Author Archives: Brad West

2023: Year in Review

Happy 2024! A new year is the perfect time to reflect on the changes since last year. So in case you missed them, here are some of the new features we added to Vellum in 2023:

Store Links with Amazon Attribution

To start the year, we added support for Amazon Attributions, a new system for rich analytics from Amazon. Because they’re integrated with Vellum’s Store Links, these links are only included in your Kindle edition, and will automatically direct a reader to the correct Amazon storefront for their country.

New Find Bar

Vellum 3.5 introduced an all-new Find Bar that’s easier to use and smarter about finding words with apostrophes, quotes, or ellipses. Looking for Text Features like Images or Ornamental Breaks — or just where you’ve used italics? You can locate them with Find Special.

Expanded Startup Window

Vellum 3.5 also included a revamped Startup Window that lists up to 100 of your most recent files. Have a file that you always return to? Pin it to the top by making it a Favorite. Accidentally move files to the Trash? The Startup Window will warn you.

Reusable Elements

Last but not least, Vellum 3.6 introduced the powerful Reuse Elements feature. Reuse elements to quickly add back matter to a new book, build a box set, or create a teaser. When you make changes to the source, you can update reused elements with a click.

Also in 2023

In addition to these major features, we also made these improvements:

  • New Generation Settings include the option to append date to filenames
  • When typing, Undo now changes whole words (rather than single letters)
  • The Text Editor can use a light background when in Dark Mode
  • Exported Word files are tailored for Import
  • An Inline Image can be marked as ebook-only or print-only
  • You can control clarified scene breaks at the top/bottom of the page

More to Come!

All of these features were released in 2023 as free updates. You can make sure you have access to them using Check for Updates. (Current versions of Vellum require macOS Big Sur or newer.)

We have more to come in 2024. As always, the features we add are inspired by your feedback, so if you have an idea for something that will make it even easier to create beautiful books, let us know!

3 Ways to Reuse Elements

Vellum 3.6, our newest release, adds the powerful new Reuse Elements feature: a flexible way to share content across your books. Here are just three ways you can reuse elements:

Add Front and Back Matter

Blurbs, Also By, About the Author: front and back matter that is in all of your books. Save elements like these in a dedicated file, then reuse them in every new book you create.

Include a Teaser

Developing a series? Give readers of Book 1 a taste of Book 2 by creating a teaser. Reuse chapters from the next book in the series and give readers a sneak peek of what’s to come.

Build a Box Set

Once your series is complete, you can bundle the books as a box set. When you create a box set, chapters are automatically reused from the original books.

Update with Changes

However you reuse elements, you can easily update with changes to the source. Need to add books to your Also By, update your bio, or just fix a typo? Whatever the change, you can update with a click.

You can begin reusing elements with a free update to Vellum 3.6. You’ll need macOS Big Sur or newer.

Reuse back matter and more with Vellum 3.6!

Vellum 3.6 is now available! Here’s what you can do with this latest release:

Give it Back Matter

Formatting a new book? Now you can reuse back matter like your Also By and About the Author. With just a few clicks, incorporate elements from any file, whether it’s a previous book or a master template.

Change the Ending

Need to refresh your Also By? Modify the original and easily update any reused version. Reused elements stay connected and track changes to their source.

And you can reuse more than just front and back matter! Reuse entire books to build a box set, or take a selection of chapters and create a teaser.

Vellum 3.6 is a free update and requires macOS Big Sur or newer.

To get Vellum 3.6, use Check for Updates, or download Vellum from vellum.pub.

Sonoma now available

Apple has officially released Sonoma, the newest version of macOS.

We aren’t aware of any compatibility issues with Vellum (though we have encountered some minor cosmetic issues as we’ve tested beta versions of this release).

It’s often a good idea to wait a bit before adopting a new version of macOS, but if you decide to upgrade and you experience any issues with Vellum, please let us know.

