell print copies of your book. All you need to do is make a $50 profit on print editions, and you’ve made your money back.
Jenna Moreci is a #1 bestselling author of dark fantasy, as well as a YouTube sensation with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. View more videos here.
What I Don’t Like About Vellum
Of course, nothing is perfect. What don't I like about Vellum?
- No Windows version
- Limited customization
- Separate price points
- No footnotes, only endnotes
- Difficulty inserting images
- Formatting tool only (not built for writing and collaboration like Atticus)
Most authors’ biggest complaint is that there is no Windows version of Vellum. There's not even the possibility of a Windows version in the future since 180g has decided not to do the work.
My Biggest Issues
My biggest gripe is the limited customization and control.
As an independent author, I like having control over my author brand. Despite its speed and elegance, Vellum only offers 8 book styles.
A lot of books produced by Vellum users will look similar. There's some ability to customize within styles. But at the end of the day, you're stuck with limited formatting options and fonts.
Although I think the high price is justified, I don’t think there should be separate price points for eBooks and print books — Vellum software formats an ebook and print book simultaneously.
As far as I can tell, formatting for print required little extra software development on Vellum’s part. So why charge the customer more?
Downsides for non-fiction authors: Vellum imports footnotes by converting them to endnotes. That means there is no option to do footnotes.
Vellum falls flat when it comes to inserting images into text. I'm planning to create a non-fiction book with many images and need to have greater control over the format. As a result, I will probably use Adobe InDesign for that project.
Final Review of Vellum Software
So, in summation of this Vellum review, here is a list of the pros and cons:
- Beautiful eBooks and print books formatting
- Full free trial lasts until you want to generate (export) your book
- Lots of free Vellum tutorials
- Ready-made book styles that look professional and impressive
- Ability to hyperlink to outside websites or social media
- Built-in box set capabilities
- Unlimited pen names
- Import and export are both seamless
- All future updates will be free to those who purchase a Vellum license
- Not available on PC, iOS, or Android
- Steep price tag
- Separate price points for eBook vs. eBook + print
- Only imports Word files (DOCX)
- Limited customization options
- Not meant for word processing
- Not built for collaboration
- Inserting images into text can be a hassle
- Footnotes export as endnotes, so you can’t format footnotes with Vellum
Atticus is Honestly Better
As you can see, before Atticus came around, Vellum used to be the premium book formatting software. So much so, that authors would literally buy a Mac computer, or pay for MacInCloud service (which is buggy and lags) just so they could use it. They wouldn't even think twice about paying the premium price for it because nothing could do what Vellum did at that level of ease. That's how good it was.
However, Atticus changed that. You get all the great capabilities that Vellum has, plus more, and it works on all computers (PC users rejoice). Couple that with it being $102 cheaper than Vellum, and you can probably see why authors have been shifting to Atticus over Vellum. The comparison of the two formatting softwares shows this extensively.
So what is the bottom line of this Vellum review? You can check it out, but I recommend Atticus over Vellum based on the above information.