5 Free Alternatives to Vellum – The Ebook Conversion Edition

Vellum Alternatives for Ebook Conversion - www.alliepottswrites.com

While downloading ebooks to your reader is simple, getting them up on the cloud in the first place requires some work. I write my books using Word, however, just because you can import your manuscript’s formatted-for-print-ready Word document into Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

For example, you may want to include a table of contents in your ebook for easy navigation, but don’t want one in the print version, or you may want to include links in your ebook pointing readers directly to your other books, making purchasing faster. There are also other distributors besides Amazon that require a specific format for ebooks called epub. This leads me to the next step in the book publishing process – ebook conversion.

Vellum

Vellum offers formatting for print as well as ebook conversion. However, lacking a Mac or a bottomless checkbook, I’ve only been able to appreciate its service as a reader. I can tell it must be awesome to use though based on the number of books I’ve read featuring one of its telltale templates. Don’t get me wrong – it creates highly readable ebooks. I’ve just seen enough of the same decorative flourishes to recognize a Vellum ebook as soon as a chapter opens.

  • Pro: Super easy to use
  • Con: Costly at $199.99, it’s not available for non-Mac users (unless you go through a third-party service like MacinCloud), and your book looks like dozens of others making it more difficult for your author brand to stand out from the crowd.

Smashwords

Smashwords is an ebook conversion service and distribution channel. It is also one of the most difficult ebook conversion tools I’ve ever used. This is because Smashwords distributes your book to channels like Apple books, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble for you, and those channels may have slightly different requirements for an ebook’s file’s layout. Therefore, Smashwords is VERY particular about how your manuscript is formatted prior to releasing it to partner sites and works best with Word files. Fail their checks during the process they call “the Meatgrinder” and your book goes nowhere.

  • Pro: Converts to all major ebook formats including mobi, epub, and pdf for free
  • Con: I am serious when I say this service is NOT recommended for people who don’t know how to use Word styles or are unwilling to read through an entire book of “style guides” prior to attempting to convert their file. Also, once your book passes inspection, it is put up for sale without going through a secondary preview approval step. This means there is a risk your book could be published with typos or with a missing chapter as long as stylistically it fit within the Smashwords Style Guides.

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital is like Smashwords in that it is a distributor that also offers ebook conversion. However, it is much, much simpler to use. Upload your word doc, select a template, and then add in things like your social media links, mailing list link, or author page, and Draft2Digital spits out a book file you can either take and distribute through other channels yourself or distribute through them for a portion of future book sales.

  • Pro: It is fast, simple, and lets you download mobi, epub, and sample length versions of your ebook for free – even if you don’t choose to distribute with them.
  • Con: You can’t edit your file once it has been uploaded and table of contents are created automatically which may or may not always match up with what you expected. Therefore if you do see issues such as funky chapter breaks or incorrect chapter headers, you have to correct the error on the word doc and upload again.

Kindle Create

Kindle Create is still in its infancy, in software terms, and therefore is somewhat limited in what it can do compared to some of the other ebook conversion programs out there. For example, there are only a handful of templates to choose from and it only exports a special non-mobi kindle-ready format. It also requires you to download the software rather than work online. However, it’s another free option that produces nice, clean ebook files, and unlike Draft2Digital, gives you the ability to tweak your ebook’s appearance without leaving the user interface.

  • Pro: It’s even easier to use than Draft2Digital, includes a kindle previewer tool that lets you see how your book will look on multiple device sizes, and free!
  • Con: It doesn’t export to epub or mobi file, which limits your ability to use it to create advance copies of your ebook that can be sent via email or service like Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, or via email to early reviewers.

Reedsy

When you format a book with Reedsy (affiliate link) you have the option to either have them email you a print ready file or send you an epub or mobi file you can then take to the ebook distributor of your choice. Like Kindle Create, you can edit your ebook’s appearance in the user interface, which is a great, but unlike Kindle Create or Draft2Digital you have to copy and paste each chapter individually.

  • Pro: The ability to edit your book without leaving the user interface is a big plus over Draft2Digital the fact you can download in both epub and mobi is a great benefit compared to Kindle Create
  • Con: Reedsy requires significantly more time to initially set up a book and downloads aren’t as instantaneous as the other options. Also, there are currently only three templates to choose from.

Calibre and Sigil

While you can technically use either of these programs by themselves, they really work best together. Calibre has the ability to take a Word Doc (saved as HTML) and turn it into epub or mobi file using the headers, fonts, or other decorative touches you specify. This makes layouts more flexible, and gives your books a more custom look than what you can do with the other programs.

Sigil is more of clean-up tool than a conversion program. You can import an epub file you created with Calibre or with any of the programs above (except Kindle Create as it doesn’t offer epub), then tweak it until it looks the way you want, giving you the ability to customize the files generated by other programs. It makes fixing those pesky typos that somehow managed to sneak past your edit process super fast once you get the hang of it, but until then…

To be clear, neither of these programs are for the technologically challenged, and both require some comfort with programming. Personally, I love Sigil now, but it was a hard-won love.

  • Pro: This combination gives you the greatest range of customization for your ebook’s appearance and both programs are free to us
  • Con: Both programs have a rather steep learning curve and may cause a person to shake their fist in the air, sob into the phone while wondering what they ever did to deserve such agony, or be driven to drink.

I am sure there are other programs out there, but these are the ones I’ve used the most. Now, one step done, one million other little things left to go.


