Want to make your ebooks and print books look stunning? Vellum has been many authors’ tool of choice for years! In this episode, Kevin Tumlinson chats with Vellum Co-Founder Brad West about the automated layout software that makes your books look gorgeous and professional.
Book layout is an important part of transitioning from your final draft to a polished and published book. Hiring a layout professional is a good idea, but isn’t always practical on a self-publishers budget. That’s why Vellum may be a good option.
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Kevin Tumlinson 00:10
Hey everybody, welcome to another D2D Spotlight. Today we’re chatting with Brad West, one of the co-founders of Vellum. If you haven’t heard of Vellum, where have you been? But we’re also gonna look a little closer at it and find out some of the … We’re gonna answer all those pressing single questions, one question only, that people want to know, man. But we’ll get to that. So, how are you? Thanks for joining us on the on the program here.
Brad West 00:35
Good. Yeah, thanks for having me.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:37
I’ve never been able to get you on my podcast, so … I’m gonna have to work on that one.
Brad West 00:42
All right, I’ll do that next.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:44
Right after this, stick around. So, Vellum … I’m gonna give my definition of Vellum, or my breakdown of Vellum. And you correct everything I said.
Brad West 00:53
You’ll probably get it all right.
Kevin Tumlinson 00:56
All right. So Vellum is, I actually think of it as being just below professional grade … It gives you professional quality without the professional work, or professional effort. But professional grade book layout software that will generate your ebooks, and your print book, the PDF for your print book, from one place, with lots of free—or not free, but you know, style templates that make it look professional. I butchered that whole thing, fix it.
Brad West 01:25
But yeah, you got it right. Professional means this is your job, you take it seriously. And if you are doing this full time, you probably have 100 other things you’d rather do than spend time getting your book to look just right. And that’s where we try to come in. Software that you can use on your Mac, bring in your manuscript, get it looking professional, ready to go, quickly and easily. We’ve got, you know, some people who’ve been using it for a couple years, they say they get things out in 10 to 15 minutes.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:10
Yeah, that’s me, especially now that you have that integration with Scrivener.
Brad West 02:14
Yeah, that was, you know, a great project. Group combination with Keith at Scrivener, and we just kind of got together and we realized, hey, this is actually really close. If we just did a few things, we could make something really nice. So, we do have a lot of users who love writing in Scrivener, but when it comes time to produce their book, they want to use Vellum. So we make that as easy as possible to get from Scrivener into Vellum.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:45
Yeah. As much as I love Scrivener, and I kind of credit Scrivener with changing the game for me, in terms of, you know, refining my writing process for novels versus copywriting … I was always trying to use it as the everything app, especially with, you know, formatting at the end, but I was always screwing that up somehow. I mean, it was never quite as clean as it needed to be.
Brad West 03:10
It does a lot. And I think what people love is, you can use Scrivener how you want to use it. Some people just use it to write, you know, a lot of people get all their notes and character information in there. And so, you know … But I think a lot of people found that you get to that point where you’re ready to publish and you see a wall of checkboxes and stuff. And so, plenty of people do compile their book in Scrivener, but we’ve got lots of lots of Scrivener users who, yeah, like bringing things over to Vellum.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:47
Yeah, but of course you guys aren’t responsible for Scrivener. We’ll get back on Vellum. And I really do like, you know, the whole general experience of getting the book in layout there. You know, I used to use InDesign and some other really expensive software. Vellum comparatively is very inexpensive. It’s only available on the Mac, which I know is a hang-up for some folks. But just having the ability to … I love that I can, you know, if I decide to make some changes even last second, like I can make chapter five into chapter three if I want, and just grab and move that. That’s very, that sort of versatility is very useful.
Brad West 04:31
Yeah, you know, we … That was a big part of how we designed Vellum is … We didn’t expect many people to write their books in Vellum, although we do hear from people who do that. But we knew we wanted to make it so that you can get your book together, but everyone always spots some little change. And we’ve heard a ton from people who actually appreciate just seeing the preview on the side because they just, even though it’s been through a proofreader, and you know, their friends and their beta readers, you just see some things you didn’t see before. So we really wanted to make sure that, you know, those last-minute changes—or even, you know, after last minute. You know, you push publish, and two days later, you spot that typo. We wanted to make it so that you could just get right in there and make that change. And quickly generate new books and not have to think like, “Oh, God, I’ve got to go through all of this again.” It’s just, no, just go in there and then hit the button again. And you’ve got a new set of books.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:37
Yeah, one of the little features you guys have built in that I use all the time is the one that will help you scan and replace the curly quotes or this, you know, straight quotes versus curly quotes. Because for, I don’t even know how that happens. Like how that … they just pop in there.
