Our website uses cookies. See our cookies page for information about them and how you can remove or block them. Click here to opt in to our cookies

404 Ink: A year of Nasty Women and winning over Margaret Atwood

404 Ink founders Laura Jones and Heather McDaid (Photo: Suzanne Heffron)

It's been one whole year since independent publisher 404 Ink launched, and boy, what a year it’s been. The ladies behind 404 (Laura Jones and Heather McDaid) spoke to us about some of the highlights of the past 12 months, including having their Nasty Women anthology praised by Margaret Atwood, commissioning new work from authors, and printing more editions of their acclaimed literary magazine.

404 Ink received an award through the the Open Project Fund in September 2016, which was supported by National Lottery Funding. Find out how you can apply.

You’ve said that 404 Ink started as a ‘spare room side project’. How has it evolved one year on?

It hasn't really, other than the work load! We still run from a spare room. We had originally sought to publish two literary magazines per year and look into books, and that's grown far quicker than we had expected, with several print runs of our debut essay collection Nasty Women selling out, and our next - Hings, the debut short story collection from Chris McQueer - is flying out, much to the chagrin of our local post offices!

The success of Nasty Women and our other titles has meant that we've had to get external distribution for some of our larger orders (boring business stuff!) but largely we're still posting hundreds of packages from the same spare room it started in a year ago.

We just know whatever we do, it's going to be big and it's going to be loud- 404 Ink

What were your main goals and objectives when you founded 404 Ink?

We were sitting around chatting about how we would run a publisher if we had the chance in early 2016. We didn't feel like there was a publisher that quite fit what we were talking about: using crowdfunding, building online communities, generally being loud on social media.

404 Ink on Twitter

We wanted to prove that the tiring phrase "You can't make money on social media" wasn't true, and that social media can be the platform for a lot of really exciting work. It was less about what we published, as much as how. And that how was generally: loudly.

What are you most proud of having achieved in the last twelve months?

The most obvious achievement is publishing Nasty Women. We had the idea in November, had announced it by December, successfully Kickstarted it in January, sent it to print in February and published it on International Women's Day in March 2017.

We were warned countless times that doing a book that quickly wasn't wise, but we felt we could do it, and in the course of those through months have met and created the most incredible group of women from across the UK and internationally. It's a project that keeps on evolving.

Nasty Women was published in March 2017

We've had idols of ours, including Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) and Shirley Manson (Garbage) praising the book, we sold the rights to Audible, have some incredible events lined up and some more exciting news still to come. All of these in isolation are beyond what we could have hoped for in the first year, so all of them on one project is very exciting for us.

You’re about to publish your second book, by debut author Chris McQueer. Is the experience different to publishing Nasty Women?

We had a little more time and a little more help the second time around! Nasty Women was a whirlwind and we were still working through the afterglow/math while working on Chris' debut Hings. Luckily, some freelancing friends knew the pressure we were under and took a lot of the legwork for us which we were happy to pay for. Chris is hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, and now has a polished book to be proud of. We couldn't be happier to be his publisher.

Hings by Chris McQueer

You’ve had such a great reaction to your work, from readers, writers and industry professionals. Did you expect that 404 would take off in such a big way?

Not at all. We had envisaged 404 being a side project and it quickly grew beyond our expectations. Despite constantly saying to ourselves that 404 would go back to being the side project it was meant to be, it increasingly demands our time and attention and by and large we love it and are happy to be primarily known for our work on 404. It's probably the work we're most proud of in our professional careers so far and we hope we can keep the momentum going.

What can we expect from 404 Ink in the next 12 months?

At the time of writing this, in the following week we're going to be sitting down to plan our next big steps over the next years to guarantee 404 is always producing something alternative and exciting - so watch this space! You can definitely expect new titles from some beloved local writers and some more important non-fiction but that's all we can say for now. We just know whatever we do, it's going to be big and it's going to be loud.

404 Ink is open for submissions. Chris McQueer's debut collection, Hings is released on 27 July 2017; Nasty Women is out now.

This article was published on 21 Jul 2017