For years authors have been hoping for something that makes book formatting easier. Vellum is a great solution for Mac users but there’s never been anything comparable to it for PC users, who have to rely on buggy formatting with MS Word, a steeper learning curve with InDesign, or some functional but limited online book formatting tools like those from Reedsy or Draft2Digital.
I’ve invested in cover design tools, templates and tutorials for years and my book formatting templates have been a useful but imperfect solution for a difficult problem. Luckily, there’s a brand new software from Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur that was custom built to make this process easier for authors.
Dave and I have kept touch on projects for many years and after creating his own successful software to help with keyword and category research (Publisher Rocket) he’s invested in a software team to help him create new products: we both agreed that a “Vellum for PC” tool is desperately needed and would be wildly profitable, if he could pull it off.
Now the tool is nearly done and I’ve been given the honor of “stress testing” it to provide feedback. I’ve done this for numerous tools over the past few years and routinely end up disappointed by tools without any innovative features, that don’t actually solve the core problems.
When looking for a book formatting tool, it needs to be easy, while also creating high quality, professional design. Headers, footers, page numbers, a TOC, adding front and back matter, including images and chapter headings, and making a simple universal format that easily converts to both print and ebook formats is difficult.
And while I’ll often sacrifice design for ease of use and functionality (I’d rather convert a whole book that looks OK and doesn’t break, in 20 minutes, than spend days of pedantic work converting and preparing individual sections for a more unique style), it’s ALSO important, to me at least, to make my book design unique enough that it doesn’t look like every other book – chosen from one of 5 design styles, for example.
I’m explaining all this so that you know, as a book designer, I have a lot of experience with similar softwares and am critical of newfound solutions. I’m optimistic, and eager, but I also won’t be easily impressed if a new tool lacks purpose and isn’t significantly better than all current solutions.
Dave currently says his new tool, which is called Atticus “is like Scrivener got together with Google Docs and Vellum and had a baby.”
Tonight I actually had a call with him to talk through some of the features, and the team is already working on a lot of fun and useful things. Here’s a quick recap of what the tool should be capable of:
- Writing the book (with cool charts, amount of time spent, word count goals, a place for notes). We discussed optional outlining templates or formats; most likely when it’s ready I’ll just make a version of my 24 chapter outline templates you can upload into the tool). You can also drag and drop chapters and subsections around, like you can in Scrivener (you *can* do this in Word, but most authors don’t know that).
- Editing the book (collaboration tabs will allow for co-authoring, editing roles that track changes, and even allowing betareaders piracy-free reading options (comments, but no copy+paste or changes). You can upload docx files or write from scratch within the program.
- Book formatting (for print and ebook; hopefully with very simple, yet stylish and well-designed, options to make your book look great without enough options that non-designers will accidentally make it look terrible.)
The only one I’m really interested in, the only one I really need, is the third: I write on my iPhone with the iAwriter app. I plot and outline in MS Word, write on my phone for sprints with a bluetooth keyboard, and import my words into my Word outline before heavy revisions and editing. I also will use the Grammarly and ProwritingAid plugins for MS Word in a final round of proofreading for typos (Dave says they’re already looking into adding those proofing programs to Atticus as well, fingers crossed).
It would be hard for any program to do all of this effectively… but I don’t need it to. All I really need, is something to easily and quickly format my books and make them look beautiful and professional, without dreary and pedantic hours in Word setting everything up. I’m very close to buying a new Macbook ONLY for Vellum, which I know many authors have already done. But now I’m going to wait and see whether Atticus meets my needs enough to stick with just one computer, which is obviously ideal.
I’ll do a full video review of the software once it’s up and running, as soon as I can get my hands on it, so check back here if you want to see how it all looks and my final comments.
Here’s a link, Atticus is now live!
Here’s a useful, longer walkthrough of all the features.
What about Scrivener & Vellum?
Vellum is basically Atticus for Mac; it’s beautiful, smooth and easy to use. You *can* use a mac in cloud service to access it on a PC, but it’s much less convenient. However, Vellum version 3 now has full page design graphics, which is pretty amazing, but more than you’ll probably need.
Book Formatting in MS Word
I still write all my books in MS Word, and in a pinch, I’ll just do a quick formatting job and upload my manuscript straight to KDP (they will convert it to an epub for you, but only if you did a basic formatting job or it can get messy).
When I want my books to look great and professional, I use Vellum. Even though it’s fast, you may want to spend extra time designing full page backgrounds or chapter images. It makes things easier, and better – but it’s not absolutely necessary. You can grab my formatting templates here and get some detailed tutorials on book formatting:
Best free fonts to use for book formatting
This is a bigger conversation; for ebooks you can’t really set the fonts, so go with something simple. Vellum and Atticus will give you a few basic options and while you *can* embed fonts in an epub, you probably don’t want to because it won’t work on all devices so you risk your ebook looking broken.
For a paperback, you can and should choose fonts that match your genre; but they should also match the style of your book cover design which is by far the most important part – so get the cover right first and match formatting fonts if you can, without going crazy – your formatting should be clean and easy to read. Here’s a big list of free fonts I’ll be updating soon.
What about Adobe Indesign for book formatting?
MS Word sucks for formatting, but it’s what people are used to. Adobe InDesign was developed as a book formatting software, so it’s much better – but also much harder to use. I do have a package of free Adobe InDesign formatting templates on diybookformats.com, but I don’t use InDesign because it’s nowhere near as smooth or fluid as a formatting software like Vellum or Atticus. I’m surprised in the 2 decades I’ve been self-publishing, we still don’t have better solutions for this problem, but keep it simple and make sure it’s clean and functional, that’s the important thing. Don’t get distracted by trying to make your book formatting perfect or agonizing about little things – it’s frustrating for example you can’t change the margins in Vellum (I don’t appreciate where the headers and page numbers line up, too close to the text – but even professional design changes, so the way I was taught was “right” or “most beautiful” isn’t more important than getting the project done and readers will likewise adapt to new versions.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.