Brad West 05:54
Yeah. I mean, we see manuscripts … Some, you know, are just straight quotes all the way through. And you see, okay, well, you didn’t have smart quotes on when you wrote that. But the majority are like, well, it’s this weird mix of, you know, that was going for a while, and for some reason … This comes up, actually, we get a lot of people who do multi-author box sets. And so they’ll have one manuscript that has all typographers’ quotes, and another that doesn’t. So box sets is something you can do in Vellum, and we want to make that easy. And so yeah, cleaning up another manuscript is something you can do.
Kevin Tumlinson 06:32
You guys have made that easy. I was doing that all wrong for a very long time. And then I did a, like an anthology with a group of authors. And I, you know, there was some, like, specific questions. And I went in and dug around and found, you know, it’s actually quite easy to make individual volumes in there.
Brad West 06:50
Yeah, that’s something that can be tricky to do, you know, to get all the authors together and make sure that eachbook can, you know … has its own title page, has a good place to start. Doing that on your own, you know, especially if you’re trying to combine all these files in Word, can be really tricky. So that was a feature, you know, it’s been a few years since we released that. But that was one of those features that we didn’t really have on our 1.0 roadmap, because it wasn’t as big at the time. And it was one of those things that like, we heard from a lot of users who were like, “Hey, you know, I love Vellum. But I want to do these box sets, either a multi-author box set, or just, you know, combining a series, and that can be really challenging.” And so we spent a lot of time just trying to get all the features together to make that as easy as possible.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:47
Yeah. There are a lot of features, Brad, that had been around forever, that I only just discovered.
Brad West 07:55
This happens. I mean, we try to keep it as simple as possible. But you know, it’s been out a few years now. So, you know, just this morning I answered a question. Someone was like, you know, I wish there was some way toincrease the font size in the text editor. And, you know, I was happy to say, “Oh, just go to Preferences, and it’s right there.” And she was like, “This is going to be tricky, because I want the font size to be bigger in the text editor, but I don’t want to affect my ebook or my paperback at all. I just want to see it bigger.” And, you know, I was happy to say “Hey, just go here. It’s already there.”
Kevin Tumlinson 08:33
Nice. But speaking of that, though, you guys were … Did you finish this? You were tinkering with adding like, large print support?
Brad West 08:43
Yeah, that’s something we released about a year ago. And that was, you know, another of these features that came out of … we didn’t have on our map. And Joanna Penn is actually who really started a push for large print and had some really promising results. And, you know, politely asked us …
Kevin Tumlinson 09:08
She seems to be the driving force behind a lot of new features.
Brad West 09:12
Yeah, you know, she started in a very, what I assume is a very Joanna way. Started very politely, gave us a heads up that, hey, this would be really helpful. And that’s, you know, we’ll think about it. And then, about every couple of weeks, we’d get another email from one of her readers saying, “Hey, you know, large print would be great.” And finally we realized, okay, we’ve got to do this. And it was a great feature to put in. It’s one of those things, you know, it it was fun to research. And it was fun to produce some of these large print books and hand them around a family and you know, everyone’s like, “Oh, this is nice. I like reading this.”
Kevin Tumlinson 09:57
What are some of the challenges you guys had to overcome for that?
Brad West 10:02
You know, a big thing that is difficult for print is—and this has come into play a few times—is, print on demand is awesome in many ways. One thing that is difficult is the expense. The expense of a print on demand book is per page.And so that means, and it doesn’t matter how big that page is. So, this actually came up, because as we were doing large print, we were also doing the other side of the spectrum, because a big request we had was mass market. Andmass market was, you know, this kind of thing that this works really great in traditional publishing. You can use less expensive paper. You know, you’re just dealing with economies of scale. It doesn’t work as well in print on demand, because you can find that a mass market paperback is actually more expensive to print than a regular size print. So anyway, that’s all … back to large print, that’s a challenge. You’re going to make the font size bigger so that it’s easier to read, you need to be careful so that your book doesn’t turn into this giant tome that is, you know, really heavy to carry and really expensive to print. So getting that right balance of, this is easy to read, and yet we’re not totally jacking up the expense cost of printing it. It was hard to get that balance just right.
