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.

Then...

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:



-Sage
October 24, 2016

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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.

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VELLUM POSTSCRIPT:

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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