Create a table of contents for an ebook anthology using volumes in Vellum

A ‘volume’ in Vellum is a way to group things together. Volumes can be used to associate content with individual authors and generate a table of contents for an anthology.

What is an ‘element’ in Vellum?

A book in Vellum is made up of a collection of elements. Each element can be formatted differently, displayed or hidden, appear/not appear in the Table of Contents, etc.

For example, the Chapter element can be configured to automatically display the chapter number at the beginning of each chapter, and the first paragraph in every chapter will have the same style applied.

Initial setup

  • Create a Chapter element for each story, and place the contents of the story in this element.
  • For each story, create an About the Author element after the author’s Chapter element, and add the author’s biography, links, etc. to this element.
  • Generate the ebook.

Your file and the generated table of contents should look something like this:

The table of contents correctly lists each story, but does not display the author’s name, and the ‘About the Author’ sections are displayed – but they look jammed in, plus it’s a little unclear which author each one links to.

This is super easy to fix!

Modify the structure to generate the new TOC format

  • In Vellum, select both the Chapter and About the Author elements for a story. Right-click and choose ‘Create Volume from Selection.’

  • Change the name of the volume to the name of the story.

  • Select the volume page, and then select ‘Add Author’ from the dropdown. Add the name of the author.
  • Select the chapter page, and then select ‘Hide Heading in Ebook’ from the dropdown.
  • Edit the Table of Contents settings, and uncheck ‘List elements within Volumes.’

  • Generate the ebook.

Your Volume should look like this.

And your Chapter like this.

Now your generated table of contents displays each author’s name, their story title with a link, and the about the author links no longer appear in the table of contents.

Make sure to test your ebook on multiple devices and make sure everything looks as expected.

This particular configuration mysteriously adds blank pages on the Mac OS X version of the Kindle, but looks fine on the Kindle apps on the iPhone, iPad, etc.


Software versions

Versions used in this post:

  • Vellum 2.0.5
  • macOS High Sierra 10.13.1

The differences between bundles and collaborations on BundleRabbit

BundleRabbit was initially created as a story bundling platform. It now offers another feature: collaborative projects, often referred to as ‘collaborations.’


curator: The person who organizes the bundle/collaboration. (Note that curation for a single collection may be done by several people working together, just like an anthology could have multiple editors.)

author: An author of a story included in a bundle/collaboration.

content marketplace: An area on BundleRabbit where curators can browse existing ebooks and contact authors to invite them to participate in a bundle.

What is a bundle on BundleRabbit?

A bundle is a collection of ebooks that is organized by a curator. It’s essentially a box set of stories, whether they’re short stories, novellas, novels, or a combination. The curator selects the stories, and BundleRabbit compiles all of the the ebooks into one big ebook.

What does the curator do?

  • Sets the theme for the bundle.
  • Decides what story lengths are allowed.
  • Invites authors to participate. This can be done by contacting an author personally, by requesting a story via the content marketplace on BundleRabbit, or by a combination of both depending on the author/story.
  • Each ebook has its own cover and sales copy, both provided by the author; the curator is responsible for creating the cover and sales copy for the entire collection.

What is a collaborative project (aka collaboration) on BundleRabbit?

A collaborative project, or collaboration, is a collection of stories organized by a curator. It’s closer to an anthology than to a box set. The curator selects the stories and combines them all into an ebook.

What does the curator do?

  • Sets the theme for the bundle.
  • Decides what story lengths are allowed.
  • Invites authors to participate. This is currently done by contacting the author personally (i.e. not through the content marketplace, although you can find authors/stories there and then contact them offline).
  • Creates the cover and sales copy for the entire collection.

What are the differences between bundles and collaborative projects?

What Bundle Collaboration
Percentage of revenue split between curator & authors 75%

5% goes to the curator; the rest is split equallybetween the authors

The curator sets the percentage that goes to each person involved in the collaboration; different percentages can be given to different people
Available on BundleRabbit yes no

(will likely be added in 2018)

Available on other sales channels (Amazon, etc.) yes yes
Print available? no yes
Ebook formatting, cover, sales copy Each author formats their own ebook, provides their own cover, and writes their own sales copy; the curator provides one overall cover, and writes the sales copy for the collection Authors provide their manuscripts to the curator; the curator formats the single ebook, provides one cover, and writes the sales copy for the collection
Formatting consistency Formatting varies by author The curator formats the ebook, and can choose to have consistent formatting for all stories

In either situation, the curator may act as an editor – however, this would be handled between the authors/curator directly (i.e. outside of BundleRabbit).