Rocky Row Novels - www.alliepottswrites.com

An Uncertain Confidence: Coming soon to a device near you

Reedsy and the never-ending quest for editorial partners

YReedsy and the quest for an editorial partner - www.alliepottswrites.comou’ve written your manuscript and re-worked it from end to end more than once. You’ve even had a few brave readers provide preliminary feedback. Now what?

(This post includes affiliate links)

If you are like me and going the self-publishing route, it may be time to start considering a professional editor. But where can you find one?

My latest work in progress, An Uncertain Confidence, has been sitting in my virtual desk drawer for the past two weeks while I attempted to answer that exact question. I’d had a less than stellar experience with my first book when it came to editing. Being the wide-eyed new author, and not knowing what I didn’t know, I signed one check without doing nearly enough research. That mistake eventually forced me to sign another.

I knew then that I would never use that particular group service again, so when I started preparing the first book in my next series for publication, I asked my personal network for referrals. I thought I was in luck when one of their sources had an opening. Once again, I sent my book baby off with a check.

Weeks passed and then weeks more. When I finally got my project back, the notes weren’t exactly confidence inspiring. In short, the feedback was the manuscript needed a lot of work, more than he was willing to provide at the previously quoted price. Even worse I learned my story was in a sub-genre he didn’t like, even though had said he enjoyed sci-fi.

It was another expensive mistake and one that taught me the value of beta readers (and tools like Grammarly, EditMinion, Hemingway, and Fictionary). It also taught me why it is so important to thoroughly understand the nuances of sub-genres, particularly with regards to speculative fiction.

I re-wrote that book from end to end and from end to end once or three times more. I sent it off to beta readers who helped me find the story’s holes. I found yet another editor who enjoyed my genre and was recommended by other authors. She was an author too, which meant I could read her books to make sure I liked her style first. Even better, her posted services fit my schedule as well as my budget too. I signed a check (I may have crossed my fingers too).

Unfortunately, life can get in the way of all of us, especially when an author who edits on the side, has books of their own to market or other personal matters to worry about too. It also doesn’t help when your new book is in a different genre.

Which brings me back to how do you find a reliable, recommended, and quality editor, when you have a checklist of 1,000,000,000,000,000 other things to do?

I’ve decided, this time, to give Reedsy a try.

Reedsy is a website marketplace for freelance editors, designers, marketing professionals, and publicists (you can also find book bloggers and format your ebook to epub and pdf for free there too). Simply sort by the type of service you are looking for. Then you can refine your search by things like genre, languages, or specific keywords.

My specific search for fiction, copy editing, women’s fiction, English (us) and “self-published” returned thirteen professionals who have all been verified by Reedsy and each profile includes a portfolio of work as well as author recommendation and response ratings.

To say there were more than a few impressive credentials is a mild understatement.

After reading through their profiles and reviews, I then was able to identify five potential editors who looked like a good match for my needs, style, and project. From there, all I had to do was write a little bit about me and my project and upload up to 3,000 words of my manuscript as a sample and wait for the editors to respond back to me with their bids.

Reedsy manages the payments and contracts and, as a result, does take a percentage of the quoted price, so I am bracing myself for sticker shock, but considering the time it has potentially saved me and the quality of talent, it may still be worth it.

There is still a lot I don’t know about publishing, but the one thing I know for sure is sometimes all I can do is wait and see.

 

Project Gene Assist – The Watch and Wand – The experiment continues

This is it. The big day! Project Gene Assist Book Two: The Watch & Wand is finally here.

I am excited to say you may now purchase my latest book at http://authl.it/B07791KJ2Z. While the ebook is exclusive to Amazon, print versions are also available for purchase through Amazon as well as other major retailers.

And if you do purchase, please drop me a note or leave a review. I love hearing from you.

After writing it, and writing about it, for so long, I find I am now at a loss for words, not because they will not come, but because there are no words to express the gratitude I feel for everyone who has helped me in transforming this idea into words on a printed page.

The term indie author is misleading as there is nothing independent about it.

You guys are the best. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Project Gene Assist Series

And then there were two

A Guest Post and a New Book by Allie Potts! | The Phil Factor

You always have a choice - The Watch and Wand launches Dec 5 - www,alliepottswrites.com

The often funny and yet always talented Phil Taylor was kind enough to let me stop by his blog, The Phil Factor, to talk about some of the dangers I didn’t anticipate when I first started out writing. Perhaps if I’d known, I might have done things differently.

Perhaps not.

I’ve turned off comments on this post and invite you to click the link below. I also encourage you to stick around after reading and check out Phil’s other posts too.


THE TOP 5 DANGERS OF BEING A WRITER by Allie Potts 1. Government Watch Lists: The Watch & Wand is set in a post-apocalyptic world where all but the most basic technology is outlawed. As a resul…

Source: A Guest Post and a New Book by Allie Potts! | The Phil Factor

Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft | Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

Ready or not - the Watch and Wand - www.alliepottswrites.comThis is it. The big launch week for The Watch & Wand and a few wonderful members of the blogging community have been nice enough to help spread the word.

I’ve turned off comments on this post but would encourage you to click on the link at the bottom and maybe poke around on some of the other posts you see there.


From time to time we like to feature insights by other authors here on the blog. This time, Allie Potts, a friend of the blog and victim of our internet show Writers Off Task With Friends, pays a v…

Source: Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft | Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR