404 Ink: Publishing as an Act of Rebellion

Nasty Women book blurb
Category: Writing

Publishing can be a rebellion – it can make a statement, stand for something, make its own small mark. When you believe in what you’re doing, the perceived rules don’t technically matter. A burning idea for a book with a ‘niche’ audience might not be the biggest money maker at a glance; crowdfunding might seem like an odd and uncertain funding route for traditional business people – but if you trust your gut, you can make it happen.

If you trust your gut, you can make it happen

For us at 404 Ink, Nasty Women was our statement. A direct reaction to the American Presidential election in November 2016. The insidious, hateful, racist and misogynistic rhetoric had always been there, but seeing it so openly celebrated and rewarded was a gut punch to us and many of our friends and colleagues. Our book wouldn’t change the world, or fix its problems, but it felt like an act of resistance, an action to firmly mark where we stood, and encourage people to understand the power of their own voices and stories.

Broadly, this was dubbed a publishing rebellion, but we were following our gut and our beliefs. We also followed in the footsteps of those who showed the potential in crowdfunding books where it felt too important to wait. The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, crowdfunded at and published by Unbound, is one of the best and most important reads of the last few years. Writers explore what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today – a brilliant, funny, vital book.

On top of the rightful praise the essay collection received, it showed what publishing and wider discourse lacked – they saw the gap where their voices weren’t being heard and created the platform themselves, going directly to readers to make it happen.

There is a power shift, putting the power of publication in hands of the readers

There is a power shift, putting the power of publication in hands of the readers, giving platforms to lesser-heard voices in both creative writing and non-fiction. There has been a slew of books that have ‘rebelled’ against the status quo; boosted voices often locked out of the broadest platforms.

Dead Ink’s Know Your Place, edited by Nathan Connolly, takes on the rhetoric of the working classes being one homogenous group, writing on the working class, by the working class. 3 of Cups have published On Anxiety, the first in their series that let writers explore their experiences how they see fit. Next is On Bodies.

Una Mullally turned to crowdfunding for the Repeal the 8th Anthology to showcase and explore the Repeal movement ahead of Ireland’s vital vote, showcasing the lived experience, art and creativity spearheading social movements as it unfolds.

That reclamation of publishing power shows no signs of slowing: Lizzie Huxley-Jones is currently crowdfunding Stim: An Autism Anthology, stepping away from non-fiction anthologies, mixing essays with stories, illustrations and art by autistic writers. Sabeena Akhtar is editing a ground-breaking collection of essays written by British hijabis, Cut From the Same Cloth.

Is it rebellious to democratise the funding of, and access to, books? Is it rebellious to give opportunity to voices often left outside the publishing gates? It’s often treated as such. But the rebels of today are shaping the book industry of tomorrow, and based on the books they’re producing, it’s looking like a mighty good future.


We run a yearly project that asks people to share their stories. This year's theme is Rebel. If you have a tale to tell about an act of rebellion – no matter how big or small – why not see if you can write about it in 1,000 words or less? Submit a Rebel story here.

Heather McDaid

Winner of London Book Fair's Trailblazer Award 2017 and named as one of The Drum's 50 under 30 for women in digital and marketing, Heather is an award-winning freelance publisher, co-runner of indie publisher 404 Ink and writer.