Vellum 1.3.7

Vellum 1.3.7 is a minor update that includes the following fixes:

  • Vellum will now prompt you to save an unsaved file before generating
  • Small-caps appear in books generated using Vellum on OS X 10.11.4
  • Italics defined in Word styles import correctly, for better compatibility with writing tools like Ulysses
  • Ornamental breaks updated to avoid limitations of Amazon’s Enhanced Typesetting
  • Large images are centered correctly for the Kindle Voyage and latest Paperwhite
  • Quotation marks before drop caps have more consistent position across Kindle devices
  • Grammar checking now highlights and replaces the specific words to change
  • Addressed rare crashes that could occur when performing a Find operation

Vellum 1.3.7 is a free update, available now for Direct users. It has been submitted to the Mac App Store for approval.

Update 4/11: Vellum 1.3.7 is now available from the Mac App Store.

Problems with KDP Online Previewer

In the last week, we’ve received reports that the Amazon KDP Online Previewer, available after uploading your book, has ceased to function for many books generated by Vellum. When launched, the KDP Previewer shows a spinner for some time before finally displaying an error:

The server is down or took too long to respond

We’ve verified that this happens with both newly- and previously-uploaded books, including books that once displayed in the online previewer without issue. Judging from the reports we’ve received, problems with the previewer began about a week ago.

This bug is limited to the KDP Online Previewer. The apps and devices used by readers are not affected, nor are features such as Look Inside.

After some search, we have found at least one specific bit of styling code (CSS) that triggers the problem (though there may be others). A media query that operates on the dimensions of a reader’s device causes the online previewer to fail. For example:

@media (device-width: 768px) {
    h1 {
        font-size: 120%;
    }
}

Media queries like the above allow for style to be adjusted according to the size of a screen, and Vellum uses them to compensate for the inconsistencies in layout across Amazon’s devices. They are perfectly valid CSS and are even discussed in Amazon’s Publishing Guidelines [PDF]. These media queries function across Amazon’s devices and apps and, until recently, caused no problems with Amazon’s Online Previewer.

We are sometimes able to work around Amazon’s bugs, but we can’t work around this one without affecting how books are seen by readers. Unfortunately, a remedy for this bug can only come from Amazon.

We have filed a report and contacted KDP about this issue. If you encounter this bug with your own books, we encourage you to do the same, and welcome you to link to this post for background. Given that this only recently broke, and given that we have narrowed the problem down to this very specific bit of CSS, we hope that if Amazon is made aware of this issue, then they will be able to address it quickly.

In the meantime, we recommend using other means to preview your books, as discussed in our guide to Proofing Your eBook.

Update 5/24/16: A few users have received responses from Amazon confirming this issue and that it will be resolved “once [Amazon releases] an updated version of the Online Previewer.”

Update 1/27/17: Amazon’s recent update to the KDP Online Previewer appears to have fixed this issue. Unfortunately, we have now noticed that, in some cases, this preview does not exactly match what your readers will see. To get the best idea of how your books will look, we still recommend proofing as described in our guide to Proofing Your eBook.

Kindle eBooks and the Table of Contents

Recently, some authors have been affected by a change in Amazon’s policy toward eBooks that include a Table of Contents (TOC) at the end. Although this technique has long been used to prevent the TOC from taking up space within the Look Inside, Amazon has since decided to not allow it, in some cases removing books from sale until they are updated.

Although by default Vellum places a Table of Contents in the front of your eBooks, it also includes a switch that, when turned off, caused the TOC to be placed in the back:

Table of Contents Settings for Insert at Beginning of Book

You will want to revisit any Kindle eBooks you’ve generated with this switch turned off. By re-enabling Insert at beginning of book in TOC Settings, your book will include an HTML TOC in the front, which is what Amazon recommends.

But we know that many authors would prefer to not have a TOC as a page in the book, especially since it is included within Amazon’s Look Inside.

And so, with Vellum 1.3.6, we are changing the behavior of this switch. When on, it behaves as before, and an HTML TOC will be included at the beginning. When off, however, the HTML TOC will be omitted entirely. (In either case, the logical TOC, a hidden file that informs navigation, is always included.)

When choosing to exclude the HTML TOC, please take into consideration that, although the Kindle Guidelines do not state that it is required, including an HTML TOC is “strongly recommended.”

Vellum 1.3.6 is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, click Check for Updates to download it now.

Update 3/16: Amazon has since posted an announcement stating that “absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines.” Given the severity of Amazon’s actions (which included citing these guidelines), we are waiting for more information before making any further changes to Vellum’s behavior.

Vellum 1.3.5

We’re pleased to announce the release of Vellum 1.3.5, a minor update with the following new features:

  • Optionally use your own URLs for Store Links, should you want to create an evergreen link or use an alternative linking service.

    Custom Store Links

    You can read more about Custom Store Links on our Store Links Help Page

  • Use the right mouse menu in the Text Editor to Apply Smart Quotes to a selection

Vellum 1.3.5 also includes these smaller improvements:

  • Improved legibility of the Trace book style on eInk readers
  • Restored missing Paragraph After Break style for Trace
  • Fixed TOC layout issues for multiple-author anthologies
  • Improved sorting when dropping multiple Word files onto the Navigator
  • Fixed potential crashes when creating Store Links

Updating

This update is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, click Check for Updates to download it now.

If you downloaded Vellum from the Mac App Store, then this update will be available after it is approved by Apple, a process that typically takes about a week. To learn more about how to upgrade to this latest version of Vellum, please read our guide to Updating Vellum.

Update 3/4: Vellum 1.3.5 is now available from the Mac App Store.

Vellum 1.3.4

We’re happy to announce Vellum 1.3.4, an update with these new features:

Create Bulleted and Numbered Lists

You can now create lists in Vellum and import them from your manuscript. Use lists for the ingredients in your recipe, steps toward inner peace, or items in your heroine’s bug-out bag.

Lists can be created in Vellum's Text Editor

Use Affiliate Links for Kobo and Barnes & Noble

Vellum can now construct affiliate links for Kobo and Barnes & Noble. Just enter your affiliate codes in your Store Link Preferences, and Vellum will do the rest.

Add affiliate codes in Vellum Preferences

Restore Purchased Licenses

Setting up a new MacBook from scratch? Now, you can restore your license using Vellum. Use the Restore… button in Vellum’s Purchases window.

Restore a purchase in Vellum

Other Improvements

Vellum 1.3.4 also includes these improvements:

  • Better integration with Spotlight, so you can quickly find Vellum files
  • New warnings for invalid links, which are now excluded from eBooks
  • More responsive Preview for chapters with many images
  • Improved Preview accuracy for small images and iBooks hyphenation
  • Fixed potential crashes when using Find, Copy/Paste, and other Text Editor features
  • Improved import for manuscripts without chapter titles
  • Terminology customization now includes Title Page
  • Non-breaking spaces are now included among Invisible Characters shown in the Text Editor

Updating

This update is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, click Check for Updates to download it now.

If you downloaded Vellum from the Mac App Store, then this update will be available after it is approved by Apple, a process that typically takes about a week. To learn more about how to upgrade to this latest version of Vellum, please read our guide to Updating Vellum.

Update 1/29: Vellum 1.3.4 is now available from the Mac App Store.

Vellum 1.3.3

Vellum 1.3.3 is now available for both Direct and Mac App Store Users.

This update is primarily for Mac App Store users, who experienced issues generating Kindle eBooks after updating to OS X 10.11.2.

The Mac App Store version of Vellum addresses these issues with a change to where the KindleGen program is stored. This means affected users will need to download KindleGen again. Vellum will guide you through these steps, also described on the Installing KindleGen Help Page.

The Direct version of Vellum was not affected by 10.11.2, and KindleGen will continue to function in its current location.

In both versions, Vellum 1.3.3 addresses a few minor issues:

  • Leading chapter numbers are now shown in the logical Table of Contents for Nook and Generic EPUB
  • Alignment Blocks in the Copyright use a tighter line spacing
  • You can now specify Russian as the language of your eBook

When you are on your Mac, click the following link to update to 1.3.3: Check for Updates.

Kindle generation problems for Mac App Store users

Earlier this week, Apple released an update to OS X El Capitan (10.11.2). We’ve since discovered that this update breaks Kindle generation in versions of Vellum that have been downloaded from the Mac App Store (MAS).

We’re currently looking for a solution, and have informed Apple of this issue as well. If you haven’t already updated to the latest version of El Capitan, we recommend waiting until we have more information. If you have updated, however, and you are having problems generating for Kindle, we recommend migrating over to the Direct version of Vellum, which is not affected by the update.

