404 Ink is a Scottish based publisher and the brainchild of Heather McDaid and Laura Jones. As well as publishing a literary magazine, the pair have had great success with Nasty Women, their book of essays on modern womanhood. Published on International Women’s Day 2017, the title sticks it to Donald Trump after his branding of Hillary Clinton as a ‘nasty woman’ during a presidential election debate.
404 Ink has been funded partly by Patreon, a crowdfunding website which allows patrons to donate money in exchange for exclusive content. The publication of Nasty Women was supported by a Kickstarter which has raised almost four times its original goal of £6000.
This fresh approach to publishing smacks of DIY punk and zine culture but also draws on the traditional importance of community in the business. 404 Ink have struck a balance between online and offline networks for their ventures. As newcomers to the industry, it’s evident to publishing students that networking is an integral, but daunting, aspect of the business. I spoke to Heather McDaid about this to get some insight into how newbies to the publishing industry can take inspiration from 404 Ink.
What made you decide to work with Patreon? Would you say it’s been a success?
Crowdfunding was a core part of 404’s launch. We wanted to put the power into the hands of the readers and start to build an actual community around what we hoped to do, and in launching with Patreon it allowed us to test the idea we had immediately. We launched anonymously and with just a glitchy video [which you can see here] and the intention of doing a magazine and immediately found people pledging to back us. It was an immediate boost that people liked the look of what we were doing. For us, it’s a success. It’s a small amount money-wise in the grand scheme of the publishing world, but for being a brand new magazine, the subscription support helps us cover our author payment, and shows that we’re doing something good enough to have a growing number of subscribers. Crowdfunding isn’t new in terms of the comic and music world, so for us – as fans of both – it was a no brainer to bring that to the book world and see what we could do with it.
You also received funding from Creative Scotland. Have you found a good level of support from the Scottish publishing community as well as your online followers?
The Scottish publishing community has been vital to 404 Ink. Prior to launching we met up with most people we knew and asked for advice. Everyone has been so helpful and generous with their time and knowledge that it allowed us to really work out what we wanted to do, how things worked out, and how – in many cases – we wanted to then operate differently. Creative Scotland funding was also a huge boost – in applying for that it really helped us consolidate what we wanted to do with 404, and their support allowed us to kickstart a (hopefully!) sustainable company. The Scottish publishing community is very supportive and have been there since before 404 technically existed, so alongside our online following, we feel like we’ve got a good vibe around what we’re doing, and we can hopefully keep that up.
Did you find that networking at publishing events put you in a good position in this regard?
It did. As freelancers, we know many companies by the very nature of our job, but also being a member of the Society of Young Publishers was another way to bridge the gap in networking. It’s been critical in us meeting and getting to know several publishers and industry professionals, and with the SYP, it never really feels like ‘networking’ in that horrid, terrifying sense, rather than going to fun events and happening to meet and be introduced to new people.
Your personalities really come through on your social media. Do you think it’s important to maintain a strong personal identity in the publishing community?
Definitely. People can spot queued tweets and lax Twitter feeds a mile off, and people know when you have books out anyway. People follow publishers, and brands in general, for more than what you’re selling, otherwise it’s just like signing up to be advertised to. Social media is way too much fun for us to make more corporate, and I think that approach has rubbed off on others and is why a lot of people seem to be interested in what we’re doing. It never occurred to us to do it another way. We’ve done that before, but it felt far more suiting to 404 to just wing it, react to stuff, and be as sarcastic and sweary as we are on our own accounts!
What advice would you give to people new to the industry?
Ask for advice, talk to people. People in publishing are nice, and they’ve all been in the same position and I’ve yet to meet someone protective of information and unwilling to give advice. Also, if you have an idea and want to launch your own thing – do it! It’s a lot of hard work but it’s really fun, there’s countless people out there ready to help and offer advice, and the creative industries are built on people taking punts on good ideas, so why not let those ideas be yours?
With a forthcoming book by Chris McQueer (find out more about that here), it’s evident that 404 Ink are not taking too long to bask in the success of Nasty Women, but are ready for more action. With their candid and up-front riot grrrl attitude fusing with their real professionalism and experience in the business of publishing, it’s hard to see how Heather and Laura could be anything but an inspiration to those of us looking to start a career in the industry.
Keep up to date with 404 Ink by following them online: