5 Alternatives to Vellum, or How I Spent My Weekend

5 Alternatives to Vellum - www.alliepottswrites.comVellum. It’s not just for illuminated scrolls. For those of you not in the self-publishing world, or those newer to book formatting, Vellum is also a popular software option that helps magically transform your manuscript from a document processing file into something the non-publishing world might call a book. (This post includes affiliate links)

I know plenty of authors who basically describe it as the bee’s knees when it comes to formatting your book. But what if you are allergic to bees? What do you do then? I say that as a bit of a joke, however as Vellum is limited to Mac users and isn’t cheap to use, it isn’t for everyone. Nor is the entire process of book formatting for that matter, but that is an entirely different subject.

So what is an author intent on publishing a new book to do?

I’m glad you asked as I have recently spent far too many hours getting An Uncertain Confidence ready for its upcoming publication date by experimenting with Vellum alternatives offering formatted files I could then take to a professional printer.

Microsoft Word

This has been my trusted go-to method of getting my books in shape as it allows me to tweak font sizes, add decorative flourishes, and basically customize my book’s size and content any way I see fit. However, Word has an annoying habit of inserting blank pages, “helpfully” adjusting page numbers, and text can be overly stretched with funky spaces between the words if you don’t know some of the advanced tricks.

  • Pros – High degree of control
  • Cons – Takes forever and a day if you don’t know what you’re doing, or haven’t written your entire manuscript with Word formatting in mind (i.e. you didn’t take advantage of Word ‘styles’) and may just drive an author to drink.

Adobe InDesign

InDesign offers a lot of the same customization capability of Word, which can help your book stand out from the competition (caution – this isn’t necessarily a good thing). It also does a better job handling the space between words on the page, making your book look cleaner and more professional. However, this is another option that takes time to master and InDesign isn’t cheap.

  • Pros – Improved readability compared to Word in terms of text spacing. Much easier to control pesky things like blank pages and funky page numbers
  • Cons – it’s an Adobe product, which means a steep learning curve and a high price tag though there is a free trial option.

Scrivener

Scrivener is a word processing and story organization tool specifically designed for books. You can copy and paste your manuscript from another word processor into the software, or import it depending on the file type, and export the Scrivener version as a print-ready PDF. However, it is probably far easier to write the entire project in the software from the get-go. While Scrivener is designed for print books, it also has a partnership with Vellum if you prefer their templates over Scrivener’s offerings provided you are willing to pay the price for both services.

  • Pros – Super easy to export your complete manuscript into a print-ready pdf
  • Cons – The product works best when you write your manuscript from end to end in the tool rather than try to import it from another processing program, and doesn’t offer the same level of customization in your book’s format as offered by Word or InDesign (once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing as some people can’t handle the awesome power that is font selection).

Reedsy

In addition to editing, Reedsy includes a free book formatting service. All you have to do is copy and paste your manuscript into its online user interface, designate elements of your book like chapter name or section separator, select a book size, and a theme. It also is partnered with Blurb, which is a print on demand service, making it easy to print your book once it has been formatted.

  • Pros – Easy to use with a price that’s hard to beat. It even inserts back matter pages for you like your social media links, description (with images) of your other books, and a note about how people can join your mailing list.
  • Cons – You have to copy and paste each chapter one by one, which is time-consuming, and you are limited to three themes and three book sizes. Also, you don’t get your formatted file right away, though I only had to wait for a few minutes before I received the email saying my book was ready.

Outsource it

Of course, you also have the option to outsource book formatting if, unlike me, you are a sensible person who would like to actually spend time with your family or friends on the weekends (or be working on your next book) rather than seated in front of a computer screen waiting for swirling wheels or flipping hourglasses to say your file is ready.

  • Pros – You keep your weekends
  • Cons – You have to trust that your formatter knows what they are doing and, if you find that edits are required in your final proof, it can start getting costly.

But in the end, no matter which path you choose, holding that end product in your hands for the first time is always worth the hassle. Trust me.

Books by Allie Potts - www.alliepottswrites.com

and then there were four…

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Reedsy and the editorial quest, part three: the final update

Reedsy and the quest for an editorial partner - www.alliepottswrites.com part three

The following is the final installment in my hunt for the elusive editorial partner for my WIP using Reedsy. For those not familiar with the service, Reedsy, a database of freelance professionals with a focus on the publishing industry.

This post contains affiliate links.

As of last week’s update, I’d received three responses to my project brief. One editor wasn’t taking on new projects at this time, one editor didn’t have availability until closer to the end of the year, and another had availability, but the work would cost more than I was hoping to spend. However, I still had two more responses to go.

Suddenly this whole series of posts I’d intended as a fun way to share some of the challenges, but mostly the benefits, of being an indie author, wasn’t quite so fun.

I received another quote from a potential editor. The price was still higher than I originally was targeting for this project, however, her proposal also included a long list of testimonials relevant to my project. Not only that, but many of the authors listed had the word ‘bestseller’ attached to their name.

This editor had been my long shot when I’d been scrolling through Reedsy’s marketplace profiles. I’d had to get over my ever-present imposter syndrome to even send my request for proposal, and yet not only had she submitted a quote, she’d taken the time to tailor it to me. I’ll admit, I got a little starry-eyed at the thought of what we could do together.

The only problem was her quote hadn’t included a sample edit, though one was offered if requested. As much as the creative dreamer in me wanted to accept her quote, the more logical, business-minded side of my brain took over. Even with the testimonials, the quoted price was too risky to accept without seeing an example of her working style.

I also still hadn’t heard back from the fifth editor, though it was past the date I’d specified for responses. Things were starting to look grim.

I responded to editor number four, taking her up on her offer for the sample edit. It meant I’d have to wait longer before I could make my final decision, which meant less time for me to get it ready for publication following editorial feedback, but I was running out of options.

A day passed without an update. Then another day more. I started getting an uneasy feeling in my stomach about this entire process.

Then something lovely happened. People who had been reading my updates over the past few weeks reached out, offering direct assistance, or referring me to their preferred editorial service providers.

Suddenly, I went from having one option, to more than one fitting my schedule as well as my budget. This means, *fingers crossed* my project just may find its way to print yet.

Reedsy Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • It is easy to find a number of editors based on your genre who have several years of industry experience
  • It offers a fast and streamlined proposal process, giving you the ability to contact multiple editors all at once.
  • You aren’t required to sign up with anyone if the bids you receive aren’t in line with your expectations
  • Reedsy takes care of all the payment processing, which can protect your banking details and only includes editors who have been verified
  • Cons:
    • There is no way to filter potential editors by estimated cost or availability, which can cost everyone their time
      Reedsy’s marketplace vetting system requires editors have a certain level of experience, which makes it more difficult for authors using the service to identify and connect to hungrier or less experienced (aka lower-cost) professionals

    The final verdict

    Overall, I think Reedsy is a service with great potential and provides a value to self-published writers who want to employ the same professionals as those who follow the more traditional publishing route. That being said, it may be cost-prohibitive for authors who don’t have a backlist of profitable titles or those who aren’t backed by a successful crowd-funding campaign.

    While I will likely give it another try in the future, I think I’ll wait until I have a new series opener so there is the greatest potential return. Until then, the never-ending quests continues.

    To those who reached out, thank you so much for your comments and support. When (not if) this book is finally released, please know I couldn’t have done it without you.

    Reedsy and the editorial quest, part two: the initial response

    Reedsy and the quest for an editorial partner - www.alliepottswrites.com

    part two

    Last week I announced I was once again on the hunt for the elusive editorial partner for my WIP. The following is the results of my experience with Reedsy, a database of freelance professionals with a focus on the publishing industry.

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Using Reedsy’s filters and resulting profiles as a guide, I submitted a brief summary of An Uncertain Confidence to five potential editors. In my brief, I made sure to include a deadline for when I would like responses back as well as my manuscripts first few pages.

    I suppose I could have picked any part of my manuscript for sampling, but I figured it made the most sense to send the beginning as those pages will also be the most important for attracting would-be readers in the coming weeks and therefore, need to be as polished as possible.

    I received my first response within a day of hitting the send button and nervously hit open.

    She wouldn’t be able to meet the schedule as defined in my brief but was willing to provide a quote if I had some flexibility. I did the math in my head. If I said yes, I might as well say no to publishing this year. It was an option, to be sure, but not one I was comfortable with, especially knowing I had four more responses to go.

    I declined her offer but left the door open for future collaboration as I appreciated how quick and professional she was in her response.

    The next day I received my second response. It was a no-bid with an explanation that the editor was not taking on new projects at this time. It was disappointing but understandable. At this time, Reedsy offered to send my bid out to additional freelancers if I so choose.

    Just as I was beginning to feel like an idiot for not lining up my editor in advance, I received the third response, and this time it was a quote. I hit the open button.

    I might have been more prepared to expect had I read a recent Reedsy blog post on the costs of self-publishing before I’d sent my brief.

    On the positive side, she’d included a sample edit of my early pages, was professional, and supportive. It was easy to envision how much better my writing would become as a result. However, it was the kind of price that forces you to have a serious heart-to-heart with yourself about your book baby and its potential for return on investment.

    There’s still a chance, I told myself, staring at my response dashboard like a person playing a game of Russian Roulette. I still have a few more bids to go.

    To be continued …

    How to Build a Readership with Blogging by Debby Gies and a progress update

    I’ve finished my major re-writes and secondary edits for my upcoming sequel to An Uncertain Faith, entitled An Uncertain Confidence. This means the time has come to start talking with professional editors.

