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Defying expectation: 404 Ink

404 Ink logo

404 Ink is a new, alternative, independent publisher founded by Laura Jones and Heather McDaid. Since launching in summer 2016 they’ve published their first literary magazine and gained international attention with the announcement of their first book Nasty Women, to be published on International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March. In September 404 Ink were awarded National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, we caught up with Laura and Heather to find out what they’ve been up to since then.

What were the origins of 404 Ink?

404 Ink was started by us, publishing freelancers Heather McDaid and Laura Jones, in mid-2016 during a drive to Edinburgh after a day watching the filming of BBC’s Robot Wars in Paisley. Wishing there was an alternative Scottish press that published the kind of books we wanted to see in a way that appealed to us we thought why not just do it ourselves?

After running the Saltire Society’s inaugural virtual literary festival ScotLitFest together in June 2016 we established 404 Ink as an official company and got straight to work building a website, brand and literary magazine while still working as freelancers.

Heather McDaid and Laura Jones, photo: Sinead Grainger

You published your first literary magazine with the theme ‘Error’ in November, how was the experience of editing this and what response did you get to the publication?

Editing ‘Error’ was a delight from beginning to end. Aside from the rush of compiling and editing our very own magazine, the writers were gracious and positive about the small tweaks we suggested. Many of the pieces are in there in the exact same shape as they were submitted. The quality was astounding and we were a bit taken aback that amazing writers from Scotland and beyond trusting us with their work so fully.

The response to ‘Error’ was beyond our expectations. Considerable hype within the local, Scottish bookish community was bubbling, with thanks to Creative Scotland’s support. We had also been gathering subscriptions to the magazine ahead of time through Patreon, a rolling-crowdfunding platform, which meant people could see just how many subscribers were behind the publication, in turn encouraging others to join in.

From then on we’ve had tremendous feedback in regards to the design, the presentation and, most importantly, the writing. We’ve sent copies of the magazine America, Portugal, Australia, Norway and of course all across Scotland and the UK which means ‘404 Ink’ is reaching international eyes we didn’t dream of. It’s been quite a few months!

404 Ink 'Error' cover

What’s the theme for the next magazine issue and who do you want to hear from?

Issue 2 of the magazine will be called ‘The F Word’ and the theme is exactly that. We want writing that is inspired by any word beginning with F. This may be the obvious expletive, ‘feminism’, ‘future’, ‘failure’, or just everyday essential objects, ‘forks’, ‘falafel’, anything!

We want to hear from short story writers, comic artists and poets. In collating issue 1 we learned that dark humor, alternative realities, contemporary and surreal works are what we enjoyed most. But we don’t want that to put off any potential writers, we’re always learning about our own tastes and preferences so if a short story, poem or comic catches and holds our attention, it’s likely a good sign. We are also keen to publish original Scots and Scottish Gaelic writing (with English translation included) so we’re always on the look out for such submissions.

You’ll be publishing your first book on International Women’s Day (8 March 2017), can you tell us a bit more about Nasty Women?

Nasty Women is a collection of essays and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century. Dubbed by the Huffington Post as ‘the intersectional essay collection feminists need’, around 20 women writers, new and established, have written pieces on their experiences in subjects ranging from being a half-Black woman in America to pregnancy and contraception, from gendered violence in the punk rock community to immigration and Brexit. It includes Laura Jane Grace (front woman of rock band Against Me!) in conversation with Sasha de Buyl-Pisco, Chitra Ramaswamy, Zeba Talkhani, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Laura Waddell and so many more.

In a time where ‘post-truth’ and dangerously anti-woman rhetoric is becoming normalized in international political dialogue and agenda, we wanted to push back in whatever way we can. We believe that offering a platform to women who have important stories to share and points to make is the best way we can combat this rhetoric.

Nasty Women cover

What are your ambitions and hopes for 404 Ink?

We were recently described as being a ‘cutting-edge’ Scottish publisher in an Independent article and this is a descriptor we’re keen to keep a hold of. It’s early days, of course, and we still have a lot to prove, but we think we will manage this with the eclectic list we’re planning and continued loud digital marketing that has seen us heard around the world.

Our expectations have been massively surpassed with both the magazine’s reception and the Nasty Women Kickstarter raising over £15k so we’re currently getting our heads around the sudden success and reevaluating where we go from here. What we mostly hope is that whatever we do, it won’t necessarily be expected.

Find out more about 404 Ink and Nasty Women.

404 Ink received funding through Creative Scotland Open Project Fund

This article was published on 26 Jan 2017