How to Convert a PDF to EPUB Digital Trends

Thanks to r/Fantasy, my out-of-print series Broken Sky is back from the dead! (Also, book giveaway!)

So here’s the story. Many years ago, back when I was twenty or something, I embarked on my first Epic Fantasy. At the time my publisher was Scholastic, who did books for teens, but I always thought of it as an any-age fantasy. Hell, it was a sight darker than The Belgariad, anyway.
Up until then I had been writing teen drama books for Scholastic because that was what I thought they wanted of me, but then my editor gave me a copy of Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the US) and said to me ‘That’s the kind of thing you can do with teenage books nowadays.’ So I decided to just write what I wanted to write instead of what I thought I should. I count the Broken Sky series as my first books that were truly mine, and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Broken Sky sold far, far better than my previous books (note to self – write from the heart, people notice – end note) and was a moderate hit all over the world. It was translated into somewhere between 15 and 20 languages (I forget exactly) and shifted a quarter million copies in the US alone. For the first time in my life I could buy a beer in the pub without thinking about how much it cost.
Fast forward many years, and many books. Broken Sky has a somewhat disastrous re-release. The ‘anime’ look for the covers that worked the first time around is now dated: kids don’t think its cool and adults think it’s for kids. The books drift quietly out of print. Not cost-effective to keep them in the warehouses.
I’m a bit sad about this, as are a bunch of people who get in touch with me from time to time asking why the only available copies are, like, £1000 on Ebay. Some people who grew up with Ryushi and Kia want to be able to read it to their kids. I pester Scholastic to put them out as ebooks at least, but it’s hard going. Ebooks aimed at kids are not an easy sell, since most kids under 12 don’t have e-readers of their own. Scholastic convert my more popular books to ebook, but not Broken Sky.
I ask them to either republish them or give me the rights back. They give me the rights back. Bluff failed.
So now I have, for the first time, several of my books out of print. Four of them are my early teen drama books (Crashing, Kerosene, Catchman, Endgame) which honestly I’d rather forget about. But Broken Sky… if only for posterity, I want it to exist.
‘I’ll do that self-publishing thing!’ I say to myself. So I get trying to convert them. Turns out it’s quite time consuming as first I need to learn the programs. I only have PDFs of the books as the original manuscripts were written on coal powered Babbage Engines and I’ve lost them anyway. That means that when I do convert them they introduce loads of errors, and worst of all whenever I start working on them I can’t help editing the fricking things to try to improve them. After mucking about for a couple of weeks I am hit with the realisation that this is taking up time I can’t afford with all my myriad deadlines and likely they will only sell a few copies so, y’know, I’m not doing it for the money really. Then my daughter is born and I have no time to do anything for a while.
By this time the whole thing has become a monkey I want to get off my back, but whenever I start working at it I become rapidly dishearted. I want to put out good ebooks with nice covers, and I want them laid out properly and stuff. I just don’t have the time to do it. A few more abortive attempts at interesting publishers follow.
Eventually, I’ve more or less resigned myself to the fact that this will annoy me forevermore but I’ll never do anything about it until the mythical future paradise arrives when I’m loaded and I can swan about writing one book a year while dabbling with whatever little side projects I feel like as and when I fancy.
Enter fantasy.
So about a year ago I’m asked to do an AMA by the kind mods on this here forum. In the process of doing this I’m asked about Broken Sky and I mention how I’m just thinking of getting them out there any way I can. After that chat I get PM’d by the heroic TheDanielColeman, who offered to help me with get them converted off the pdfs and do the editing work for me. Now I’m not a person with a surplus of trust in strangers, so privately I was a little wary at first. What did this person want of me? Why was he offering to help out someone he didn’t know? What was his ulterior motive, god damn it???
I play too many boardgames. Suspicion of betrayal is my default attitude.
Anyways, long story short, TheDanielColeman was an amazing help, super quick, and endlessly patient with my notes. Anyone with any spare gold knocking about, this guy deserves it. (Me, I’ll have your spare bitcoins if you have any lying around, it’s a mug’s game, you know, might as well let me take it off your hands, etc). Between us we knocked three books’ worth of errors into shape.
Once the MSS were done I belatedly realised I actually had to get a cover done also (the Scholastic artwork was under copyright, and I didn’t want that old anime look anyway). A quick skim through the self-published section of the Kindle store revealed a grim landscape of badly photoshopped topless men standing thoughtfully with fire in the background, so I thought fuck that, and harassed my unfortunate brother into designing them for me.
A pleasant side-effect of this: in searching for cover images I discovered the work of a Lithuanian artist called Mikolajus Ciurlionis, whose superb paintings now grace the covers of my resurrected novels.
So! Thanks to the efforts of the fantasy community in general, one selfless Redditor in particular, one cool dead Lithuanian dude, and one awesome bro, the Broken Sky trilogy is back in the world! It’s available on Amazon, iBooks (no direct link: search wooding broken sky), Kobo and Barnes & Noble. There are free samples on all but Amazon, who annoyingly have a minimum price of 99p/99c, until I can get it changed.
Here’s the blurb for the first book, for those who have never heard of it.
**In the world of the Dominions, everyone has a power. Spirit-stones, implanted at birth by the mysterious Deliverers, grant strange abilities. Some can shape metal. Some can see into the past. Some can make people see you as you are not. The stones determine who you are and what your place is in the world.
Ryushi and Kia, twin brother and sister, have grown up in the mountains on their father’s isolated wyvern stud. Ryushi’s stones let him command pure force; one day he will be able to turn a key in a lock as easily as he smashes a wall. Kia manipulates the earth, raising golems from the ground, opening doors where there are no doors. Every day they train in the fighting arts, and learn how to harness the powers they were gifted at birth.
Soon they will find out why.
The arrival of a strange, waifish girl at the stud sets into motion a chain of events that will pull the twins into a world they had never imagined. A world where strange machines, powered by the stones of Pilots, battle alongside airborne wyverns; where stalking horrors step out of mirrors, hunting traitors wherever they hide; where rebels plot against the king in a hidden city.
And there is more. A shadow-world, a heartbeat away from their own. A mirror-land ruled by a despot. Kia and Ryushi will find themselves drawn into a battle for two worlds, and in doing so, they will discover the truth about who they are, what they want to be… and the very nature of the spirit-stones themselves.**
To celebrate, I’m giving away three full sets of the trilogy to the good folks of fantasy (and by giving away, I mean I’ll email you the epubs and the covers: how then you get them onto your devices is a sorcery unknown to me, but I’ve heard it’s possible). Everyone who posts up here will be put in an imaginary hat and I’ll pick three names at random tomorrow and PM them, with the small disclaimer that my wife is two days overdue to give birth and apt to burst at any moment, so if I go suddenly dark it’s because I’ve become a sleep-deprived zombie unable to perform even simple tasks like operating a keyboard. Please be patient, I’ll get the winners their books.
So that’s it! A great big thank-you to all of you in the community and the mods. It really wouldn’t have happened without you.
Chris Wooding
TL;DR Well, you should have.
EDIT: Well, the baby's not here yet and the results of the giveaway are in! Congratulations to Kaer_Dadet, _SolluxCaptor_ and usernamesname! I'll PM you all to get the details to send you the files.
Thanks for all your well wishes and congratulations. Hope you like the books!
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