According to our notes, on the 11th of July 2016, 404 Ink became a thing, legally speaking, and on the 15th of July we actually launched. This means, first and foremost: hurrah! Two birthdays for us. More importantly, it means that this week, 404 Ink turns one year old.
We started 404 Ink because we talked quite a bit about how we would run a publisher if given the chance - we'd be chatty on social media, we'd use crowdfunding, we're try build a community around what we do and be pally with them - and in the end thought: that sounds like good fun, why don't we take a punt?
The punt was that we'd publish a literary mag twice a year and see where it took us. Instead, in our first year, we're two issues of a magazine, two books and a whole heap of friends deeper than we expected to be.
We launched Issue 1 of our literary magazine, following the support of our Patreon subscribers and the kind folks at Creative Scotland, in December 2016 alongside our pals Ricky and Beth of Interrobang who let us gatecrash their event (and have let us do so many times since). It was the coolest bloody feeling when that horrendous amount of boxes showed up to the spare room and we saw the magazine for the first time. Victory! Finally, we could have a day off! However, we had this little idea and thought we'd give it a try in our spare time.
HAHAHA. Spare time, that's cute. On January 1st we launched a Kickstarter for Nasty Women, a book of essays and accounts on being a woman in the 21st century. The world is going to shit in a lot of regards, let's be honest, and we felt this could be our small stand against the misogynistic, racist, hateful rhetoric on the rise. It's (sadly) far from new, but it certainly feels like this has been a tipping point into it truly becoming insidious and taking over, and we wanted to reclaim a phrase and give the power to voices often being shouted over. It was the start of quite an adventure.
In three days we were fully funded, within 30 days, we were 369% funded and had raised over £22,000. As two young women and a dog working from a spare room, this still doesn't feel real, and we are still hugely grateful that everyone rallied behind us and, more importantly, our amazing Nasty Women. We've sold out countless print runs, had sell out events across the UK and have more in the pipeline, and we even sold the audio rights to Audible!
Margaret Atwood, an absolute idol of ours, described the book as 'An essential window into many of the hazard-strewn worlds younger women are living in right now', which still sets the group chats giddy at the thought.
The support of Nasty Women and, by extension 404 Ink, meant we could afford to print Issue 2 of our magazine and continue to pay authors and put together a high quality mag of poetry, comics, fiction, non-fiction in English and Scottish Gaelic. It also meant that we could afford to snipe a contributor to Issue 1 that we knew we had to publish: Chris McQueer.
We mark the first year of 404 Ink by topping it with the debut collection by one of the funniest people we've had the pleasure of meeting. We've laughed out loud in public places reading his stories, and we're pleased that in a few weeks, you can do so too. (If you haven't pre-ordered yet, what are you waiting for?)
It's getting quite an Oscar speech, but we feel like we should thank a hell of a lot of people, because while we appear a two person force, we have sapped as much knowledge as possible from great people: Marion and Gill at Publishing Scotland for humouring us when we asked for meetings with "some sort of publisher idea"; Helen Sedgwick for giving us advice when we stepped up to "we think we have a name???"; John and Alan at Bright Red for dealing with us at various stages of crisis and helping us find our feet as things got a little bigger than anticipated.
Beth and Ricky (Interrobang), Paul and Jane (For Book's Sake), Michael and Kevin (Neu! Reekie!), Jenny and Cameron (Flint & Pitch) for letting us gatecrash their amazing events, Mairi for being the unofficial third and light of the group chat; Nick Barley at Edinburgh International Book Festival for taking a very big punt on us this August, Peggy Hughes at Literary Dundee, and the many, many festival and events organisers who are letting us bring Nasty Women to new people; Nathan at Dead Ink, Sam Missingham, Vikki at Birlinn for support at various stages; Angie Crawford from Waterstones and Euan at Edinburgh's West End branch for getting behind 404 early on (and RuPaul GIF wars on Twitter), all the conferences who trusted us with an actual slide dedicated to Robot Wars...
Our pals who dutifully put up with our stress, which is fairly constant at this stage, the amazing people who trusted us with their work in both 404 Ink and Nasty Women, and those who keep submitting. 900 submissions across books and magazines in the first year is no mean feat, but we appreciate the sheer amount of talent who likes what we're doing and want to get involved.
Thanks to everyone, and sorry to everyone we've forgotten in this slapdash emosh blog. We've made a lot of amazing pals through this, and we hope to keep making them for many more years to come.
tl;dr We're just a bit like ????? This is a thing ????? It's been a year ???????? It's going well even though we look tired in every photo ????? Thank you ???? This started as a spare room side-project, but somehow it has already become something far bigger than we expected and hoped. So thank you, and we hope you'll stick around for the ride, wherever the next year takes us.
- Heather & Laura