Kevin Tumlinson 11:50
Yeah. And I think that’s a kind of … we deal with this too, by the way. I mean, you know, people are asking for large print, thinking it’s just as simple as enlarging the font or something. And there’s so many other things that you have to consider.
Brad West 12:05
Yeah. And you know … it goes to everything, It’s, you know, you can increase the font size of your text, but you’ve got to think about page numbers and headings. And, you know, you don’t want all of those things to be this giant 16 or 18 point font. So it really is kind of redesigning the book, and then, you know, finding that balance. And then you know, like anything we do, we want to make it so it seems really simple. So it’s really, you know, in Vellum, you just choose that size, and we’ll take care of all the rest. But a lot goes into all of those fine little details to get it to all feel right and balanced.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:46
Yeah. So what are some features built in that you guys think people may not be aware of that might be useful?
Brad West 12:55
Well, you know, I think a big thing that … we have a lot of people who come to us because they want to get an ebook out on Amazon. And certainly, you know, that is the most popular platform. At some point, a lot of people consider switching to going wide. And there’s a lot of financial and marketing questions to consider that. But we, you know, we want to make sure that people know that when you make that decision, even if you want to try it out for a couple of years—I think a lot of common advice is, pick a series or something like that to try it out for—is that, well, it’s just another checkbox. And you know, if they’re using Draft2Digital, we have a special format just for Draft2Digital that, you know, when you want to go wide with Draft2Digital, you can just output into another file. So it’s just a lot to consider there. But at least from a technical level, we want to keep that simple. And that is something that is harder if you’re doing it yourself. Every store has its own weird things that work and things that don’t work. And we’ve coded that into Vellum so that, you know, if you’re sending a book to Apple we’ll make sure that, there’s things to get right there. If you’re sending a book to Barnes and Noble, we’ll disable a few features that don’t quite work well at Barnes and Noble. So, we want to make sure people know that that’s easy to do.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:35
If only there were a free service out there that would distribute your books to these places and take care of that for you. But we do … So, D2D works, we work with you guys on a couple of things, and we’ve been kicking around some other ideas in the background. You want to talk a little bit about some of that? You don’t have to reveal any of the secret stuff, but …
Brad West 14:55
Yeah, you know, if you used D2D before, you know that D2D has a great feature where you can replace your front matter and your back matter. And that really comes into handy with your also by page. And, you know, it’s one of those things that is similar to what I mentioned with Scrivener, where we felt like, “Hey, you know, this is really close. It feels like we almost have enough so that we can get it just right.” And that was a great little meeting that we had with you to figure out, okay, if we just do these few things on our end, and you do these things on your end, we can make sure that you know where to remove pages and how to put them back in. And so I think that’s worked great for both of our customers.
Kevin Tumlinson 15:48
Yeah, and it’s been fun kind of kicking around ideas for future work, too, you know? The dream board gets filled up pretty quick. And then it has to migrate over to the in-development board, and then things slow down a little. Because you can dream all day, but then somebody has to build this stuff. So you guys … and I know we’ve got questions about it and everything, but I was going to address this anyway. You guys are only available on the Mac platform right now. What’s kind of the reason behind that?