Which approach a curator should pick will depend on factors like the content being included, the amount of work the curator intends to invest in creating the collection, and the goals of the curator.

For example, if you’re creating a collection that will include ten novels, a bundle will allow each author to format their own book exactly how they want it – which means that there could be significant differences in formatting from book to book. A collection of ten short stories, however, might look better if all of the stories were formatted the same way.

One way to think about this is to compare a collection to the more traditional forms of anthologies and box sets. In an anthology, there’s a standard look and feel; with a box set, each title can look very different.

A collaboration requires more work from the curator, since the curator must combine all of the manuscripts into one ebook; with a bundle, BundleRabbit does the combination.

A collaboration also provides a finer level of control. For example, the curator can write an introduction to the collection, an afterward, and can do custom things like add images in between each story; with a bundle, the formatting is handled by BundleRabbit, and cannot be customized.

Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages – you just need to figure out which one works best for your situation.

And regardless of whether or not you go with a bundle or a collaboration, BundleRabbit handles the revenue split, and takes care of delivering royalty payments to the curator and the authors. 🙂


Create and customize Universal Book Links with Books2Read

Books2Read, which is part of Draft2Digital, offers a free service where you can create a custom URL which will direct readers to just about every online bookstore you can think of.

A universal book link is a custom URL that provides links to every site your book is available. This means you can provide one link in an email, web page, etc., and readers will be able to select whichever store they want to purchase your book at. A reader can also set their preference so they always go directly to their preferred store.


You either have an existing Draft2Digital account (which you can use to log in to the Books2Read site), or have created a Books2Read account.

Create a universal book link

  • Copy the URL to your book from an online bookstore (ex. Amazon).
  • Log in to the Books2Read website.
  • Paste the URL to your book at the online bookstore where you see ‘Paste a link to your book’ on the Books2Read page.

  • Click on ‘Make My Universal Link’.
    Your custom link will be displayed. You can copy this link and use it anywhere you want.

Customize your universal book link

In addition to creating a universal link, you can customize this link to make it more reader-friendly.

  • Go to the page that lists the details for your universal book link and look in ‘Link Tools’ in the left-hand column.
  • Click on ‘Custom name your URL.’
  • Enter your custom name, then click on SAVE.

Manually updating store links

Books2Read will take the bookstore link you provide and search for that book at other stores. It may miss some stores, so make sure to verify what it’s found.

For example, here’s the universal book link for The Faerie Summer.

It shows that this collection is available at four stores, but it doesn’t list either iBooks or Barnes & Noble, so those two stores need to be added manually.

  • Go to the Universal Links section in Books2Read and click on the book title.
  • Paste the link to your book at the missing store in the appropriate field.

  • Click the text ‘Lock In’ to the right of the link you just provided.
  • Verify that the new store(s) appear on your universal book link page.


Interview: Mark Fassett and the TrackerBox Mac Kickstarter

What is TrackerBox?

TrackerBox is software for writers that takes all of the reports they get from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and a host of other distributors, and organizes them into a single, manageable set of reports.

TrackerBox is currently only supported on Windows, but there’s a Kickstarter campaign to fund development of TrackerBox Mac!

The Kickstarter ends on Friday, November 17th 2017, so check it out if you’d like to see a Mac version of this extremely handy tool become reality!

Meet Mark!

Mark is an author, musician, software developer, and the creator of both StoryBox, a tool for writing and publishing, and TrackerBox.

The Interview

What exactly does TrackerBox do, and why does it save authors/publishers so much time?

TrackerBox will take the spreadsheets you download from the various booksellers like Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo, and it will put them into a single database. Then you can use the various reports and filters that TrackerBox provides to look at your sales data almost any way you choose (you can’t look at it upside down, of course). The biggest benefit, I think, is that it usually only takes a minute or so to import all of the sales data from all of your various booksellers. It will take a bit longer if you’ve added new books or a new bookseller as you have to answer a couple questions each time TrackerBox sees anything it doesn’t recognize.

What retailers and distributors does TrackerBox support, and do you have plans to add more?

There’s a long list, and it’s only getting longer. It supports the major players, Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and Nook Press, but it also supports quite a few distributors like Draft2Digital, Smashwords, XinXii, and recently added Pronoun. CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and Lulu are supported if you sell paper books, and ACX for audiobooks. That’s most of them, I think.

What’s involved with adding support for the Mac?

The Windows version was written in a language called C# and I used some software from another company to help me make it all pretty (well, as pretty as I can get it). That software is not available on the Mac (and C# isn’t really available in a way that I like, either), so I have to redo pretty much all of the code from scratch for OS X.

What kinds of reports can be generated? For example, suppose an author wants to drill down into sales of one series, or just look at sales of their stories in bundles.

You can see Net Sales or Net Income overall, or by title, or by title and vendor, and you can filter them pretty much any way you like: by Author, Title, Bookseller, Date, Sales type (Sales, Page Reads, Borrows, or Free), and more.

Also, I recently introduced filter sets into the Windows version, which lets you save a set of filters and recall them by selecting the filterset from a list. You can use this to do things like select all the titles in a series, and then you can recall that set to see just the one series, or to quickly get to the sales of all of your short stories.

Will Kickstarter supporters get a copy of TrackerBox Mac for less than the normal retail price, what will that price be, and what’s the license model?

Yes. The normal price will be $89.99 US, and I rarely do sales (I’ve done them just once before in the entire six years I’ve been selling it), so the Kickstarter pledge of $75 is about $15 off the normal price. This is a one-time fee, and will get you updates to the base software for free. There may be some add-ons at an additional cost at a later date, but they won’t ever be required to run the software. I only mention that because I have talked with some publishers about a publisher version with some additional features, but there aren’t any solid plans as of yet.

The license model is basically one copy per person using it. It’s licensed to an email address, not a machine, so you can use it on as many computers as you own. I make an exception to the one copy per person for a spouse that helps with the business, but I ask that if you hire an assistant (instead of using spouse slave labor), that you purchase a separate copy for the assistant.

Why did you develop TrackerBox in the first place?

Somewhere back in May of 2011, Dean Wesley Smith wrote a blog post about a piece of software he’d like to see, one that could ingest all of his reports and combine them into a single report that he could make sense of. The post seems to be missing now, but a couple of people took him up on it. I didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon, because other people were already working on it.

But when I saw their solutions, I thought they had some shortcomings. The biggest one is that neither of them thought about what might happen if the writer wrote under multiple pen names. Also, I just didn’t like the UI for either of them.

So I took it upon myself to see what I could do, and twelve long days later, I uploaded version 1.0 of TrackerBox.

When will the next Grim Repo book be out?

I’m going to start writing it November 1st. A couple of writer friends and I agreed to start Dean Wesley Smith’s three novels in three months challenge a month late (and without Dean’s input, of course), and Grim 3 will be the first one. I’m probably going to write four and five for the second and third parts of the challenge. I expect they’ll all be out before the middle of next year.

Mark Fassett writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, but dabbles in other genres when he has no other choice. He lives in western Washington with his wife, children, and cats, and spends free time playing games and making music.

Find Mark at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Create a Vellum template for Word

Vellum is a tool that creates both ebooks and print books from a Microsoft Word .docx file. You can export to this format from Scrivener and other tools. If you work directly in Word, you can create a Vellum template using Vellum’s custom styles. This will reduce the amount of work you need to do once your manuscript has been imported into Vellum.


You have both Word and Vellum installed.

Create a Vellum template in Word

  • Download Vellum’s sample documents from this link. (This is an official Vellum link, and is referenced in their tutorial.)
  • Open the file ‘Vellum Book Style.dotx’. Note the .dotx extension, which means this is a Word template tile. The file will open in Word.
  • Click on the File menu, then Save As. In the ‘Format’ dropdown, select ‘Word Template (.dotx)’. Navigate to wherever you want the template to live, then click ‘Save’.

