Vellum Review 2021: Is it right for you? [Plus, How to Use]

In this article, you will learn:

  1. Vellum's Pricing
  2. System requirements
  3. Key features of Vellum
  4. What I like (and don’t like) about Vellum
  5. Is Vellum right for you?

Links in this article may give me a small commission if you use them to download Vellum. Plus, there’s no extra cost to you.

Pros:

  • Beautiful eBooks and print books formatting
  • Full free trial lasts until you want to generate (export) your book
  • Lots of free Vellum tutorials
  • Automatically generated table of contents
  • 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

Cons:

  • 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
  • Inserting images into text can be a hassle
  • Footnotes export as endnotes, so you can’t format footnotes with Vellum

Bottom Line: Vellum is expensive. It only works on macOS devices. Yet, it creates beautifully formatted eBooks and print editions. Although a human formatter might save you time and trouble, Vellum is less costly and more DIY. If you’re intent on formatting your book yourself, try out Vellum’s free download to see if it’s right for you. (I recommend Atticus overall, though.)

Try Vellum Today

In this Vellum software review, I’ll show you how Vellum makes it easier than ever to format a beautiful book.

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, a cloud service that allows you to access a Mac and use the Vellum software. It charges you by the hour.

As authors, there’s a never-ending list of tasks to complete. The process of writing, releasing, and marketing a book is no piece of cake. Formatting your book to look just the way you want, while also meeting the technical requirements of various eBook platforms, is time-consuming and tedious.

There are 3 standard options for formatting a book:

  1. Using Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Word, or Scrivener (with plenty of trial and error), some authors have the time and patience to learn the ins and outs of manual formatting.
  2. Other authors outsource formatting to a specialist. This costs an arm and a leg, and you have to go back to the same formatting service for every change you want to make.
  3. Vellum offers a third option: an easy-to-use, premium eBook formatting and layout tool for Mac users. For a steep price but a slight learning curve, Vellum ensures your book is beautiful on all platforms.

I recommend you check out the free trial of Vellum. The “trial” has no expiration date, and it comes with every feature except exporting your final product. It’s fun to play around with. Even if it doesn't turn out to be right for you, it’s worth comparing it to your current formatting process.

What is Vellum? 

Vellum is intuitive book formatting software 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.

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 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.

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.

How do you use Vellum on PC? You can use Vellum on PC through MacinCloud. Through the cloud, you can access a MacOS and use the Vellum software. You'll be charged hourly for the service. Though the price tag skyrockets pretty quickly, it's much cheaper than buying a Mac.

How much does Vellum 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. However, testing whether its capabilities are suitable for you before investing a single cent is fantastic.
  • 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.

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? Take the time to calculate what 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 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 (spring 2021), you need to have Mac Mojave, Catalina, or Big Sur 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:

  1. Import capabilities
  2. Book styles
  3. Box set creation
  4. Preview mode
  5. Layout design
  6. Title and author metadata
  7. Ebook generator
  8. Print edition generator

Let’s take a look at each key feature.

1. Import Capabilities

Vellum’s import capabilities are very user-friendly. Although they only import 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.

Vellum Import Capabilities

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 Ornamental Break

Vellum’s 8 ready-made book styles include:

  1. Meridian: Classic and clean
  2. Trace: Clean and modern with interesting headings
  3. Artisanal: Interesting aesthetic with retro touches
  4. Kindred: An attractive and clear book layout
  5. Sudo: A style with very distinct headings that would work well for grittier fiction genres
  6. Oxford: A classic aesthetic with traditional heading styles
  7. Parcel: A modern book layout that feels spacious (my personal favorite and the one I use for my science fiction mystery novels)
  8. 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.

Format Beautiful Professional Books

Easy to use, and and full of amazing features, you can quickly turn your book into a professional book.

Check It Out

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
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • 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:

  • Margins
  • 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 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. This might include an editor, cover designer, and even a translator for an international edition.

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 Title and Contributor Data

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.

I believe that as self-publishing evolves, it will become more of a collaborative field. Vellum lets you appropriately credit your collaborators.

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 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 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.
vellum software review book generation

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 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 above image shows Vellum's print book generation capabilities in action, including its clear and helpful Preview Mode.

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

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 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

Vellum is a premium product that saves all types of authors a ton of time and frustration. Despite its high price, it will probably save you money in the long run.

Download Vellum for free to see if it’s the right choice for you.

Download Vellum for Free

Vellum is updated regularly, and new features are added and improved upon to respond to user demand. All updates are free. There’s a reason professional bestselling authors use Vellum for their work.

The premium price point and lack of PC compatibility will continue to be a sticking point for some. However, Vellum is an investment that can save authors time and money in the long-term.

Have you used Vellum? Do you prefer another option for your eBook formatting and exporting process? Let us know on social media.

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about me and my fiction, please stop by my website or visit my author page on Amazon.



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12 thoughts on “Vellum Review 2021: Is it right for you? [Plus, How to Use]

Comments
  1. James

    > Vellum falls flat when it comes to inserting images into text.

    Darn. Was considering getting it for print books, but the stuff I make have loads of images.

    > atticus.io? 1-2 weeks.

    Looking forward to it!

    1. Dave Chesson

      Yup – now in a couple of days – if you’re on the waiting email list 🙂

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