Brad West 16:22
The reason is, for those who don’t know, we’re a very tiny company. It’s just me and the other half of the company is Brad Andelman. We decided to start this and stay very small. We’d both worked at a large company before, and that was one reason. We wanted to keep it very focused on one thing, and you know, it’s hard to do that. In our previous job, we’d also developed cross-platform software. And, you know, there’s some good things about that. But it’s … you can make software that people appreciate. But to make software that people really love, you really have to go all in on whatever the platform might be. And for us, that was Mac. And also, you know, a lot of the design of Vellum itself comes from things that we knew we could leverage on the Mac platform. When we started our company, we didn’t know what we were going to do. We thought we were going to make iPhone apps. When we kind of came to this idea of addressing formatting, we looked at the platforms, and we kind of said, “You know what, actually, on Mac, we can get together a pretty basic editor and leverage a lot of the editing tools. We can make use of their web frameworks to give a live preview. There’s a lot of influence, the design of Mac. And so that’s to say, you know, I don’t know if it would work in the same way on an on another platform. But, you know, the main thing is, we want to be able to stay small. We want to be able to keep making changes. You know, I talked about large print. We were able to kind of totally change direction and say, “You know what, we need to switch on to large print.” And we could do that, because we’re just a very small company, and the meeting to discuss that is just Brad and I talking and saying, you know what, we just need to do it. Let’s change direction. And so that’s why we’ve decided to stay on Mac. You know, you talked about the dream board, We’ve still got a ton of stuff we want to do. And, you know, developing a whole new platform would mean we’d basically stop. We’d stop, and Vellum would just kind of stop being what it is for a few years. So we’re not ready to do that now. Maybe at some point, we’ll say, “Hey, you know what, we’re happy with how this is.” And we’ll grow the company, hire some Windows developers. Maybe it won’t be the exact same software, but it can be something that, you know, feels close to … Again, similar to Scrivener in Windows and Mac, they’re not exactly the same, but you know, they’re close enough that you can call them both Scrivener.
Kevin Tumlinson 19:38
Yeah. It’s, you know, I know how challenging that is, coming from a … I’ve been a part of the software world for quite a while, and it’s always easy to dream that sort of thing up. And then implementation is damn near impossible.
Brad West 19:54
Yeah, I mean, you’ve always got to make choices. And that’s kind of what focus is: deciding, hey, we’re going to do this and we’re not going to do this. And we feel very strongly about that. That’s part of why we spend a lot of time trying to keep Vellum simple. And that means saying, we’re not going to do this, because we want to make it as simple as possible. And so that’s a big part of those kinds of decisions.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:29
So that said, do you have any strategies or workarounds for people who would still really very much like to use Vellum, but don’t have a Mac?
Brad West 20:38
Yeah, there’s a service called Mac in Cloud. We don’t outright recommend this on our website. People kind of find it on their own. The reason we don’t straight up recommend it is, it doesn’t work, you know … it may not work for everyone. You’re basically renting a Mac that is, you know, in a server rack somewhere, and you have a little window on to it. So I think to really make that work is a combination of, you need to have a good internet connection, and you need to feel kind of comfortable with this concept of using this remote computer and, you know, figure out a syncing system like using Dropbox. Some people, for some users, it’s no problem. You know, they’ll say, “Hey, you know, it works out just fine. I’m only using Vellum for, you know, 10 or 15 minutes to produce my book. Yeah, it’s not a perfect experience, but it’s good enough for those 15 minutes.” And you know, we’ve got other users who like, can’t make sense of any of it. And it’s fine, it’s not an easy thing. But yeah, there are enough people using Mac in Cloud that I think they’ve got their servers set up with Vellum installed already on it. And there’s not a license on there, but you don’t have to deal with any sort of installation. It’s just there on those computers.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:14
Interesting. Of course, you know, you can get a pretty cheap Mac if it … I mean, I say that—relatively speaking, depending on your budget, you can probably find a cheap Mac somewhere for a couple hundred bucks.
Brad West 22:31
Yeah, you know, we don’t … I don’t love saying to people who say, “Well, what can I do?” and telling them, go and buy a Mac. But we do have people who tell us “Hey, you know, I’m a Windows person, but there’s enough reasons for me to have an Apple computer.” And yeah, they’ll buy, you know, a MacBook Air. A refurbished MacBook Air is a great machine. I still have an eight year-old MacBook Air that does, you know, that we originally developed Vellum on, that still is working great. And we use it for testing. And those are, you know, in the Mac world, relatively affordable. So that is, you know, for some people who that works with their budgets, and we hear from people that it’s, you know, it’s their business, so it’s a business purchase. And it’s enough of a thing that people do do that.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:25
Yeah. And I mean, I think eventually you just switch.
Brad West 23:30
Yeah, well, you know, it’s funny hearing from these people, because some of them are like, I hate this thing, but I love your software. And some people are like, you tempted me over and now I’m using Mac. It’s not gonna happen for everyone. We know people are pretty passionate about their Windows machines. But some people do end up using their Macs more than they expect.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:55
Right. So you guys have … when this all goes through, and you hit the little export or generate button, you get all the various storefronts. We talked a little bit about this. And then there’s that, like, general EPUB. Is that, you know, are there any limitations with using that in places? I mean, Barnes & Noble, you mentioned, has some rules.
Brad West 24:19
Yeah, you know, a lot of the reason … Barnes & Noble is frankly a lot of reason for that generic EPUB. It’s kind of the lowest common denominator. The main thing that we do tell people is, that generic EPUB, it will work in places … we don’t recommend uploading to Amazon, because Amazon has their own weird things. So for Amazon, we really do recommend uploading the Kindle version, because we’ve taken the time to find all of the things. Especially with things like “look inside,” and their cloud viewer that has its own weird things. We’ve got a bunch of special tweaks in the Kindle version that would cause problems anywhere else. So we do recommend people upload that Kindle version to Amazon.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:11
Yeah, I discovered that pretty early on. Because they’ll do a conversion, but something always goes wrong.
Brad West 25:18
Yeah, part of it is this old MOBI format that is, I mean, older than my kids. And I don’t know why they keep supporting it, but they’re always trying to convert back to this format. And there’s all sorts of things that can go wrong in that stage. So that’s why we, that stage is why we tell people to use the Kindle-specific version.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:50
Yeah. So on the print side … this is still relatively new. I mean, it’s been around for a few years now. I remember the huge excitement, for me and everyone else, when you guys announced that you were going to support print layout. So what are the … because you essentially support every available industry standard size and layout, right?
Brad West 26:15
Yeah. We … you know, you can’t pick your own size, but we cover, the first four we cover are really the most popular ones. And then we’ve got a couple of options for large print and mass market and you know, among those, pretty much any size you think you’re going to want is going to be there. Not giant workbooks. Vellum isn’t an awesome tool for workbooks anyway. But if you’re doing a paperback, or even a hardcover through Ingram Spark, we’ll have the most common sizes there.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:50
Yeah, and it’s all very neat and organized too, when I go in and set a book up. And, you know, there are a lot of options out there for this sort of thing. But the reason I gravitated toward Vellum is because it’s all sort of done for you. So I can insert a copyright page, I can insert an About the Author, all that stuff. It’s very cool.
Brad West 27:10
Yeah. And, you know, the interesting thing is, we started as an ebook tool. When we started, people were talking about the death of print. So we didn’t have that really on our … we were kind of like, oh, maybe. But you know, what we heard a lot from people was, ebooks make up the bulk of my sales, but it’s nice to have that paperback. It’s nice to have it to give to my, you know, most loyal readers, it’s nice to give it to my friends. It’s nice to have on my bookshelf.You know, people would say, I like the idea of a paperback. I just can’t rationalize spending all that time to format it if it’s not going to make me much in the way of sales. And there are exceptions. Some people do make, you know, good money off paperbacks. But that was what we, we went in there with that design constraint of, we want to make something so that you don’t have to have that thought of, is this worth it? You know, so it’s really just another checkbox. If you want that print edition, you’ll get a print edition. And you know, then you can put it on your bookshelf.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:25
Yeah, I think it was Seth Godin who said that, if you’re in the book business, you’re in the souvenir business. That’s what print books have become for a lot of authors.
Brad West 28:35
And I, you know, I mean, I totally get it. I still like reading print books. They’re nice to have, they’re nice to look at. So we want to, you know, whether people are successful with their paperbacks, or they, you know, they just want it to have for those marketing purposes, or just for that personal satisfaction, we wanted to make it really easy.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:01
So, what’s coming up next, man? What can you share with us about the future? First of all, every time I open Vellum, I have to wait for it to update. It’s like, it’s something new almost every time I open it. So what’s coming up?
Brad West 29:15
Well, we don’t talk about what’s coming up. So sorry. And the reason … there’s two reasons. One is, we sometimes have to change that. We’ll have something in mind and we’ll start getting on it, and we’ll realize, you know, we need to work on, you know … large print I brought up, or trim sizes. And this has happened enough times that we realized, you know what, we can’t talk about it. And then the other reason is, I mean, you’re in software, you know this—but it’s really hard, if you talk about a feature, the first thing people ask is, “Well, when is it going to be available?” And you can say, well, early 2020. But then on January 1, you’re getting an email saying, “Well, it’s early January 2020.”
Kevin Tumlinson 30:11
Yeah. Or you can say it’ll be out in May. And then in April, a pandemic strikes.
Brad West 30:16
Yeah. Also that. So yeah. What we can talk about though is, and this is another kind of pivot thing, is full bleed options in Vellum. This was something that we wanted to do. You know, anytime I’m at a—well, back when you could go to bookstores. But anytime I’d go with my kids to the bookstore, I’d kind of find myself in the YA section just paging through, because it’s just like, there’s just fun design choices in those books. And a common thing is to have a really dramatic full bleed image. Full bleed means the graphics go all the way to the edge of the page. And, you know, we wanted to do this, and we were like, you know, it’s gonna be really hard. Can we spend the time? And we just heard from enough people who were saying, you know, I wish I could do these full bleed title pages. And they kind of recognized, I know that’s going to be hard, but it’d be really cool to have my book look as cool as those trad published books. And so we released that just a couple months ago. And yeah, we got a great response. Because people were … it was suddenly something they could do that they didn’t think they’d be able to do. And you know, we tried to make it as simple as possible. You drag in your image, you say make this full bleed, and Vellum will take care of all of the settings. Because when you do a full bleed image, you’ve got to basically change the entire book, even if it’s just one page. And so, you know, you don’t even have to think about that. Vellum just takes care of it for you. Yeah, that’s been fun. We kind of had to say, you know, we’ve gotten some good feedback ahead of time, people were really passionate about it. We didn’t know, we’re like, we’ve just got to do this because we think it’s gonna be fun and people are gonna like it. And we got a really great response. So that was nice to hear about.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:27
I’m planning to use it for full page ads in the back of the book.
Brad West 32:32
Yeah. So yeah, title page. An ad in the back, or maps was a common thing. So we wanted to hit all of those.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:46
Yeah, that’s amazing. All right. Great choice, by the way, to focus on adding that first, before you went on. Great choice. So everybody out there, no matter where you are: Facebook, YouTube, etc. The last 15 minutes, we’re gonna answer your questions live. So make sure you are popping your questions into the chat there and I’ll read them and pop them up if I can see them. But first up, I got a couple of comments. Let’s see what we got. So Anthony says, “Vellum is freakin amazing.” I agree. So, Chad says “Hello from Chicago. Vellum is awesome. Thanks to the Brads!”
Brad West 33:31
Yeah, we talked to Chad in Chicago, and that was actually where we talked a lot about full bleed with a lot of people. So I think we have a Chad, Brad and Brad selfie out there somewhere.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:43
I gotta get in on that action. Maybe Cad.
Brad West 33:48
I think we were looking for a Thad or a Tad.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:52
We got another comment from Chad, who says he uses Ulysses which has a super … because we talked about Scrivener, but we didn’t talk about Ulysses. Super easy Vellum export option. Is it similar to the one in Scrivener?
Brad West 34:08
Um, maybe. So Vellum imports a .docx file. That’s Word’s format. The great thing about that format is it’s an open format. So a lot of software, even if you’re not using Word, can export something in that .docx format. And I so I think Ulysses has a native .docx export, and then it has a whole plugin system. So I think people have written some plugins that, you know, add that extra data that makes things go a little bit more smoothly when they know it’s going into Vellum.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:42
Yeah. I used to use Ulysses back in the day, but switched.
Brad West 34:47
Yeah it’s, you know, it’s not for everyone.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:51
Yeah, I liked it. The markup was an interesting way to handle formatting. When I started having markups showing up in the books when they went live though, I had to kind of dial back. But still, I always did love it.
Brad West 35:05
Yeah. I mean, it’s another very focused program. And so, you know, they’ve made decisions. And I guess … opinionated software is a term I’ve seen out there. And, you know, you either love it or hate it. But that’s great. Because some people do love it.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:25
There’s plenty of room for all the different things people love. So here’s a question. “Do you have a way to change links per what format is outputted? Example: a review link to Amazon for MOBI but to a website landing page via the EPUB exports?”
