Vellum has been a big name in the indie author community for a while now. A lot of authors love it. But Vellum is a bit pricey. And it’s only available for Mac, which plays into the whole Mac vs. PC debate — something I won’t get into today. What I will get into are some cheaper (and better) Vellum alternatives. So don’t run out and buy a Mac just to use Vellum. Read on to find out the best formatting software that rivals Vellum!
What I’m Looking For
Before we get into the list, let’s take a quick minute to set some parameters. After all, a good alternative to Vellum needs to do the things that Vellum does just as well or better. So let’s take a look at why people like Vellum:
Pros of Vellum:
- It formats beautiful print and ebooks – for a price.
- It provides pre-designed templates to choose from.
- It features a preview tool to see how your book will look.
Okay, so we’ve got our positives. I want to make sure all our alternatives are at least somewhat comperable to these. But what about the Vellum negatives? There are a few.
Cons of Vellum:
- It’s WAAAAYYY expensive – $199 for unlimited ebooks and $249 for unlimited print and ebooks.
- It’s only available on Mac. (THIS IS HUGE!)
- There are limited customization options.
- It struggles with formatting some types of images.
- There’s no option for footnotes – only endnotes.
Now we’ve got our parameters! Let’s see how these Vellum software alternatives measure up.
The Best Vellum Alternative: Atticus Writing and Formatting Software
Atticus is the new kid on the block, and this book writing and formatting software is already an indie author favorite. Created by Dave Chesson, the guy behind Kindlepreneur and Publisher Rocket, Atticus gets my vote for the best overall Vellum alternative.
The goal in creating Atticus was to take the best features of all writing and formatting software options and combine them into one. And I think they nailed it.
But it’s not just formatting software. There are all kinds of features included to help you write your book, including ProWritingAid integration, drag-and-drop sections, word count goal tools, a built-in timer, and many more. Best of all, you can use it on Mac, PC, Chromebook, Linux, or your internet browser.
How Atticus Compares to Vellum
- Formats beautiful print and ebooks – for cheaper.
- It’s designed for writing and formatting books.
- There’s a wide range of pre-designed templates to choose from.
- You can preview your finished print and ebooks before exporting.
- Helps you stay on track with word count goal tools and a built-in timer.
- Will have collaboration capabilities, allowing you to invite your editor or co-author to make changes.
- Available for all major operating systems. (THIS IS A BIG REASON WHY ATTICUS IS SUPERIOR)
- Great for images, footnotes, and endnotes.
Here is a breakdown of how the two measure up:
|Pricing||$199 for ebook|
$249 for ebook and paperback
|$147 for ebook and paperback||Visit Atticus.|
|Volumes and Parts||Visit Vellum|
|Chapter Theme Generator||Tie|
|Ease of Use||Tie|
|Reusable Elements||Visit Atticus.|
|Online/Offline Features||Visit Atticus.|
|Word Processor||Visit Atticus.|
|Goal Setting||Visit Atticus.|
|Check it Out!||Check it Out!|
While Vellum’s main purpose is to format and deliver professionally formatted print and ebook files, Scrivener is more of a writing tool. However, since you can also format for print or ebook through Scrivener — and since it’s such a popular writing software — I’d be remiss not to include it here.
Behind Atticus, Scrivener is the next best Vellum alternative, in my humble opinion. You can use it on both Mac and Windows. The only problem is you have to buy separate licenses for them, which is a little frustrating. But if you only want to use it on one operating system, you’re looking at spending $49 — and some time to learn the software.
In fact, that’s the main complaint about Scrivener: it’s hard to learn. It’s a feature-heavy software, and it can sag under the weight of those features if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But if you’re going to take a Microsoft Word document and upload it to Scrivener to format an ebook file, for example, you can figure it out pretty quickly. But if you’re the type of writer who jumps around, makes lots of notes, and likes to rearrange your chapters, you’ll need to set aside some time to learn Scrivener.
How Scrivener Compares to Vellum
- One price for ebook and print book formatting.
- Designed for writing and formatting.
- You can use it on Mac or Windows.
- It’s not as intuitive as Vellum for formatting.
- Not a clear way to see what your finished book will look like until it’s done.
- It’s only $49 — or $80 for the Mac/Windows bundle.
For Designers: Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is one of many powerful design tools that come with an Adobe Creative Cloud membership. Actually, you can just pay for Adobe InDesign by itself, or you can pay a bit more for the other apps, as well. And if you’re familiar with the Adobe family of apps, this could be a legit alternative to the Vellum software.
However, I wouldn’t suggest going for InDesign if you’re not at least passingly familiar with the Adobe tools. While Scrivener comes with a steep learning curve, InDesign comes with an even steeper one. And those who aren’t design-minded often have a hard time getting the hang of this software.
That said, it is a powerful tool that you can use to format both EPUB and print-ready PDF files. But since the software isn’t explicitly designed for book formatting, you’ll have to do more work to make sure everything is up to snuff.
And when you can achieve amazing ebook and print book files using tools like Atticus in a matter of minutes, there’s really no reason to use InDesign unless you already have it or you want to learn more advanced design practices for formatting magazines and the like..
How Adobe InDesign Compares to Vellum
- Subscription-based formatting for $20.99/month just for InDesign or $52.99/month for the Creative Cloud suite, which includes InDesign.
- Not designed solely for book formatting.
- You can choose from lots of different book templates through Adobe and third-party creators.
- It has a steep learning curve.
- Available on both Mac and PC.
A Free But Limited Option: The Reedsy Book Editor
Reedsy is a well-known name in the self-publishing world. They hook authors up with professionals such as editors, cover designers, and yes, even people to help you with book layout design. But they also offer a free formatting tool that can help you turn your MS Word or Google Docs manuscript into a fine-looking book file.
This is the only free option on the list, and Reedsy definitely deserves props for creating this tool that anyone can use (as long as you have a Reedsy account, which is free). You access it in your web browser, choosing from three different formatting styles and some basic options. Then, you have them format the book and wait until the EPUB file or PDF file lands in your inbox.
You can use the editing/formatting tool to write your manuscript, and Reedsy will save it for you. Or you can import a Microsoft word file (any docx file) and then format the book from there.
For authors on a really tight budget, the Reedsy Book Editor is a great choice. It’s pretty easy to use, and certainly doesn’t overwhelm you with amazing options. For some, this is okay. Many new authors are excited and just want to get their book uploaded through Kindle Direct Publishing. But the limited options it offers can leave your self-published book looking a little lackluster.
How the Reedsy Book Editor Compares to Vellum
- Free to use and designed for book formatting.
- You access it through your browser, so your OS doesn’t matter.
- Three pre-designed templates to choose from.
- It lacks a real-time preview tool — you have to export your book to see how it looks.
- Barebones design options limit what you can achieve.
Verdict: The Best Vellum Alternative is…Atticus
This list is by no means extensive in terms of book formatting options. There are many other tools out there, such as Affinity Publisher, Xara Designer Pro, and Swift Publisher. And if you’re looking to sharpen (or develop) your overall design skills, you may want to look at these tools or stick with something like Adobe InDesign.
However, I think these tools are from an era when formatting was complicated and painstaking unless you know what you were doing. Things have changed in recent years.
And this is the main reason why I recommend Atticus overall. It’s very easy to use, it won’t break the bank, and there are a ton of formatting options that come pre-loaded. You can put stunning images in your nonfiction book, or you can publish your text-heavy fiction works just as easily!