30 Under 30: 404 Ink – Heather McDaid and Laura Jones

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Heather McDaid (26) and Laura Jones (27), both currently live in Edinburgh

Heather McDaid and Laura Jones are the founders of indie publisher 404 Ink, which they launched in 2016.

Heather and Laura worked together on the Saltire Society’s virtual literary festival Scot Lit Fest, and during that time discussed how they’d both like to set up their own publisher. One week after the festival finished, they took the leap.

They felt there was a gap in publishing for using social media properly – loudly and proudly, building communities by using crowdfunding, and publishing less but publishing louder. They run from a spare room in Edinburgh, together with their office dog Luna.

Their first publication, Nasty Women, came about after the election of Donald Trump. The day after his election as President of the United States, there was a feeling of deflation that someone could run on such hateful, misogynistic, racist rhetoric, and actually win.

The idea of taking his phrase ‘Nasty Women’ and giving it to a range of women to imprint their own meaning on it felt perfect, and Heather and Laura knew they had to do it. It had the potential to be an important, timely and powerful book.

In December it was commissioned, in January it was put on Kickstarter (raised £22,000+, 369% funded, supported by Margaret Atwood), in February it was sent to print, and in March (International Women’s Day) 2017 it was published.

It was a whirlwind, but Heather and Laura are incredibly proud of the book and were so enamoured with their Nasty Women that they trusted them with their own stories about racism, contraception, bereavement, sexuality, religion, and many more. Together they created what has been called ‘the intersectional feminist anthology that everyone must read’.

If you don’t own a copy yet, get one at your local Waterstone asap. I had to get two copies, because my husband kept borrowing (*cough cough* stealing) mine!

The publication of Nasty Women has led to sold out events across the UK, and most recently an appearance of one half of 404 Ink at the Edinburgh International Book Festival alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and acclaimed Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS…

What’s your proudest achievement?

Laura: Instead of one particular achievement, I’m mostly proud of many little decisions and movements I made in my professional career that have amounted to 404 Ink’s achievements. Jumping into freelancing with relatively few contacts to rely on after a full time position at a publisher, continuing to work in non-publishing areas to sustain myself – these are potentially boring, practical financial decisions but they have been vital towards where I am today.

They were risky and potentially professionally isolating but I was determined to make it work. I now have numerous projects I’m immensely proud to be part of and the key is to ask myself – would my 16 year old self be completely amazed by what 26 year old Laura is doing now? The answer is ‘hell yes’.

Heather: Similarly, 404 Ink has come along and replaced all my proudest achievements before! As someone who grew up a music fan, my goal at 13 was to write for the magazines I was reading, and I’m incredibly proud that by my early twenties I’d ticked all of those off the list, and the majority of my bucket list bands, and that I’m currently able to make a living doing what I’d always wanted since a young age.

It ties into 404 Ink – to look at the first 14 months of its existence and the amount we’ve achieved by simply doing what we really wanted to do, it’s incredibly humbling and exciting.

What women inspire you?

Laura: Amanda Palmer has been a huge inspiration to me since I was a late-teenager. Her music as Dresden Dolls and as a solo musician is the perfect amount of confrontational and visceral to satisfy any teething teenager’s needs. I loved her music long before she began sharing it for free and regularly using crowdfunding as a reliable model – when she did that I only loved her more and was soon professionally inspired so I have a lot to thank her for.

Is it a cliche to say my mum? I think I take after her a lot more than I previously realised and her unwavering support of me has been one of those rare constants in my life and, of course, she worked hard to make me the woman I am today and hopefully I’ve done her proud so far.

Heather: I grew up a fan of rock and metal music – pretty much all of the bands were guys, when I started reading books on music it was all Slash, Axl Rose, Mick Wall. When I discovered the likes of Shirley Manson (Garbage), Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Joan Jett (The Runaways), Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls) it was a revelation as a teenager. The women in my family are incredibly kickass too. I don’t think I could have taken as huge a leap into going freelance, launching my own things, without the support of all of them.

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

It’s a tough question – there’s a lot of great communities around that support women – Women In Journalism and Women in the Arts Scotland spring to mind. They’re places to share, discuss, and raise queries if ever a work situation arises you don’t know how to handle. The glass ceiling shouldn’t exist at all, obviously, but there’s definitely a confidence that comes from being part of active communities to then tackle any inequalities, and hopefully encourage more people – male and female – to call it out when they see it and trigger the well-needed changes to occur.

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

Laura: Amanda Palmer (of course), Stoya (a really rad feminist porn star), and probably my mum. I think she’d enjoy the dinner chat that would come out of that.

Heather: Kathleen Hanna (queen), Serena Williams (I’ve loved tennis since I was younger and I remember watching her as a kid – she’s just so utterly brilliant, and also a queen), and Aubrey Plaza or Amy Poehler… whoever was free that day. I can’t choose between them…

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

Just do it! Whatever your goals are, there’s great support networks out there, and while there will always be someone there to tell you not to do something, there’s a lot more people out there who are ready to cheer you on and offer support. It’s been the most fun thing to launch our own company and run things how we’d always talked about, and we hope that you have the confidence to take the leap for your own goals.

Find out more at 404ink.com or follow them on Twitter @404ink@laurafjones and @heathermmcd.

Pictures courtesy of Suzanne Heffron and 404 Ink


You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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