Spotlight On: Dead Ink Books
By Alice Fusai and Frankie Harnett
Darkly comedic, Dead Ink Books derives its name from its early roots as a digital-only publisher. According to its Director, Nathan Connolly, in the early days of the press they couldn’t afford to print books, so began to publish only digital books and Dead Ink was born. From the get-go, Dead Ink’s highly experimental creative projects and championing of amateur authors have made a deep impression on the literary world. 2014 saw a significant victory in the publishing of their first print book and the beginnings of their use of crowdfunding, which has continued into their present model. The most transformative moment for Dead Ink came in 2015, when it was taken over by Connolly and, with further funding from the Arts Council England, relaunched to become what we now know as Dead Ink Books. Today, they are based out of a local, community-minded bookshop in Liverpool and are known for releasing wildly imaginative titles from up-and-coming authors.
As a self-proclaimed “small, ambitious and experimental literary publisher,” Dead Ink produces an expansive variety of titles. Ranging from dark horror to blood-curdling dystopia, heart-wrenching memoirs to thought-provoking essay collections, Dead Ink has an astonishing range for a small, independent publisher.
At present, their most talked about title is undoubtedly Missouri Williams’s debut novel The Doloriad. Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses and described by fellow prize winner Neil Griffiths as a “terrifying act of the imagination,” the novel has received a wealth of attention. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which few humans have survived, it centres around an incestuous family headed up by the terrifying Matriarch, who sends her daughter off as a marriage offering to a newly emerged group of survivors, triggering a series of events that send the fragile order they have spiralling.
Another highly discussed work published by Dead Ink is Ros Anderson’s debut novel, The Hierarchies. Recommended for fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Naomi Alderman’s The Power, the novel follows a female sex robot who exists to service her human husband, residing on the top floor of his human family’s home. Over the course of the book, Sylvie starts to question her fundamental commands and yearns to experience human life. Described by established blogger The Literary Addict as “a haunting read with real slices of happiness,” this book is not for the faint of heart, exploring identity crisis, what it is to be human, exploitation and harrowing gendered violence.
Coming up next October is Lamb by Matt Hill. Hill is not a newcomer to the literary world, and boasts an impressive prize-nomination count. His new work has been described by the publishing house as a “sci-fi infused eco-horror,” which seems quite right for a book dealing with blood, grief and moss. The story opens with driver Dougie Alport carrying out a deadly attack on his employer’s head office, and builds on the consequences of this action, delving into themes like parent-child relationships and the significance of life in a post-human society. The book breathes in a discomforting language, challenging the reader to question our life infused with technology. Definitely a title to keep an eye on. For Liverpool-based readers, be sure to attend the book launch on 12 October 2023 at Dead Ink Bookshop.
To that end, Dead Ink isn’t just a publishing house. Opened just a year ago, Dead Ink Bookshop is a proudly local and independent bookshop located in Liverpool. Focused exclusively on books from independent publishers, the shop hosts readings, book launches and different workshops for the local community. With the importance of physical bookshops having been highlighted during the pandemic, opening up doors continues to be a fundamental act of resistance. Having a place where people can go to feel represented and find a possibility for new encounters still, very much, makes a difference.
Dead Ink isn’t afraid of the challenge publishing offers, and continues to challenge the industry successfully, but help is always appreciated. You can support via their Patreon channel.
If you want to explore experimental literature or suggest something to your Lovecraft-fanatic friend, Dead Ink Books is going to become your favourite independent publisher. To keep updated on news about events and publications, you can also follow them on both Instagram and Twitter.