Migrating is simple, and will not cause you to lose your purchases or your documents. Instructions can be found on the Vellum Tips Help Page.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Update 12/18: These issues have been addressed with Vellum 1.3.3.

Vellum 1.3.2

We’re happy to announce Vellum 1.3.2, a small update with fixes and a few gifts as well:

Snowflake Heading Style

Getting ready to publish a holiday-themed book? Add a touch of winter with a new snowflake heading style:
Book using Snowflake Heading Style
To use this heading style, select Kindred as your Book Style, then find the snowflake among options for Heading. A new snowflake Ornamental Break is also available, and can be used with any Book Style.

Volume Author

If you’re putting together a multi-author box set, you can now credit the author of each Volume, including their name on the Volume’s title page and in the Table of Contents:
eBooks table of contents with Volume Authors

You can add an author to a Volume just like a subtitle, using the Heading gear menu. More details can be found in our guide to creating box sets with multiple authors.

Credit Translators, Illustrators, and others

Publishing a foreign edition and want to credit the translator? Or want to list the illustrator of the artwork in your book? You can now include contributors like these on your book’s title page:
eBook including credit for translation

Contributors are added the same way additional authors are, using a new popup to define their role. More details can be found in the help page for Book Info.

Updating

This update is available to Direct users today. If you are reading this on your Mac, you can click Check for Updates to download it now, or use the item of the same name in the Vellum menu. If you downloaded Vellum from the Mac App Store, this update will be available after it is approved by Apple (a process that typically takes about a week).

Update 11/25: Vellum 1.3.2 is now available from the Mac App Store.

Vellum 1.3.1

Vellum 1.3.1 is a minor update that includes the following improvements:

  • Support for El Capitan’s new Split View feature
  • Optional use of Amazon affiliate code for Store Links *
  • More reliable chapter detection when importing docx files
  • Improved behavior for Find commands

Vellum 1.3.1 is a free update, available now for Direct users. It has been submitted to the Mac App Store for approval.

* Amazon’s affiliate program includes restrictions about where affiliate links can be included and the types of products that can be linked to. Please check with Amazon’s Operating Agreement and Fee Schedule before using.

Update 10/22: Vellum 1.3.1 is now available from the Mac App Store as well.

Even More Details about KENPC

Earlier this year, we released an update that addressed a lower-than-expected page count (KENPC) for eBooks listed with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. That change, detailed in a previous post, made page counts for eBooks created with Vellum comparable to eBooks formatted with other methods. However, we’ve recently received questions about a few eBooks that, when upgraded to use Vellum, resulted in a lower KENPC than before.

Providing an answer to these questions required some understanding of how KENPC is calculated. Many have wondered if KENPC is based on metrics like file size, character count, number of locations, or if it’s computed by analyzing the internal structure of files within an eBook.

After some tests, it seems that KENPC is computed in a manner similar to the page count of a physical book. The same factors that would affect a physical page count can change KENPC.

That means, for example, that specifying a large font for your eBook can actually increase the KENPC:

Book with normal font sizeBook with large font size
A book with a larger font size (right) can have a higher KENPC.

In our test, specifying a larger-than-normal font size increased page count by 25%. Greater line spacing, added paragraph spacing — essentially, all the tricks you learned to stretch the length of a term paper — can also be used to increase page count.

But it can go the other way, too: some styling changes can decrease KENPC. Changing text to use standard indentation and spacing creates a more professional result, but can lower page count (though typically by a smaller amount):

Book with large indentation and spacingBook with standard indentation and spacing
A book that uses standard, more professional typesetting (right) can have a lower KENPC.

These differences are, of course, something most thought shouldn’t happen with KENPC. The N in KENPC stands for normalized, and Amazon claims that KENPC calculations are “based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.).” Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

We understand that KENPC affects income, and so we’ve debated adding options like a larger font size, or extra paragraph spacing. But we don’t think that’s the right choice. These options would produce less attractive books, create a poor experience for the reader, and ultimately harm all authors enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. So at this time, we are not adding any options solely for the sake of increasing KENPC.

We’ve heard rumors of improvements to Amazon’s KENPC calculations that would address these differences, and prevent authors from feeling like they need to choose between reader experience and additional income. We sincerely hope they pan out.

Update 2/1/16: Amazon has released KENPC 2.0.