    Admittedly, I could have, and probably should have, already had this conversation in order to a spot in an editor’s queue, but I wasn’t sure what my writing output would be after starting the new job. Therefore, I opted to hold off until I was sure I’d gotten it in a decent enough position to be handed off to anyone.

    Such is flexibility that is self-publishing.

    While I might be ready to hand off An Uncertain Confidence to an editor, there is still much to do before this book will be made available to the general public. In all probability, there will be yet another round of re-writes following editorial recommendations as well as a round of proof-reading or two (as typos have a way of waiting until you hit the publish button before they magically become visible to the naked eye). Then there is the oh-so-much fun process of lining up advanced reviews or preparing my pre-sales book launch marketing and I’m responsible for it all.

    Because this is the joy that is self-publishing too.

    For those of you considering going down this road too, which has been rewarding while being exhausting (much like being a parent is), I encourage you to check out an article recently published over on the Carrot Ranch Literary community on how to build a readership through blogging by fellow indie author, Debby Gies.


    How to Build a Readership with Blogging and Prepare for Publishing

    by Debby Gies

    As writers who choose to self-publish, we must understand that we’ve chosen to be not only writers but publishers, marketers, and promoters of our work because these components are all essential parts of running a business. Yes, your business! If we intend to sell books, it’s in our best interests to learn about these things as well as building an author platform. If we don’t put in the time to promote our work, our books will surely sit and collect dust on the virtual shelves, lost in a sea of hundreds of thousands of other books…

    To read more visit the source at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Platform: Self-Publishing


    As a way of saying thank you for your continued patience, I’d like to offer you with this sneak peek at the cover for An Uncertain Confidence

    Set five years after the events of An Uncertain Faith (now available for Kindle, iBook, Nook, and other e-readers), Charlotte’s life is on an upward swing. She’s business partners with her best friend and her art is finally getting noticed.

    Nothing could possibly go wrong – until everything does.

    After a disastrous evening out, which results in the hospitalization of her friend’s husband, Charlotte is forced to seek other help to keep her business afloat, while juggling the ever-present demands of motherhood.  As a result, she has the potential to grow as a person and as an independent business owner in ways she never anticipated, but in doing so will also learn just how dangerous trusting the wrong person can be.

    While the first book centered around family, this one focuses on the value of friendship, trust, and the often lengths we go to protect those we love.

    Time flies when you are having fun – an end of quarter review

    It is hard to believe that Spring is here, especially when there are parts of the US still getting dustings of snow. It seems as if I was just ringing in the new year and setting goals for what I wanted to accomplish over the course of the next several months.

    This week, in the spirit of looking back, while continuing to plan forward, I decided to revisit a few posts from the first quarter.


    Original: “You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven today and we don’t know where she is.” – Ellen …

    Source: The great grain-free reboot: a thirty-one-day challenge

    Update: Well folks, I am happy to say that not only was I successful in achieving this goal, I managed to figure out the recipe for making grain-free taco shells that actually hold together. I would have included a picture, but they seem to disappear off my plate before I can get the camera out.

    In fact, I have found limiting my grain intake to be so easy, especially with ready-made alternatives like Against the Grain frozen pizza, I’ve decided to keep the challenge going.

    In case you are curious about the zucchini shells/wraps – all you need is:

    • 1 zucchini
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup shredded cheese

    That’s it.

    Set the oven to 350F. Grate the zucchini and squeeze the results a couple of times to drain excess water, then shape and flatten on a stick proof baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy. Creates 2-4 soft tortilla substitutes.


    Original: This is the launch week for a young adult science fiction book called Joan the Made written by Kristen Pham. While I always enjoy celebrating my fellow indie author’s bookbirthdays, this one …

    Source: How to support an indie author for free – a first experience with the Kindle Scout Program

    Update: This post had not yet lived in the blogosphere for a week when I received a note from the people at the Kindle Scout Program informing me that they were no longer taking any new submissions from authors and that I had until May 31st to claim any free books gained through the nomination process. No reason for this announcement was given. I will continue to look for other ways to support indie authors and encourage you to leave reviews as much as possible. It makes a huge difference.


    Original: May include spoilers. My office door opens and a woman with curly brown hair peeks in. “Um, are you ready for me?” she asks with a smile. Not waiting for a reply, she crosses the thresh…

    Source: One super serious, yet totally fictitious performance review – featuring Uncertain Faith’s Charlotte Row

    Update: Unfortunately, Charlotte’s story is not quite ready for publication and I am now in the process of rewrites based on feedback received from early readers. While I still am optimistic I’ll be able to publish this book this year, it most likely won’t be until late summer / early Fall. This also has delayed some of my other book projects such as the third and final installment of my Project Gene Assist series, which is also currently in progress.

    I would encourage those who are interested in being part of the next round of early reads (I DO appreciate feedback) or simply want to be the first to know when these books are launching to sign up for my mailing list.


    Most Liked/Viewed Post – What happens when your New Years Resolution calls your bluff (hint – the universe laughs)