Vellum Revolutionizes Indie Publishing

At Monday's Marketing Support Group meeting, SDW/EG member, Rick Lakin, shared his enthusiasm for Vellum, an ebook formatting application for Mac OS. He shares information and examples below. Thanks, Rick.

I am an independent publisher of over 30 books for 11 authors. One of the challenges of indie publishing is matching the quality of books produced by traditional houses. To address this, two programmers from Pixar left thata company and created a program called Vellum, an outstanding program that gives indie publishers and authors the capability to create market quality e-books that match format and elegance of traditional publishers when combined with good writing and editing. Soon Vellum will upgrade to create paperbacks and create another revolution in indie publishing

A Short History

I remember visiting my father's workplace, the Ohio State University print shop, and standing over the shoulder of the man typing on a Linotype machine. To a 5-year-old, it was almost 10 feet tall, it weighed several tons, and Rube Goldberg would be jealous of this monster. The operator typed in a line from the typewritten copy and pressed an actuator. The machine then went through an intricate set of automatic mechanical steps and finally turned molten lead into a line of type called a slug. When a column of text in a reverse image was complete, my father would lock the column into a page-size galley, proofread it upside down and backwards, and then deliver it to the pressmen who would load it into one of the various printers to produce the final job.

The Linotype was the dominant machine in the printing industry for almost the entirety of the twentieth century. For the printing industry, it was the culmination of the industrial revolution.

By the 1960s, photocopiers were able to reliably reproduce a single document at high quality.

By the 1980s, laser printers were able to take a computer file and produce a high-quality document. That was the beginning of the indie publishing revolution.

I read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park in 1993 on a Macintosh LC (LC stood for low cost). That was the beginning of e-books.

In 2007, Createspace was formed to begin the Print-on-Demand revolution. These final two developments democratized the publishing industry and allowed talented writers to join the indie publishing revolution, market their books, and make them available through the Internet. The big problem remaining was consistent product quality.

Technology will never replace good writing and good editing, but it will allow independent publishers and authors to produce the same quality e-books and paperbacks as traditional publishing houses. Up until now, that required a steep learning curve and/or the cost of hiring a professional to produce the files that will be submitted to the distributor. Even so, those inside the traditional houses felt safe because they could easily pick up a self-published book and explain why it looked, well, self-published.

Here Comes Vellum

With the release of a Macintosh-only program called Vellum, the first of three dominos have fallen. Vellum is a simple and elegant solution, created by a pair of Brads who used to program for Pixar, that creates an incredibly high-quality e-book in various formats that appear the same on all of the current e-book distributors.

The author imports a properly formatted MS Word .docx file; fills in title information; uploads the cover; selects the desired style templates for headings, first lines, ornamental breaks and quotes; performs a final formatting check; and then generates the files for upload to Amazon, iTunes, SmashWords, or any other distributor.

I have redone thirty books this way. I formatted a book containing pure text in five minutes. I formatted a book with photos, captions, and other odd formatting in a couple of hours. The results are amazing. Here are some examples:

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast by Sheila Dobbie

Platonic Tradition by Jerry Dell Ehrlich, Ph.D.

The Man with a V by Pat McCrackin from Shady Grey Press

The second domino should fall within a few months when Vellum 2.0 is released with the capability to format paperbacks for Createspace and other print-on-demand platforms. This is one of the many examples where technology promotes the convergence of products from the low end to the high end. The cover and editing are still difficult but it is art.

 

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