Note: In theory, you can put your template anywhere. I found that unless I saved mine to the default location (/Users/ username/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/My Templates) it wouldn’t show up in ‘My Templates’ when I created a new document.

Using your Vellum template in Word

  • To create a new file using this template, select ‘File’ and then ‘New from Template.’ Your template will be listed in ‘My Templates’ in the Word Document Gallery.
  • You can now either write your manuscript in the new document, or copy/paste from another document into the new one. If you do the latter, make sure to apply the Vellum custom styles to your text.

The sample material Vellum provides gives clear and detailed examples of the different styles and when to use them.


Interview: Marcelle Dubé, on “Backli’s Ford”

Meet Marcelle!

Marcelle Dubé loves speculative fiction and mysteries. In Backli’s Ford, she has created a fascinating alternate history with strong characters, an unusual situation and an alien species stranded on Earth.

Backli’s Ford

In the early 1700s, an A’lle generation ship crashed in the woods of Lower Canada. Survivors stumbled out of the wreckage to find French settlers working the land. While many of the colonists sheltered the injured A’lle, some reacted with fear and loathing. Two centuries later, nothing much has changed.

This is the world Constance A’lle, first A’lle investigator for Lower Canada, must deal with when she investigates the beating death of an A’lle boy in the small village of Backli’s Ford.

Set in 1911, Backli’s Ford follows Constance as she survives an ambush that would have killed a human, fights prejudice in the constabulary, and discovers a terrible secret that risks destroying the delicate balance that has endured for two centuries between A’lle and humans.

Backli’s Ford is the first book in Marcelle’s A’lle Chronicles Mysteries.

The Interview

The fear and discrimination the A’lle face from the humans in Backli’s Ford has parallels to many situations throughout human history where people are faced with someone or something that is ‘different.’ What inspired you to create a world in which an alien race is forced to live among humans, many of whom are not at all welcoming?

It wasn’t intentional. I’m a premise writer – what would happen if…? That’s what happened here. I found myself wondering what would have happened if aliens had crash-landed in Canada when the settlers were setting up a colony? The rest – the prejudice, fear and hatred… and the understanding, compassion and acceptance – well, they came from knowing human nature.

The A’lle Chronicles begin in the early 1700s in Lower Canada. Why did you choose to set the story in this time and place?

I’ve always been fascinated by the early days of Canada. My own ancestors came to Canada from France in the mid-1660s and had to build a life for themselves from practically nothing. It was brutally hard work and the colonists had to help each other if they were to survive. Additionally, the Catholic Church had an overbearing presence in the colony, a presence that ruled the colonists with an iron fist. So, I found myself wondering what would have happened to the colonists–and the Church – if aliens had suddenly appeared? How would people have reacted? And then I wondered what ongoing effect these aliens would have in a society that had to deal with their arrival – assuming the colonists didn’t kill them on sight… Backli’s Ford is actually set in 1911, two hundred years after the A’lle crash landed – plenty of time for adaptation to occur, and biases to develop.

You’ve written many wonderful mysteries, including the Mendenhall Mystery series. What do you enjoy most about writing mysteries?

Figuring out whodunit and why. I never know the answers when I’m starting out. I write to find out. There’s something satisfying about starting from a point of chaos – the murder or crime – and ending with chaos set right. Or right-er.

When does the next book in the A’lle Chronicles come out, and can you give us a sneak peek as to what it’s about?

Plague Year, Book 2 of the A’lle Chronicles, is due out in spring 2018. In this one, Constance A’lle’s sister Gemma comes to Montreal to study nursing, much to Constance’s dismay. This is a dangerous time for the A’lle, especially in Montreal where A’lle have been disappearing, only to be found later, dead. The conspiracy Constance and Chief Investigator Desautel discovered in Backli’s Ford now takes an even more sinister turn, a situation worsened by the emergence of plague in the city.

“The Man in the Mask” is an A’lle Chronicles short story set in the Klondike area of Yukon territory. How does this story tie in with Backli’s Ford, and what made you decide to set it in the Yukon?

