Whatever else 2019 is offering us, one thing is certain: this is a great era for small-but-powerful publishing startups. In this interview, we meet Colin Steven, the founder of new independent publishing house Velocity Press.
Tell us about Velocity Press: what kinds of books will you be publishing, and what’s your background in this subject?
Velocity Press will specialise in electronic music and club culture non-fiction. I’m showing my age a bit but I started out as clubs editor for The List magazine in Glasgow in 1988 just as acid house was kicking off and I haven’t looked back.
In my time I’ve been a freelance dance music writer, club promoter and record label manager but I’m best known for running award-winning Knowledge magazine from 1994 to 2014. Off the back of that, I also published Brian Belle-Fortune’s seminal drum & bass book All Crews in 2004.
Do you think this is a good time for small publishing houses? What influenced your decision to set up your own press instead of joining a bigger company?
It’s an excellent time for small publishing houses, I only announced Velocity Press and our first book Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music last week but the amount of interest I’ve had so far is really encouraging, there’s a real demand for what we’re offering.
My experience and the number of contacts I have in electronic music and publishing influenced my decision to launch Velocity Press. I’ve been self-employed for most of my career and had been doing corporate work in web design/IT recently but got made redundant in January. I decided this was a good opportunity to do what I want again and I’ve been passionate about books my whole life. It’s just made sense to combine electronic music and books and I love being in control of the whole process.
What do you expect to be the major differences between magazine publishing and book publishing?
Frequency is one big difference. Knowledge was monthly whereas I’m only aiming to publish three titles a year with Velocity Press to start with. It’s also nice not having to deal with about 20 freelance journalists every issue!
Books have a much longer shelf life than magazines as well. You only get a few weeks to sell the latest issue of a magazine but books can sell for much longer. I’m still amazed at how well All Crews continues to sell with no promotion even after 15 years. The one downside is not being able to sell advertising in books.
How is technology helping you to achieve your goals?
It’s not exactly new but I suppose the internet has been the most helpful technology. After I decided to get back into book publishing I needed suitable writers so I searched for dance music journalists and came across a page for the launch of Matthew Collin’s book Rave On in Bristol where he’d been in conversation with Matt Anniss. So I Googled Matt Anniss, got his email address from his blog and explained what I was looking for. He immediately replied and told me he’d already started writing Join The Future and was looking for a publisher.
I also designed the Velocity Press website with an ecommerce store. Being able to pre-sell titles with incentives like getting your name in the book is great. Join The Future isn’t out until December but I put it on pre-sale a fortnight ago and have already sold 100 copies. So not only does it help you keep more of the money and cashflow but also gauge how many copies to print.
What are your hopes for the future of Velocity?
To be known for publishing quality electronic music non-fiction across a range of genres, both retrospective and contemporary. Eventually, I’d also like to have accompanying documentaries and compilation albums for each title. Audiobooks too. I’m actually working with Brian Belle-Fortune again on audiobook version of All Crews which will be out around December.
Colin Steven started out as clubs editor for The List magazine in Glasgow in 1988 just as acid house was exploding. In his time he’s been a freelance writer, club promoter and record label manager but he’s best known for editing and publishing award-winning magazine Knowledge from 1994 to 2014.
His first foray into book publishing came in 2004 when he published Brian Belle-Fortune’s seminal drum & bass book All Crews. His latest venture is Velocity Press, a book publisher specialising in electronic music and club culture non-fiction.