Fast, Polished Formatting

Chrishaun Keller-Hanna

Released: 2013

Operating System: Apple/Mac


  • Vellum eBook $199.99 (can produce interiors for eBooks only)
  • Vellum Press $249.99 (can produce interiors for eBook and Print)

What is it?

Simply put, Vellum is an interior book layout software that offers authors a high-end formatting experience without the price or the learning curve of more complex options. 

Whether it is a long-running series that benefits from a cohesive look, a short that you want to write, edit, and publish quickly, or a multi-book set you need to keep organized, there are few pieces of software that can get you up and running as quickly or beautifully as Vellum. 

While there are options that are less expensive, Vellum condenses setting up metadata, e-book file encoding for your different outlets, and adjusting for different screen sizes and print (for both the paper and hardback if you have the Press Edition) down to filling a few boxes. 

Before we begin: 

Vellum is only available for the Apple/Mac operating system with no plans to expand to Windows or any iOS (sorry Windows peeps). 

Vellum only allows you to upload a .docx file, so if you’re using another file format, I recommend: 

  1. Removing as much of the bold, italics, and underlined formatting from your manuscript. Vellum will bring those things over beautifully, but it may also conflict with some of your detailing choices. 
  2. Vellum will create a title page and table of contents for you, so make sure that you remove them from your manuscript.
  3. Keep the chapter breaks in as Vellum will pick those up and create chapters for you as well. 
  4. Making a copy of your work (always have backups). 
  5. Create a new folder where your Vellum work resides (either in the same folder as the main manuscript or in a space exclusively for the eBook file). 
  6. Save a copy of your manuscript in your new folder:
    1. Word [File> Save As..] 
    2. Google Docs [File> Download> Microsoft Word(.docx)] 

You ready? 

Let’s format a book! 

When you first open and update Vellum, you will be met with this screen. On the left, the title card with the version number, an in-software tutorial and the import button. On the right, you will see the list of titles you’ve formatted before. 

Notice the purple rectangle? That is a book that doesn’t have a cover assigned to it. You can upload the cover now or wait until later. 

Once you’re ready, click the [Import Word File…], and it will load into your workspace. 

Now that we are here, let’s take a look at a few things.

Notice that the manuscript is in an editable space on the left and what it looks like on the reader of your choice on the right. You can make corrections, use ‘Bold,’ ‘Italics,’ and ‘Underline’ from the menu above, and you can also see where the chapters are listed. 

Click on the chapter headings on the right side and read through the manuscript to confirm that all the prose is there. (This rarely happens due to the software, but there’s always a non-zero chance that the wrong manuscript was loaded.) 

While you’re confirming that the manuscript is complete, make sure that the chapters are ending when you want them to. If you find that there are two chapters under a single heading in Vellum, you fix that by:

  1. Clicking on the chapter heading on the right and confirm that you are in the correct chapter.
  2. Highlight and copy (do not cut) the desired passage.

  1. Click the ‘+’ sign at the very bottom on the page next under the chapter headings. 

This will create a new chapter under the chapter you have highlighted, so make sure you’re highlighting the correct chapter. Notice that the chapter will be numbered according to its location as well. 

  1. Another way to add a chapter (or many other elements like, blurbs, acknowledgements, etc,):
    1. Click on the ‘Settings’ gear at the bottom of the page next to the ‘+’ sign. A menu will appear and the top option is to add a new chapter. 
    2. If you scroll down to ‘Add Element,’ a list of the available elements will appear. They have different features, but will function the same as chapters.
  2. You can also set the cursor at the beginning of the desired passage and click [Chapter> Spilt Chapter at Cursor].

So the manuscript is there and looks good? 

Now we go and save the file. Saving is straightforward [File > Save…]. The first time you save the file, you will get a menu, and you can save your file to the folder you’ve created. 

Congratulations! You have created your first Vellum file. Let’s turn it into an ebook.    


As the name suggests, metadata is data about data—the information about your ebook that your selling outlet needs in order to sort and display your ebook. 

As you can see in the image below, this new book still has the filler name, even after saving it. Vellum also uses the metadata, so let’s give it some. 

Adding your Metadata:

  1. Click on ‘My Book’ and the page will change from the manuscript to the title page on the right and the metadata form on the right. 
    1. At the top of the metadata page, you will see two options – ‘Title Info’ & ‘Ebook Cover’
    2. Make sure that the ‘Title Info’ is clicked (it will be dark grey).

  1. Enter the title and subtitle if you have one. Once you click in another part of the form, the information will populate and appear on the preview screen on the right.

  1. Confirm the author name. The name you entered in your Word docs properties will populate by default. You can change it by clicking on the text form. 

  1. If you need to add a contributor: 

  1. Click the ‘+’ next to ‘Contributors’ and another text form will appear.

  1. Enter the contributor’s name and click outside the form so it shows on the preview page. It will not show the change until you click in another text box, so make sure you do that! 

  1. Is the contributor an illustrator, editor, providing a foreword, or translating? Click on the arrows on the side of ‘Author’ and choose the role. Vellum will add the attribution (“Illustrated by” or “Foreword by”) for you! 

  1. The language option changes the language of the chapter headings, but not the manuscript or the Vellum controls. 
  2. If you have a specific ISBN for your eBook, you enter it here. 
  3. Save your book. 

The Cover 

We have the manuscript uploaded, the metadata is set, and now it’s time for the cover! Setting up the cover does a few things. The first and obvious thing is that it encodes the cover into the e-book so that it shows up in your e-reader. Since most stores prefer images in JPEG format, if you provide a PNG or TIFF, Vellum will convert the image for you.

It also provides a JPEG with the e-book when it’s generated so you can upload the cover to your preferred retailer. 

I should note here that Vellum doesn’t provide cover or image editing other than the size of the image on the page. This includes covers for print editions. You will have to create and provide that to your book printer.  

At the top of the page, you will see ‘Title Info’ & ‘Ebook Cover.’ 

Click on ‘Ebook Cover’ and you will see a huge image of a cover. 

Hover the mouse over it and you will see a ‘+.’ This will open a finder window where you can navigate to your cover. Press ‘Open’ and your cover will appear where the placeholder image was. 

If you need to change the cover image, just click the ‘+’ again and choose another cover image. 

If you want to remove the cover and not replace it, press and hold the Option key and the ‘+’ will turn into an ‘x.’ click the ‘x’ and the cover is gone. 

When it’s done, you will receive feedback on the size of your cover. It will recommend 1604×2560 for your cover size because that’s the size that’s accepted by most platforms. 

This warning will not affect your e-book if you are using the size that your platform requires.

Save your e-book and then we can look at the styles! 


Now it’s time to make the book pretty! 

Above the navigation bar, you will see a toggle that says ‘Contents’ & ‘Styles’ 

Click ‘Styles’ and you will see your manuscript with the styles applied. 

In the Navigation pane, you’ll see your style options. If one of the options is greyed out, it simply means that option doesn’t apply to the manuscript. 

‘Body’ refers to font and paragraph options. 

Once you’ve chosen the style, save, and now you’re ready to generate an e-book. 

Generating the e-book

You’re ready to turn this document into an e-book ready to be uploaded! 

Vellum can convert the file into e-books for six platforms (Apple, KDP, Nook, Kobo, Google, and generic ebook format) and for print.

Click on ‘Generate’ in the upper right hand corner of the screen. 

It will produce a dialog box where you can choose which formats you need.

On the ‘Print Settings’ option, you can choose the trim you want the print book formatted for, adjust the margins, and get an estimated page count for designing the cover. 

Once you have made your choices, click ‘Continue.’ 

The next dialog box will confirm your chosen formats and the folder where you want to save the files. 

If you’re happy with your choices, click ‘Generate.’ Vellum will create a separate folder for each format.

And you’re done! That’s all there is to making a polished e-book or print version of your book while saving you time. Time you can now use to write the next book!

Picture of Chrishaun Keller-Hanna

Chrishaun Keller-Hanna

Chrishaun Keller-Hanna is an award-winning journalist, teacher, technical writer, and fiction author that lives for explaining difficult concepts in a way that non-technical readers can understand. She spent twenty years teaching literacy and composition to a variety of students from kindergarten to college level and writing technical documentation for several tech companies in the Austin area. At the age of forty-three, she decided to write fiction and has published over thirty titles so far with plans to extend out to comics and board games. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling, playing video games, or watching movies. When she’s not doing THAT, she’s talking about them with her husband and grown daughters.

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