I loved the idea that someone would have come searching for the lost A’lle, only to end up as a refugee, too, but at the other end of the country. I live in the Yukon, so it was natural to choose the territory for a dramatic setting. To my surprise, the story ended up with a steampunk flavor (It has airships! In the Yukon!) and a “pulp” feel.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about writing it/them?

I’ve just finished the fifth in my Mendenhall Mystery series, featuring Mendenhall Chief of Police Kate Williams. I love Kate and her intrepid constables. Kate is smart and capable, and she has a good sense of humor, which helps with some of the situations in which she finds herself. Every novel has a different adventure, of course, but in this one Kate has to deal with the theft of bull semen and vandalism at a construction site. No title yet–I’m hoping inspiration will strike!

I’m also working on Plague Year, which is well underway, and have plans for at least three more in this series, plus at least one more set in the early years, when the A’lle first arrived. I love this whole juxtaposition of the Quebec I know with the Lower Canada of the stories, altered because of the presence of the A’lle.

And then, there are the short stories. I always seem to be working on one…

Marcelle Dubé writes speculative fiction and mysteries. Her novels include the Mendenhall Mystery series as well as fantasy, science fiction and suspense novels. She lives in the Yukon, where people still outnumber the carnivores, but not by much.

Find Marcelle at:

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Bevel and Emboss basics with Photoshop

Beveling and embossing is a way to create shading and simulate shadows that make your text look three-dimensional.

Here’s the same text without and with beveling/embossing.

And here’s a close-up so you can see how different the same text can look.


  • You have Photoshop
  • You have an existing text layer in a .psd file.

How to bevel and emboss text

  • Right-click on the text layer you want to edit, select Blending Options, and then select Bevel & Emboss.

  • Adjust the settings as desired, then click OK.
    Here are the settings used in the examples above.

  • In the layer view, right-click in the Effects section under the layer name, and then select ‘Bevel & Emboss’.


What do all those options mean?

The best way to find out is to try them out. You can see the text effects in your document if you check the Preview box.

The advantage of this approach is that by experimenting you’ll see firsthand how everything works, and you might come up with a combination of settings that you wouldn’t have found otherwise; the disadvantage is that experimenting takes time.

But never fear – here’s a cheat sheet! 🙂

There are three groupings of settings:

  1. Bevel & Emboss
  2. Contour
  3. Texture

Bevel & Emboss

Bevel & Emboss options are broken up into the categories Structure and Shading.

  • Structure
    • Style
      • Inner/Outer Bevel – applies the bevel to the inside or outside of the text.
      • Emboss – applies the bevel to both the inside and the outside of the text.
      • Pillow Emboss – applies the bevel to both the inside and the outside of the text, but in opposite directions from the regular ‘Emboss’ setting.
      • Stroke Emboss – applies the bevel only to the stroke (this only works if you have a stroke effect applied to the text).
    • Technique
      • Smooth – creates a smooth, rounded edge.
      • Chisel Hard – creates a hard, chiseled edge.
      • Chisel Soft – creates a rough, chiseled edge.
    • Depth
      Increases the three-dimensional depth. A higher value creates a larger amount of depth.
    • Direction
      Specifies whether the bevel & emboss should be extruded toward or away from you.
    • Size
      Specifies the overall size of the bevel & emboss on your text. A smaller number will limit the bevel/emboss to slower to the edges of the text, whereas a larger number covers more of the text.
    • Soften
      Specifies how soft the edges should be.
  • Shading
    • Angle
      Specifies the horizontal position of the artificial light source.
    • Altitude
      Specifies the vertical position of the artificial light source.
    • Gloss Contour
      Allows you to create glass and metallic effects.
    • Highlight Mode
      Specifies the blend mode for your highlights, as well as the highlight color and opacity.
    • Shadow Mode
      Specifies the blend mode for the shadows, as well as the shadow color and opacity.


Contour allows you to specify the shape of your bevel.

  • Contour
    Specifies the shape of the bevel.
  • Anti-aliasing
    Smooths the contour.
  • Range
    The range percentage modifies how much of the bevel the contour should apply to.

In this example, every setting is the same except for the contour shape.


Texture allows you to add a texture to your text.

