Keith Brooke is one of those stalwarts of the genre scene that probably needs no introduction, but he’s going to get one anyway. Best known as the driving force behind the ten-year long-running genre review and fiction website Infinity Plus, he also has his fingers in an impressive number of additional pies: editor of a number of short fiction anthologies, genre fiction reviewer for The Guardian, creative writing tutor and, of course, a published author in his own right both under his own name and his nom-de-plume Nick Gifford, and of course, a publisher of print and ebook editions of titles under the Infinity Plus Books imprint. Let’s face it, if you looked up ‘genre fiction renaissance man’ in the Encyclopedia of SF, you’d see a picture of Keith (more than likely having a beer with Peter Crowther of PS Publishing…)

We invited Keith to send us a few words, tell us a bit about the road he’s travelled to get to Infinity Plus Books and his ethos for the imprint, and this is what he told us:

Keith BrookeBack in 1997 I had one of those ideas. The kind that picks up momentum and ends up taking over your life for the next ten years. You know the kind.

As part of my day job I’d been on a course to learn how to code web pages, and that set me thinking about how I could use this new skill to support my writing. Obvious: set up a website. Back then, most authors were becoming aware of the web but hadn’t actually worked out how to make use of it, so I was something of an early adopter.

I mentioned my plans to a few friends, and the idea started to grow. Rather than Just have a website for my own work, why not club together with some other writers and share each other’s readers around? So I launched a site called Infinity Plus, with stories from me, Eric Brown, Stephen Baxter and Michael Cobley, plus author profiles and a few book reviews.

Job done.

But, as I pretty quickly discovered, the job is never done on the web. Other writers approached me, asking if they could join in, and so I started posting their work. Then, as the momentum really picked up, I started to send out invitations.

Before I knew it, I was the proprietor of a weekly genre fiction showcase, which lasted for ten years and featured most of the leading contemporary authors and a host of new talent. By the time I wound the site down, after its tenth anniversary, we had more than two million words of fiction, a thousand book reviews, and several hundred thousand visitors a week. Although it’s no longer updated, the site’s still available at www.infinityplus.co.uk as a static archive.

You’d have thought I’d learnt my lesson, wouldn’t you?

But no. In late 2010 a similar thing happened, sparked by discussions with friends in the business. Ebooks were taking off, and I realised I should get involved, try a few things out, explore the new territory. And, applying the same logic I’d applied thirteen years before, I realised that it might work better if I involved some other authors. So, rather tentatively, in late 2010, I published some collections of my short fiction, a collection of Eric Brown’s science fiction, and a crime novel by Kaitlin Queen, relaunching the Infinity Plus banner to do so.

And it started to happen again: after mentioning what I was doing to a few friends, suddenly I had an ebook imprint on my hands, with titles from Garry Kilworth, John Grant, Anna Tambour and more. Results have been patchy, but mostly very positive. Some authors are now earning a steady income from their Infinity Plus books; at one point in December 2011 every one of our twenty or so titles was in at least one Amazon top ten; and our free sampler, Infinities, was the UK’s number one anthology for several weeks. It’s all very encouraging, and definitely justified our experiments in this new field.

One experiment we started in late 2011 was the launch of the Infinity Plus Singles line: bite-sized ebooks, each a standalone short story you can buy cheap and read in a single sitting. Cheap, short ebooks are an excellent way for readers to sample unfamiliar authors. It’s like the old days when we bought vinyl 45 singles, and if we liked them enough went on and bought the LP.

The idea was prompted by the success of Iain Rowan’s Derringer Award-winning crime story, ‘One Step Closer’, which we released to promote his crime collection Nowhere To Go (that book is now shortlisted for a Spinetingler award). Encouraged to go ahead with the singles idea, we rebranded Iain’s story as the first title in the list, and I rounded up some other stories to include.

At the time of writing (April 2012), we’ve published twenty singles, including award-winning stories from Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth and Lisa Tuttle; the latter includes an exclusive afterword by the author about how she tried to turn down a Nebula Award for the story. Other authors in the series include Kit Reed, Neil Williamson, Anna Tambour and David Levine.

Recent full-length publications from Infinity Plus include Iain Rowan’s Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger-shortlisted novel One of Us, Eric Brown’s new collection of psychological horror, Ghostwriting, and his landmark novel Penumbra, my own The Accord, and Stephen Palmer’s Hallucinating and Muezzinland.

In addition to the ebooks, we’ve started another experiment in the rapidly-changing publishing environment: our first print editions. Publishing in print is hardly radical, you might think, but all kinds of publishing niches and opportunities are emerging as the publishing business changes, and we decided that even a relatively small ebook specialist like infinity plus should be exploring this in more than just ebook format; so trade paperbacks of Iain Rowan’s One of Us, Eric Brown’s Ghostwriting and Kaitlin Queen’s One More Unfortunate are now available with more to follow.

One lesson I’ve learned from all this is that no matter how experienced you are, it’s still very difficult to predict what might flop and what might take over your life through its success. Another thing I’ve learned is that you won’t get anywhere unless you’re prepared to explore and try out new possibilities. With its excellent list of genre fiction authors, infinity plus is well-placed to continue its successes first started back in the early days of the internet, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Go Here for More Information:

Infinity Plus Books: www.infinityplus.co.uk/books (and at the Robot Trading Company)
Infinity Plus Singles: www.infinityplus.co.uk/singles (and at the Robot Trading Company)
Keith Brooke: www.keithbrooke.co.uk
The Keith Brooke and Infinity Plus blog: keithbrooke.wordpress.com