Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum

I have a strange relationship with Vellum. It’s one of the most expensive apps I own (or rather license), and it’s the app that I probably use the least. And yet it’s one of the few apps I wouldn’t be without, because when I do get round to using it, it saves be a bucketload of time and churns out professional quality results without me pulling out what little hair I have.

So for the uninitiated, Vellum is sort of like a word-processor … though not really. You can load a file (.docx, .rtf) into it, or type your book straight in, and Vellum will churn out beautifully formatted ePubs for a handful of mobile platforms such as Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, along with PDFs that be dropped into CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

Yes, I know that I can do the same thing in Word and Scrivener, but even Scrivener can’t deliver such a clean, well-dressed output without some fiddling afterwards. Vellum will space out your text to make sure all the pages are balanced without leaving those niggling single lines on a page before skipping off to the next chapter.

I’m not a believer in the one-stop-shop kind of an app, but Vellum is so easy to use and so well thought out, I find myself wondering what would it need so I could use it more.

So here’s is my list of wants for Vellum, based on nothing more than my own sense of entitlement (there’s a lot of it about after all).

Okay, where to start …

An iPad version

Yeah, okay, now I don’t think that many people write whole books in Vellum. They probably use Scrivener and then export it as a word document then import that into Vellum. But I think that more people would write stories in it if they could write on the road. What about the iPhone? Dunno. Do folk write books on the iPhone? I’m not so sure they do.

Now, I can’t say how difficult it would be to get Vellum running on the iPadOS. Apple has some neat tricks to make it easier to port iPad apps to the Mac, but I’m not sure they’ve got anything to lighten the load going the other way. The guys who wrote Vellum used to work for Pixar for cripes sake, so if it was worth the effort then I’m sure it wouldn’t be beyond them.

Native support for AsciiDoc and Markdown

Lots of apps such as IA Writer and Typora use Markdown as their native format, so it would be great if Vellum could read MD files in directly without having to faff around with converting it to .docx first. I added AsciiDoc to the list because I’ve started using it a lot more in my day job and I find it a lot more expressive that MarkDown.

Process individual chapters

Right now, producing your ePubs and PDFs for print is an all-or-nothing deal: you can’t select individual chapters or groups of chapters and just render those. Why would you need to do this? Well, you might want to send a few chapters as an agent submission, or perhaps you might want to submit a handful of pages to your writer’s group.

Generation sets

Yup, I sort of made that up, but it sort of ties in with the last point. You can only have one set of options for generating your books (page size, book styles, type of output etc.). What would be great if you could save these setups and then select one when it comes time to generate the book.

So that’s kind of it really. Nothing there is a deal breaker, which is why I’ve been using the app for years. If you want to create books with absolutely zero effort aside from what you need to write it, then Vellum is definitely worth a look.

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