  • Pattern
    Select a texture pattern to apply to the text.
  • Scale
    Increase or decrease the size of the pattern.
  • Depth
    Adjust the three-dimensional depth.
  • Invert
    Check this box to invert the pattern.
  • Link with Layer
    Lock the pattern to your text layer so if you later move your layer, the pattern will move with it.

In this example, every setting is the same except for the texture.


Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.10.5.

Formatting KDP book descriptions using Ablurb

Ablurb is a simple tool that allows you to preview the formatted description (blurb) for your book before making it live on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

If you’re comfortable with HTML, you might not need to see a preview. If you don’t regularly write HTML, or if you just want to verify that what you wrote works before making it live, Ablurb is a quick and easy way to preview what you’ve written.

Here’s what it looks like when you write a blurb in the KDP editor. You can use HTML tags, but can’t see what the final version looks like.

How to use Ablurb

Go to Ablurb, type your text in, and the formatted version will appear at the bottom of the page. The allowed HTML tags are listed underneath the text box.

Once you’re happy with it, copy and paste the text from the text box (i.e. with the HTML tags) in to the description field for your book in KDP.

There are lots of things you can do – use headers, italicize text, even change the font color. Just remember to not go too crazy. 🙂


Formatting basics: ellipses

Ellipses are used to indicate ‘omissions’ of words, sentence, thoughts, etc.


There are a number of different ways in which ellipses can be used, and there are a variety of often conflicting style rules/recommendations on how ellipses should be formatted. This post covers the basics – there are lots of situations where ellipses can be used, and a surprising amount of variations for how to use them. Refer to your favorite style guide or go with your personal preference for more complex situations.

The most important thing is to research your use cases and make sure you’re consistent throughout your manuscript.

I highly recommend creating a checklist or cheat sheet. It will only take a tiny bit of time, and it will save you from having to look up and think about grammar rules when you’re formatting a manuscript.

Ways to represent an ellipsis

An ellipsis consists of three dots. There are three ways to represent this:

  • By actually using three dots: …
  • By using the ellipsis character: …
  • By using three dots, with spaces in between the dots: . . .

The first two options will generally look the same, or almost the same, depending on your browser, word processor, etc.


These are a few of the more common use cases.

  • Spaces on either side of an ellipsis

    There is usually a space on each side of an ellipsis. For example:

    This was the last time …

    However, there are different schools of thought on this, so decide which approach to follow and be consistent.

  • When to use four dots

    Use four dots instead of three if you’re using an ellipse at the end of a complete sentence. This is technically a period followed by an ellipse, and is used to indicate that there’s a gap in between two sentences.

    Once again, she had forgotten to put on her wings…. She opened the door and walked in.

  • Handling exclamation points and question marks
    If a sentence ends with an exclamation point or question mark, and there’s an omission between it and the next sentence, use an ellipsis.

    Why did she leave …? Why couldn’t she have stayed?

    Or put the ellipsis after the punctuation mark, if the omission occurs in between the two sentences.

    Why did she leave? … Why couldn’t she have stayed?


Title capitalization tools

It’s generally pretty easy to figure out which words to capitalize in a story title, but every once in a while there’s one word you’re not sure about, or else you’ve had one of those days where you keep making simple mistakes and you just want a sanity check. 🙂

Capitalization rules

There are a variety of approaches for capitalization of English titles here are some of the major ones.

  • Chicago Manual of Style
    General style guide.
  • APA style (American Psychological Association)
    Used for writing journal articles and academic books.
  • MLA style (Modern Language Association)
    Commonly used when writing papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.
  • AP style (Associated Press)
    Created for use by news organizations, but commonly used for all kinds of writing.
  • Wikipedia’s Manual of Style
    Used for Wikipedia articles.

What capitalization tools are available?

Here’s a list of some useful tools.

  • Capitalize My Title
    Suports APA, Chicago, AP, and MLA styles.

  • Headline Capitalization
    Suports APA, Chicago, AP, and MLA styles.

  • TitleCap
    Supports AP and Chicago styles.
    Allows you to force capitalization of any word five or more letters long.

  • Title Case Converter
    Support AP, Chicago, MLA, and Wikipedia styles.
    Allows you to to specify that words in all caps should be left alone, and if you check the “Show Explanations” box it will explain why a word was/wasn’t capitalized.