Update 10/2/23: We’ve since received reports of problems opening RTF files in Apple’s TextEdit application and sending PDFs to a home printer. Both of these issues appear to be resolved in Sonoma 14.1, but we do not know when this will be released.

Update 10/25/23: macOS Sonoma 14.1, which addresses many issues we’ve seen with Sonoma, is now available.

3 Tips for Using the new Startup Window

The Startup Window. It’s the easiest way to begin working on a project, and it received an overhaul with Vellum 3.5.

Here are 3 tips to get the most out what’s new:

1. Keep Scrolling

The new Startup Window lists up to 100 files you’ve recently opened. Don’t see your file on the first page? Keep going! The Startup Window now shows bigger covers and titles so it’s easier to spot the one you’re looking for.

2. Find Your File

Need to access your file in the Finder? Use the  button shown when the file is selected. In the Finder, you can move your file, rename it, or send it to a colleague. You can even delete your file by moving it to the Trash (but only if you mean it!).

3. Play Favorites

Have a file that you keep coming back to, like one with your common front- and back-matter? Keep it pinned to the top by marking it as a Favorite. Your favorite files are always listed first in the Startup Window and in the Open Recent menu.

The new Startup Window is part of Vellum 3.5, released in May. Don’t have it yet? Make sure you’re up-to-date.

Vellum 3.5

Vellum 3.5: What You’ve Been Searching For

Vellum 3.5 is now available! Here’s what you’ll find in this latest release:

Find’s Your Friend

Vellum’s all-new Find Bar is easier to use and smarter about finding words with apostrophes, quotes, or ellipses. Ever wanted to search for Text Features like Images or Ornamental Breaks — or just where you’ve used italics? Now you can with Find Special.

A Fresh Start

Vellum’s revamped Startup Window now lists up to 100 of your most recent files. Have a file that you always return to? Pin it to the top by making it a Favorite. Accidentally move files to the Trash? The Startup Window will warn you.

Also in Vellum 3.5

  • Control whether Vellum clarifies scene breaks at the top/bottom of the page
  • When typing, Undo now changes whole words (rather than single letters)
  • The Text Editor offers more room for editing at the end of each chapter
  • Custom Heading Background Presence is now shown as a number
  • Subheads displayed in Contents are included in the Logical TOC (or “NCX”)
  • Keep with Next works better when preceding Text Features

Vellum 3.5 is a free update and requires macOS Catalina or newer.

To get Vellum 3.5, use Check for Updates, or download Vellum from vellum.pub.

Kindle Delivery Costs: Fact vs. Fiction

Kindle Delivery Costs: Fact vs. Fiction

As you may know, when you choose the 70% royalty option at KDP, Amazon will charge a “delivery cost” for each book sold, computed at $0.15 per MB.

We’ve been getting new questions about this fee from authors, many who have recently read misleading information about how these costs are calculated.

To clear up this confusion, here are four facts (and, later, three pieces of fiction) about Kindle Delivery Costs:

FACT: To determine delivery cost, upload to KDP

Don’t waste time doing math for the file you generate: Kindle Delivery Cost is computed using a (smaller) converted file created by Amazon. You’ll learn the size and resulting cost after you upload to KDP:

FACT: Images are often the biggest contributor to delivery costs

Detailed images can take up a lot of space, even compressed. In a book with many images, the fastest way to decrease costs is to simply reduce the number. To exclude an image from your ebook (but keep it in print), you can use Vellum’s Include In option:

FACT: Vellum automatically optimizes images for Kindle

Images that remain in your ebook will be resized by Vellum based on Kindle’s guidelines and how each image is used. Still have a lot of images? You can adjust Vellum’s Image Sizing for Kindle in Generation Preferences:

FACT: Reusing an image is free!

Adding the same illustration to every chapter? Vellum will make sure that image is reused, and only counted once in your book. Vellum also optimizes small, common images like ornamental breaks so that they barely take up any space.

And now, here are some pieces of fiction that you may have read:

FICTION: Fonts increase delivery costs

Though embedded fonts increase the size of the ebook you upload, these are excluded from the converted file Amazon creates. That means they don’t affect delivery costs. At all.

FICTION: Eliminating “XML Bloat” can reduce costs

While Vellum’s output is concise and clean, the truth is this doesn’t have any effect on delivery costs. Those are computed on a file converted by Amazon (that doesn’t use this XML).

FICTION: Use an EPUB compression tool before uploading

Most online EPUB compression tools are designed for readers who want to fit more ebooks on their devices. For authors, they can produce invalid EPUB files that could prevent your book from being published. We don’t recommend them.

Want more facts (and less fiction)? You‘ll find them in our updated guide to Kindle Delivery Costs.

Still have questions? Let us know!

A Look Back at 2022

Happy 2023! A new year is always a chance for reflection, so we thought we’d look back at the updates we made in 2022. In case you missed them, here are some of the new features we added to Vellum last year:

Multiple Heading Backgrounds

Inspired by the popularity of Heading Backgrounds in Vellum 3.0, we added the option for multiple heading backgrounds in Vellum 3.1. With this change, you can include backgrounds in elements like a Title Page, or create alternating backgrounds for Chapters.

Easier Box Set Construction

In Vellum 3.1, we also introduced the New Box Set command, which makes it even easier to create these collections. Add files, reorder, then create a box set or a multiple-author bundle with just one click.

New File Format

With Vellum 3.2, the files you create are saved in an all-new format. Vellum documents are now just a single file, making them better suited for cloud services like iCloud and Dropbox, and easier to share with colleagues.

Custom Headers & Footers

Want to add an extra touch to your print edition? With Vellum 3.3, we added a new option for Custom Headers and Footers. Control content, alignment, and position, and even use your own themed ornament!

Text Messages & Written Notes

With Vellum 3.4, we introduced our most talked-about features of 2022: Text Conversations and Written Notes provide new, fun ways to format messages between characters. They’re designed to work in both ebooks and in print, and include multiple options for how they appear in your book.

Export to Word

In Vellum 3.4, we also added the new Export Content command, found in the File menu. If you’ve written your book in Vellum (or just made changes), you can now create a Word file ready to send to your editor.

Also in 2022

In addition to these major features, we also introduced:

  • New styles designed for accessibility
  • Series Title (and Book Number) in Title Info
  • A dedicated Bibliography element
  • A Special Characters menu for quick access to tools like Soft Hyphen
  • New hyphenation options in Body Style

More to Come

All of these features were released in 2022 as free updates. You can make sure you have access to them using Check for Updates. (Current versions of Vellum require macOS Catalina or newer.)

We have more to come in 2023. As always, the features we add are inspired by your feedback, so if you have an idea for something that will make it even easier to create beautiful books, let us know!

FAQ: Conversations and Written Notes

FAQ: Text Conversations and Written Notes

We’re thrilled with the response to Vellum 3.4, which introduced new features for Text Conversations and Written Notes. With all of the excitement, we’ve also received some questions. Here are answers to the most common ones:

Q & A

Questions & Answers

In ebooks, will Text Conversations and Written Notes resize as a reader changes font size?
Yes. The sizing is based on a reader’s font size and will change with their preferences.

Will the text within notes and conversations be accessible to screen reading systems?
Yes! All of the text is still included in your ebook. The appearance is just altered using styling and fonts.

Will using a Text Conversation or Written Note increase delivery costs?
Not at all. No images are used to create these, so you won’t see any increase in Amazon delivery costs. 

Will Text Conversation bubbles appear on all ebook readers?
In purchased ebooks, yes. As usual, formatting is limited in ebooks sideloaded into Kindle for iPhone.

Will Text Conversation bubbles work in dark mode?
Yes! The text and bubble colors will change to adapt to dark mode and other color schemes. You can see how this works in Vellum’s Preview.

Will Written Note fonts still be visible when readers change their preferred font?
In purchased ebooks, yes. In Kindle ebooks that are sideloaded, there are some limitations.