Brad West 35:41
Um, yeah. Actually, Kevin mentioned, there’s some features that not everyone knows about. And this is one of them. There’s a feature called store links. And whenever you add, if you just paste in a link to Amazon, Vellum will automatically detect that that’s a link to a book and convert it into what we call a store link. And so that will ensure that that link to Amazon only makes it into your Kindle version. But if you click on that link, you’ll see a little pop-up. And you’ll be able to, if you’re using a generic EPUB, you can use a website, you can use Books2Read. If you’re going to individual vendors, you can supply your identifiers for Apple Books and Kobo and Google Play and etc. So yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:32
I wasn’t necessarily going to pimp Books2Read, but since you brought it up …
Brad West 36:38
Yeah. So if you go to our help pages, look for something called store links. You can also just Google that, and you should find a help page that explains how all of that works.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:48
Here’s a question for you. You guys have … maybe I’ve overlooked this, and maybe this exists. Or are you planning to create this? A sort of universal also-by that can be automatically inserted in each book?
Brad West 37:03
It’s on our dream board.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:06
When are you gonna release it? No no.
Brad West 37:10
We talked about it. I mean, one reason we haven’t done that is actually Books2Read is out there. And, you know, so when people … you know, so we do the store links where you have a dedicated link that goes straight to. And that works actually great for Apple Books in particular, is to have a direct link. When you have a direct link to Apple Books, Apple Books won’t leave. The reading software will just show a nice pop-up. So that’s a nice thing to consider. But, you know, especially if you’ve got, you know, five different stores, something like Books2Read can be handy. So, you know, for the generic EPUB, when you’re using a store link for Kindle, you’ll put in the ASIN. For Apple Books, you’ll put in their identifier. And then for generic EPUB, it’s just a website. So you can, you know, we tell people you can link to your own website. But yeah, you can use Books2Read. People like to use their own form of evergreen links. So you can use that too. But we will take care of making sure that Kindle, that link to Amazon is only going to be in Kindle. Otherwise, you know, Apple Books won’t be too happy.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:27
They’ll kick that back. Yeah. So Shelley is asking, “My book has lots of images and graphs. The photos seem easy to import, the graphs are not as easy. What format works best to save graphs as for importing into Vellum?” And she gave some examples.
Brad West 38:46
All the formats … she said TIFF, JPEG, PNG. All of those. Vellum will take any of them. And we try to support most common bitmap formats. Windows-specific formats we won’t handle. And then what Vellum will do is convert those as necessary. So for Kindle, for example, Kindle won’t take a TIFF image and has limited support for PNG, and so we’ll convert convert those to JPEGs. Sometimes if people have very specific images we’ll maybe say, if it’s like a sharp black and white image, we’ll actually tell people to use GIF, which surprises people, but that’s actually a widely supported image format. And sometimes if you’ve got really sharp graphical data rather than an image, that can actually be the best format to use. But Vellum will take it all. So when we’re talking about best format to use, if you really want to, you know, zoom in and make sure everything’s correct, then it can be specific to the picture, but you don’t have to worry about it failing a conversion or something like that. We’ll just convert it as necessary.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:10
Yeah. That’s part of your easy button strategy. Which is what makes Vellum so great. So this one is, let’s see, just discovered Vellum … this one I was reading earlier. And I think there’s a clarifying question later, but, “Trying out Vellum, but nothing happens when I click on the import Word file. I’ve tried in both Chrome and Safari, same problem. How do I solve it?” I don’t know where the browser comes in on that exactly, but …
Brad West 40:37
Yeah. Well, we do hear about this sometimes …
Kevin Tumlinson 40:47
Oh, this is the clarification. “With Vellum, I can prepare my book for ebook and print. How would the printed book aspect work?” I guess it’s a different question, but the previous question was …
Brad West 40:58
Yeah, well, I’ll answer this one first, actually. So, for print on demand, Vellum creates a PDF file. That’s the file. Now for print, if you haven’t produced a paperback with print on demand before, the thing to know is there’s two files. One is called the interior file. That’s basically for all the pages of the book. That’s what Vellum is going to produce. You’ll upload a cover file, which is the, you know, wraparound, front, spine, and back file separately. So Vellum will produce that into your PDF file, and you upload that file. If you’re using Amazon KDP, we’ve got a brief guide to, hey, upload this file here. You can find that on our website. And after you generate your files, we show, hey, you’re ready to publish, here’s more about doing that. But, let’s see, back to the first question. We do sometimes hear questions like this. So there’s two things that can happen. One is, when you click import Word file, you’re going to be presented with a window where you can choose the file you want to import. Sometimes that window, you may not have noticed that window kind of went somewhere else on your monitor. Some people have two monitor displays, that can sometimes be the case. The other thing that can happen is, on Mac, there’s very tight security about what programs can access your files. And that’s a stage in Vellum, where Vellum is asking your Mac, hey, can I can I access the files? And sometimes on the Mac that can go wrong. And so what we tell people is to just quit and restart Vellum, and that usually joggles things on your Mac. And usually after you do that, you’ll be able to see that file picker.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:07
All right. This is an interesting question, because I don’t actually know the limitation here. So maybe you know. “Any chance that Vellum will support a full cover for print books?” I guess that means a wraparound cover.
