This is a guest post from publisher and fellow Solaris author Keith Brooke:
I’m never quite sure how I end up volunteering myself for these things. You know… those idle ideas that lead to you publishing a weekly genre fiction showcase for, oh, ten years, featuring most of the leading contemporary authors and a host of new talent. That kind of thing.
Back in 1997 that’s exactly what happened. In my day job I’d been on a course to learn how to write HTML and I decided to put it to good use to support my writing career by setting up a website. This was just the time when authors were becoming aware of the web but most weren’t using it regularly, much less using it to publish and publicise their work.
It occurred to me that it might be good to make the site a collective showcase rather than just a Keith Brooke website, and this idea was met with enthusiasm by the fellow writers I mentioned it to. I published the site in August of that year and sat back, job done.
That’s when I realised that there are some important differences between publishing on the web and in print. In print, you really can say “job done”, but on the web, things could be updated, added to, expanded. And so that’s what I did: after the site went up with stories from me, Eric Brown, Mike Cobley and Steve Baxter, other writers became interested and so I added their work too. When I started to get emails from people like Kit Reed and Terry Bisson I realised that infinity plus, as I had called the site, had picked up a quite astonishing momentum. Before long, the site had become the equivalent of a weekly magazine, with hundreds of thousands of regular visitors. In its ten year lifespan the site published over two million words of fiction, a thousand book reviews, a hundred interviews and a variety of other material. The site’s still available at www.infinityplus.co.uk as a static archive.
Last year, a similar thing happened. Chatting online with friends, I realised that this whole ebook thing was starting to take off and I really should get involved. Rather tentatively, I put out five collections of my own stories under the infinity plus banner, plus a new collection of Eric Brown’s stories, The Angels of Life and Death. And it started to happen again: I mentioned it to a few friends, and suddenly I had an ebook imprint on my hands. Recently we passed twenty full-length titles, including the free anthology infinities, which has been the UK’s number one free anthology for several weeks now.
But what about shorter ebooks, the kind you can read in a single sitting? Discussion with Iain Rowan about ways to promote his crime collection Nowhere To Go led to the idea of publishing one of the stories as a standalone short ebook. We settled on the Derringer Award-winning One Step Closer, and put it out earlier this year. Priced at 99 cents, it did okay, but the main reason for publishing it was to promote the collection, so this summer we dropped the price to zero. Since then, this short ebook has shifted more than 10,000 copies through Amazon alone, and has been firmly lodged at the top of the UK’s free story chart for a couple of months. We’re yet to see if this translates into significantly increased sales for the collection, but it’s certainly a result!
Which led me to thinking…
Bite-sized ebooks? Does this new publishing environment give us an opportunity to find a fresh market for short fiction? Hmmm… Discussions online indicated that there was interest, both from authors and readers.
And so I did it again. Followed up on one of those ideas…
This month, infinity plus launches the singles series, cheap short stories you can read in a single sitting at lunch or in the evening, an opportunity for readers to discover unfamiliar authors, and maybe a chance to breathe life back into the short fiction market.
For authors, it’s a chance to find new readers, both for their short fiction and, we can hope, for their longer works as these new readers go on to buy more from their newly-discovered authors. It’s a bit like the old days when we all bought vinyl 45s — singles — and if we liked them enough went on and bought the LP.
Our first five titles are from:
- Iain Rowan (we’re re-badging his phenomenally successful One Step Closer as our first single)
- John Grant (with a very adult, passionate, haunting love story)
- Eric Brown (the classic The Time-Lapsed Man, winner of an Interzone readers’ poll)
- yours truly (well why wouldn’t I want to feature on this list too? My contribution is Head Shots, one of my favourites of all my stories over the years)
- and Kit Reed (with the wonderfully creepy and moving Old Soldiers)
In future we have stories lined up from Lisa Tuttle, Sarah Ash, Neil Williamson and Anna Tambour, as well as the authors listed above and a growing list of others.
Is this going to be another of those ideas that ends up occupying a large chunk of my life, once again? I really don’t know, but I do know that we have some excellent award-winning stories lined up, and you can’t really ask for more than that.