5 Minutes Interview with Heather McDaid

Heather McDaid is an award-winning freelancer, publisher at 404 Ink, and books editor at The Skinny. She co-ran Scotland’s virtual book festival #ScotLitFest, and writes for various music magazines. She won the London Book Fair Trailblazers Award, was named in The Drum’s 50 Under 30 for digital and marketing, and was jointly named The Saltire Society’s Emerging Publisher of the Year for 2017. She can be found at heathermcdaid.com


What’s next on your reading list?

Comma Press’s Banthology. In January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the United States, effectively slamming the door on refugees seeking safety and tearing families apart. Banthology brings together specially commissioned stories from the original seven ‘banned nations’ as part of their Banned Nations Showcase. It sounds exciting and eclectic, as well as important and taking a stand.

What TV series are you obsessing over right now?

I kind of love Riverdale. I’m not sure how relevant that is to literally anyone reading this but it is so good, and based on the Archie Comics so I guess it’s moderately literary-relevant if you’d like to stretch it…

Tell us what you do in 20 words.

I’m a full time freelance publishing person and writer. I also co-run the award-winning independent publisher 404 Ink.

What do you like about your job?

I like the fact that no two days are the same when you’re a full time freelancer / run your own company. There’s a flexibility to times and projects, I can leave the house and walk the dog on lunch. It’s a mix of doing smaller things for bigger companies, doing everything for your own; working on a tiny part of one author’s campaign, or getting to work really closely with your own.

Which imprints do you most admire and why?

I really like Dead Ink. Everything that 404 launched to try do – good use of social media, publishing a variety, building support through crowdfunding, they tick all the boxes already. Know Your Place, their anthology about the working class by the working class was vital and brilliant, and the creativity of their Kickstarter project on the Eden Book Society shows that publishing can be quirky and effective. They’re doing great stuff.

Which great novel have you tried to read but failed?

Infinite Jest is the only book I’ve ever given up on. I even tried it on a Kindle so the glacial speed in which I crept through the pages didn’t feel quite as bad as with a physical book where you can see. About two years ago I took it off the Goodreads ‘currently reading’ list for good. Some things aren’t meant to be.

What is the one essential item you bring to the Fair?

Business cards. I wasn’t sure about it when I was at University – as a student, it’s easy to feel a bit odd carrying a business card but I would say the benefit of people being able to contact you easily if you cross paths can’t be understated. I maybe handed out two when I went my first year but they followed up, so while it was wasteful on one hand, it was useful on the other. Have an easy way for people to follow up with you – just a website and email is all you really need.

What has been your most successful piece of business, or contact made, at The London Book Fair?

I actually met someone at London Book Fair via winning the Trailblazers Award, and through that 404 Ink sold the audio rights to our first book Nasty Women, which for a publisher so new, and at that time even smaller than we are now, that was particularly huge, and very exciting to hear such wonderful and powerful essays and account read aloud and reach more people.

How has winning the Trailblazers changed your life?

As a freelancer who often works from home on multiple jobs any given month, winning the Trailblazers Award was a validation that there’s no one route through publishing, and that you can still achieve great things – and be recognised – while working in a more unconventional fashion. It can be very easy to feel isolated when you’re self-employed, and see a lot geared towards companies, so it was very cool.

What one tip would you give to young publishers?

Go for it, really. There’s no one way to do things, and no one route through the industry. If you think you can do something better or differently, don’t wait for others – just take the leap (with plenty of advice and research and planning!).

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