As we wrap down for the holidays, we wanted to look back on another wild year for 404 that included brilliant books and authors, support beyond our wildest dreams, and - somehow - Jeff Goldblum. We’ll try not to waffle too much, but before we get started: THANK YOU to everyone who has supported 404 on any level, whether buying books, boosting our authors or showing up to events. 404 is a little publisher trying to make some noise and every little bit makes a big difference for us - it means a lot!
Mayhem with Helen McClory
When we launched 404 Ink we weren’t sure what we wanted to publish, we just knew how we wanted to do it. We’d say, “I guess we’d like to publish someone like Helen McClory?” In 2018, we PUBLISHED HELEN MCCLORY! It’s been incredibly nice to work with Helen - her work is pint-sized and powerful - each word is precise; she’s a master at creating atmospheric and claustrophobic settings in a handful of pages. Margaret Atwood(!) described On The Edges of Vision and Mayhem & Death as ‘shiny dark licorice mind candy: nothing quite like them’, and Ali Smith(!) picked On The Edges… as one of her books of 2018 in The Guardian, saying that ‘her edgy stories transmit the strangeness of realities in a way that’s comforting precisely because so unsettling. She’s a writer completely unafraid.’
We also re-published Helen’s pamphlet The Goldblum Variations as a wee gift book in Spring and… well… we went to Berlin in November and… yeah…
We Shall Fight Until We Win
In August last year, we met up with BHP Comics at Edinburgh Book Festival and the seeds of an idea were concocted: teaming up to publish a graphic novel anthology celebrating the centenary of the first wave of women gaining the right to vote. The result? We Shall Fight Until We Win. We crowdfunded early 2018, and published in summer. With events at festivals, launches across the country, and the comic itself being printed and displayed at the actual Scottish Parliament(!), it’s been an amazing project to be part of. So many people bought copies to donate alongside their own orders, and we’re thrilled to have been able to donate copies to schools, libraries and organisations across the country. (This is ongoing, so if you’d like to, let us know!)
Like with Nasty Women, we learned a lot in the process of this book. So many women’s stories who we were unaware of as they’d been skipped in history class, or the creators taking a different angle to showcase something new in their comic. It was a joy to work with such an array of amazing, talented creators, and we hope to be able to work with them again down the line. And similarly, to team up with BHP who are - to us - the most exciting publisher in Scotland right now. The work they produce is so good and the impact their work has is so brilliant and important, we’re fair chuffed to have worked with them.
Books For Every One
We crossed paths with Knights Of at London Book Fair and they proposed working together on a book. We’d lurked and admired Aimée and David’s work with Knights Of from afar (not sure if we ever told them that, oops) and their initial work donating brilliant books across the country, and jumped at the chance to work with them. The resulting book: For Every One by Jason Reynolds.
For Every One is a manifesto for the dreamers in all of us, focusing on the importance of having a dream over measuring ourselves and worth by our successes. It’s a beautiful pocket-sized motivation. Jason was over in the UK for a week in November, and while in Scotland we visited Craigroyston Community High School and hosted Jason with Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers at the Scottish Poetry Library with Neu! Reekie! - it really was a special event.
It’s been amazing to work with such an amazing, dynamic and all round kickass publisher who are doing such good work, and to bring Jason’s writing to more people! (As an aside - one of our reads of the year was Jason’s Long Way Down - phenomenal book. Jason’s Run series will also be out in the UK in 2019 - check it out!)
Here we fucking go x
In 2017, we published Chris McQueer’s debut Hings. We’re chuffed that it’s gone on to be bestselling and award-winning, snagging the 2018 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection. We loved working with Chris on his debut, and to see it go on to such well-deserved acclaim, and we were thrilled to work with him again for his second book! HWFG is, to us, the darker big brother to Hings . Martin Compston said: 'The most exciting and authentic new voice in UK literature. Hilarious, heartfelt and utterly unhinged. Charlie Brooker on Buckfast.’
Chris is an incredible writer who’s so effortlessly hilarious on the page, even at his stories’ darkest moments. And there was only one way, in our minds, to celebrate the publication of a book called here we fucking go - a big piss up at Alan’s Shed (sort of) with an amazing line-up of performers. (HWFG launch photos: Jessica Newell)
To 2019, hwfg x
The behind the scenes
Beyond the books we’ve had a big year. It’s not interesting to tell you about the back end stuff of 404 but needless to say this year it’s less chaotic! We’ve been in a transitional year between being a spare room side project and a Proper Publisher and we’re inching ever closer. We’ve put together an amazing Board who we’re looking forward to working with. We also received a few awards - Scottish EDGE’s Young EDGE grant and the Print Futures Award, as well as Creative Scotland funding - which have allowed us to undertake training and development all over the shop to get better at this whole publishing thing. We also hired our first members of staff - our Publishing Assistant Mika Cook, who is a godsend, and our Project Officer, Imogen Stirling, who will be joining us in January and relaunching our literary magazine, which took a break after July’s issue. Bit by bit, we’re growing…
We’re endlessly grateful that 404 has been nominated for and won numerous awards this year - in particular we’re excited that Nasty Women was shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing and voted in the top 10 rebellious reads of the 21st century, and that Chris McQueer’s Hings won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection! As the year draws to a close we were also chuffed to see 404 popping up in some end of year lists, with Ali Smith picking Helen’s On The Edges of Vision as one of her reads of 2018, and Jackie Kay picking Nadine Aisha Jassat’s upcoming poetry collection Let Me Tell You This in the Guardian also. All we want to do is publish books we love, so seeing them and our fabulous authors receiving praise is the nicest feeling!
The Big Ten for Christmas
To top off our year, we partnered with our pals at Neu! Reekie! for a Christmas bash x 404 2nd birthday party x N!R! 8th birthday party aka The Big Ten for Christmas. Seeing off the year with Team 404, an amazing line-up across the board, Margaret Atwood(!) beaming in live from Canada and talking the importance of indie publishing, and hundreds of guests is more than we could have dreamed of. (Photos: Ryan McGoverne)
If you’ve made it this far, we salute you. We’ll keep it brief as you’ll no doubt be hearing about this in far more detail this time next year. We have some amazing books planned for you next year.
We Were Always Here: A Queer Words Anthology edited by Ryan Vance and Michael Lee Richardson
Let Me Tell You This - the debut poetry collection from Nadine Aisha Jassat
Animals Eat Each Other - the debut novel by Elle Nash
Constitution Street - the debut non-fiction exploring the issues of human rights through getting to know one single street by Jemma Neville
The future: part II
In 2017, we wrote a blog called ‘We are tired as fuck’, and a year on it felt a good time to briefly revisit: we’ve largely followed our manifesto of self-care and while 2018 has still had its moments of being busy and stressed, it’s been hugely different. A lot of people have checked in at events and asked us when our next days off are and asked how we’re doing and it makes a huge difference, so thank you! Laura is away to Texas for the holidays and set her out of office in the first week of December (jealous) and Heather is clocking off in the next few minutes. Time off over Christmas is new to us.
If you’ve made it to the end, power to you. Our annual end-of-year waffle is more a recap that we inevitably forget loads in but each one marks us making it a year further than we thought we would when we decided one summer to set up a publisher and see how it goes, so THANK YOU. We realise we spend hundreds of words effectively saying thank you, but that’s the crux of it all. Without the amazing authors, creators and publishers we work with, and without you lovely lot buying their brilliant books, 404 wouldn’t be here, in the terrible twos.
We’re off for the holidays. SEE YOU IN 2019.
P.S. Another horrific lack of office dog Luna in the photo round-up, so: