Five reasons I like to lay out my own non-fiction books…and two reasons why I loathe it

Five reasons I like to lay out my own non-fiction books…and two reasons why I loathe it

December 28, 2021

When you choose to self-publish you can decide what to DIY and what to outsource. Though I  outsource book cover design and editing to professionals, I tend to enjoy doing the interior book design layout myself using the simple book layout program Vellum.

There are two other contenders I could have used to do the interior design for Look – It’s Your Book! Atticus and Adobe Indesign were front runners, but Atticus was still in beta-testing when I began the project, and as the book has no major illustrations or specialist design needs (which your book might need), Adobe InDesign would have been a huge learning curve for me and likely overkill. I’d also used Vellum previously for the layouts for Small Farm Success Australia and Honey Farm Dreaming so am quite familiar with it.

In Chapter 19 of Look – It’s Your Book! I run through the ins, outs and options for the interior design of your book (including why it might make sense for you to have your book’s design handled by a pro), but as I’ve been finalising the master book file of my own title this week, it’s top of mind so I thought I’d run through the five reasons I like laying out my own books…and the two reasons I loathe it.


  1. I like being able to tweak words and sentences…right up until the very end when the file heads to the printer. Yes, this is dangerous because it means I might introduce errors, but I have a fair bit of experience publishing now and find it liberating to be able to immediately make and see changes.
  2. Doing your own interior design makes book production super economical. Not only don’t I need to pay for the initial design work, I don’t need to pay for additional author corrections (of which I make a gazillion). It’s surprising how many corrections you want to make once you see and read your words in book form!
  3. The program I use, Vellum, automatically creates a contents list from my parts and chapter headings, so I know that everything will correlate perfectly with page numbers.
  4. When combining DIY interior design with Print on Demand (POD) printing, it means even once your book is published, you can quickly and easily correct any errors or make changes to the master file, so any new readers will get the latest and greatest version.
  5. I like how easy it is to create, convert and produce files for print and the major ebook formats at the same time. This is a great solution for writers of all types of documents and books.


  1. I think I would have been awarded the Guinness World Record this week for the number of times I’ve had to ‘reimport word file’ to Vellum. Basically, every time I make a change in the master Word file and want to see what it looks like in the PDF file used for the book, I need to reimport the file into Vellum. As Vellum doesn’t save all the settings, I then need to go in and move things around, convert pages to specific styles and rename some too. There are quite a few steps, so to ensure I don’t forget to do something, I set up a checklist and go through it each time I generate the print and ebook files.
  2. Not all non-fiction books require an index but I thought it was important for this book. Unfortunately, Vellum does not currently have an index feature. That means the index cannot be formatted in columns or in a smaller font size, so it adds extra pages to the page count.

Overall, I love the control that doing my own interior book design offers, but I don’t recommend it for people who need a unique or stunning interior (unless you’re an artistic whiz), or for people who aren’t great learning new software programs. You also need to accept that many of the simpler book layout programs are simple for a reason – they have limitations. Oh, and don’t start on the design until your book is fully edited and proofread.