Brad West 43:19
Yeah. So right now Vellum only does the interior. So it’s not a tool to design a cover. We do sometimes get questions—most of our users we hear from are working with cover designers who will do that for them. So we don’t have plans right now to add a cover design tool. But there are some other tools out there to do that. You know, actually, if you’ve got a very simple thing, I think KDP has their own cover creator. I think Canva has some …
Kevin Tumlinson 44:00
Draft2Digital’s D2D Print is going to include a cover converter, just to throw it in there. It’s still in beta, but you can probably get in the beta if you’re …
Brad West 44:13
Yeah, and I imagine it’s probably similar to what you can do with Amazon’s is, you know, you start with your front cover and then add some basic stuff. If you want, you know more sophisticated stuff on the back cover or you know, really specific spine details, that’s something that you can talk to a cover designer. And I think this is one thing we’ve heard from, is a lot of people do use cover designers for their ebook cover. Most of the time, they’re not going to charge you twice as much for ebook and print. Most of the time, making ebook and print is just going to be a marginal increase. So that’s something, when you’re talking to cover designers, to ask about. Because usually they’ll be able to give them both to you for just a little bit more.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:01
Yeah, just have them design the full cover and cut it down, and that’s the easiest way. This is gonna have to be last question, because we’re actually right up against the line, but I accidentally overlooked it. So, “In the social media area for the About the Author back matter, are there plans to add an option for authors to include their Patreon link?”
Brad West 45:20
Yeah, we’ve gotten a few requests for that. So for those who don’t know, in the About the Author page that Vellum creates, we’ve got a built-in tool for adding little links with the icons for, I think we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, a few more I’ve forgotten. But yeah, we do hear from authors who are using Patreon more. So we do have that suggestion on our books. We don’t have a release date right now. But we’re keeping it in mind.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:52
He’s not going to give you a date for anything, folks. Just so you’re aware. All right. Well, Brad, man, I appreciate you joining us, hanging out with me, and talking about … this a great software. It’s great platform. I have used it almost since the beginning, and I only discover a new feature that you guys have like every three years. But otherwise, it’s fantastic.
Brad West 46:18
Thanks. Glad it’s working for you.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:20
Thank you. It is, it is. Alright everybody, make sure you pop on over to vellum.pub. And that’s where you’ll find Vellum and more information about them. You can reach out to at least one of the two Brads on that website.
Brad West 46:33
Yeah. And we do, at that website, you can download the software for free. You can try it out for as long as you want. The way we have our purchase link set up is, you only have to make a purchase when you’re ready to publish. So, no cost in trying it out to see if it works for you.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:50
Yeah, it’s a full version. But when you want to spit out the books, you have to upgrade. And that is much appreciated. It’s a lot of fun to kind of play around with that stuff ahead of time.
Brad West 47:00
Yeah, that’s how we evaluate software. So we wanted to make sure that people could, you know, no pressure, just check it out and see how it works for them.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:08
Excellent. All right, everybody. Some of you I know are watching from both Facebook and YouTube. Thanks for tuning in. Make sure, wherever you are, you subscribe to us, follow us. Subscribe to us on YouTube. Hit the little bell icon. That’s what YouTubers have to tell you. And follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/draft2digital. And of course it’s YouTube/draft2digital, totally left that off. And of course, hop on over to d2dlive.com, make sure you bookmark that page. You’ll see a countdown to the next live broadcast we do. If you’re listening to this on the podcast, by the way, these D2D Spotlights have been happening every day for the moment. We’re gonna start going weekly soon. But tune in at d2dlive.com, and you’ll be able to catch all the back episodes, plus anything that’s coming up. And Mr. Brad West of Vellum, thank you so much for tuning in with us.
Brad West 48:01
Yeah. Thanks, Kevin. It was fun.
Kevin Tumlinson 48:03
All right, everybody. We’ll see you all next time.