“With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever to share real experiences and hold the truth to account”
My Unconventional Mentor this week is the independent publisher 404 Ink, which was set up by two brilliant women, Laura Jones and Heather McDaid in 2016.
I bought their first book Nasty Women as soon as I heard about it as I knew that I wanted to read the stories of the women they were featuring, and I also wanted to support a publisher that was doing something a bit different.
Laura and Heather set up the publisher to fill a gap in that market. They didn’t think that existing publishers used social media well and that many publishers were very London focused (they are based in Edinburgh.) Laura has a background in publishing and typesetting, whilst Heather began her career as a music journalist. They were working together on The Saltire Society's virtual book festival #ScotLitFest when they realised that they had the same values towards the traditional publishing world, and they decided to start their own publisher.
Their first book, Nasty Women, is a collection of essays about what it is like to be a woman in the 21st century. The authors come from all different walks of life and have chosen a variety of different topics to talk about. The opening piece is called Independence Day by Katie Muriel which is a very raw account of dealing with Donald Trump being elected President of The United States and the disbelief that many people felt.
I really loved Black Feminism Online: Claiming Digital Space by Claire L Heuchan. I was instantly captivated by her writing, talking about her experiences of being a black woman in Scotland and how she found her voice online. I started following her on twitter the moment I finished her essay (@ClaireShrugged ) and she is one of my favourite accounts to follow.
404 Ink have gone on to publish many more books as well as producing a magazine. In an interview on the podcast Scots Whay Hae! you can hear them talk about how they want to ensure that they are reaching a wider audience than that of people who would identify as readers. Their magazine publishes interviews with musicians alongside comics and their pieces about their books.
Whilst the successes of 404 Ink might seem to be huge, Laura and Heather have been very open about how difficult it has been to set up and run a new publisher, and their brutally honest blog post We are tired AF gives something of an insight into how tough it is.
Despite all of these challenges they are going from strength to strength, with a really interesting selection of published authors. In May 2018 they published The Goldblum Variations by Helen McClory which is a collection of short stories imagining what would happen if Geoff Goldblum travelled across the universe, both known and unknown. The whole thing got very surreal when Geoff Goldblum did an impromptu reading which you can see here. I’m not sure what is so appealing about Geoff Goldblum but I have ordered this book as I really want to find out what Helen thinks he might get up to. They are about to publish their first fiction book, Animals Eat Each Other by Elle Nash which comes out in May 2019 this year.
Mentor Advice: The most important thing is to get started.
The advice that I take from 404 Ink is that the most important thing is to get started. Laura and Heather were at the beginnings of their careers when they decided to start 404 Ink. They both knew that they had a good idea and weren’t afraid to try and make a success of it. The desire to get the voices of the authors they have chosen to support heard has driven them to work through tough times, with financial and personal difficulties, but they haven’t given up. The story of Heather and Laura setting up 404 Ink, as told on the Scots Whay Hae! podcast is one of not just saying you would love to do something, but actually putting a plan together to make it happen. They didn’t have enough money to publish Nasty Women so they started a Kickstarter campaign and were completely blown away by the response and have gone from strength to strength. In your career or business there will be lots of great ideas that you want to take forward. Sometimes you won’t quite know how things are going to work out, but the most important thing is to get started. Say that idea out loud to someone else and commit to taking an action to make it happen, you never know where it might lead you. Laura and Heather did just that and look where they are now. What is your big idea that you need to get started on?
You can find out more about 404 Ink and buy their wonderful books here