Monday, October 24, 2016

Formatting Pictureless Picturebooks the Easy Way - With Vellum

In THE PICTURELESS PICTUREBOOK MANIFESTO, I promised to answer this follow-up question here and in some detail:

Q: How exactly did you format and publish your Books With No Pictures Series? What software did you use, and what technical details can you share?

The short answer is I used Vellum eBook formatting software for all seven titles (to date). 

[See Vellum Postscript below for more details about Vellum licensing, etc.]

If you aren’t familiar with the Books With No Pictures Series, it consists of seven titles:

  1. Cardboard Box
  2. Mama Duck
  3. Piggies & Toes
  4. Eskimo Kisses
  5. Human Beans 
  6. Bossy Pants &
  7. Green Boat


Each is literally a children’s picturebook without the pictures. Or a Pictureless Picturebook (aka a Book With No Pictures). However you want to say it.

The long answer starts with this truth about Vellum:

It was designed for self-publishers, among others, to format their novels and nonfiction books, which have in common that they are narrative texts that build through a series of chapters.

It was not designed for children’s picturebooks, even without the pictures, since they have no chapters.

It was, however, FREE to me, since I had long ago purchased and fully amortized the cost of a lifetime license. (Again, see Vellum Postscript below for details on this.)

So, here’s how I used Vellum to format my Books With No Pictures:

This is so simple, but it took a lot of trial and error to figure out.

Basically, I did two things:

One, I turned off the Table of Contents feature.

You can find out from Vellum Help how to do this - but it’s what you want to do.

Children’s picturebooks don’t have (you may have noticed) tables of contents.


Two, (because Vellum is locked into chapter-formatting assumptions) I gave each chapter the same 1-digit name.

The digit I used was a hyphen: “-”.

(I would like to have left the Chapter field blank instead, but in Vellum that would have given each chapter the name “Untitled” -a quirk in the software I had to work around.)

So, literally, I’d open a new chapter in Vellum software and for its title, I would insert a hyphen.

What this did was create something so small on the computer (laptop or smart phone) screen that it “disappears” or goes unnoticed. After several pages, it seems like a mere graphic tic.

For the body of the new chapter, I would insert the words for a single page of text.

I’d save my work and move on to the next “chapter” -i.e. enter a hyphen for its title and cut and paste in the next single page of text.

In this way, I built each book page-by-page. (Most children’s picturebooks have 32 pages or less, as a reference).

What this produced was a very clean, almost elegant, presentation of the page-by-page narrative of a children’s picturebook without the pictures.

I did this X 7 books.

My suggestion is, you do the same.

If I can help, please comment below or send an email to me c/o:

October 24, 2016


P.S. You can, by the way, include images in Vellum chapters. It’s easy, but that didn’t help me in adapting Vellum for use in formatting my Books With No Pictures. I say this only because I don’t want you to think Vellum is unfriendly to the inclusion of images. Quite the contrary. It handles them quite well.



Vellum is Mac OS X software that helps you create beautiful eBooks for Kindle, iBooks, Nook and most other distributors in an elegantly simple way. 

I recommend it highly and am not compensated in any way for my recommendation.

As of this writing (10/24/2016), you can buy a one-book license from Vellum for $29. Or a 10-book license for $99. 

If you are in the self-publishing game for the long haul, purchase a lifetime license for all the books you write for only $199

To get started, my suggestion is: purchase a one-book license to see if you like it. (Test but verify using the Ronald Reagan Method.) If you are going to write ebooks as a long-term adventure, I think you will buy the lifetime license.  It's what I did.

Fourteen ebooks later, my average cost for formatting an ebook has been $14.07. With Vellum costs now fully amortized, the marginal cost for each new ebook I format will be ZERO. (Of course, I will be investing my time in doing something I could contract out, but I have more time than money. And with Vellum, once I’d formatted a couple of books, the process became fairly quick.) 

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