Publishing house founded by Concordia graduates to release six books in 2021

Ace of Swords Publishing aims to make books beautiful

Love and Other Anxieties by Karaline Alessia will be released on Jan. 29. Courtesy Ace of Swords Publishing

It’s time to add a few more titles to your pandemic reading list. Montreal based publishing house Ace of Swords Publishing is gearing up to release six new books in 2021.

Founded in 2019 by four Concordia University alumni, this year looks like the first big year for a brand you’re sure to hear more of.

“This is really going to be the year where we make our first big push, so we are really excited to try and make as big of a splash as we can with our catalogue,” said Michael A. Occhionero, the creative director of AOS.

Occhionero studied English literature at Concordia from 2012 to 2015 where his love for books became embedded in his personality.

“The novel is the pinnacle of storytelling,” he said. “A significant amount of the movies you watch that are great are based on a novel and there’s a reason for that. It’s an excellent vehicle for storytelling.”

Occhionero self-published his first two novels. The first, Idle Hands, was published in 2017, and the second, ALT • 4 • 1, in 2019. The learning experience of managing his own book publication inspired him to take things to the next level. Occhionero joined forces with fellow Concordia graduates to form AOS in 2019.

“We really want to make reading cool again, we want to bring it into the mainstream and we feel that the way to do that is to have a particular emphasis on the beauty of the books.” — Michael A. Occhionero

The company’s visuals are lead by art director Joey Cournoyer. Luis Carlo Parga, a publisher at AOS, takes care of the company’s financial and managerial aspects. The fourth member is the marketing director, Steven Le Piane, who runs the company’s marketing and social media presence.

Together, the group learned the ins and outs of the publishing industry, from getting accredited and signing artists to creating a brand. Being about a year old, the members of AOS say they are still on their learning journey.

After putting out a call for submissions, the group was surprised to receive nearly 100 submissions. They then narrowed the submissions down to five of the six titles which will be released this year, the sixth being Occhionero’s third book.

AOS is putting its best foot forward with this initial launch by appealing to a wide audience. The titles being released this year span across the genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—most of which are written by Montreal authors.

Among these is Karaline Alessia, whose book Love and Other Anxieties will be AOS’s first book of poetry.

Creative Director of AOS, Micheal A. Occhionero. Courtesy Ace of Swords Publishing

“It’s kind of like an open journal, that’s the way I can best describe it,” Alessia said of her upcoming book. “If you read that book you really get to know me, more than probably some of my friends. I was really open and honest in the poetry that I’ve written.” Love and Other Anxieties will be released on Jan. 29.

The book’s delicately dreamy cover embodies both Alessia’s intimate poetry as well as the larger artistic mission of AOS. Their team recognizes that the traditional conventions within the publishing industry have not had the surge of innovation and edginess they’ve seen in other industries. The burgeoning company is striving to break away from the norm by paying particular attention to the aesthetic appeal of their books.

“We really want to make reading cool again, we want to bring it into the mainstream and we feel that the way to do that is to have a particular emphasis on the beauty of the books,” Occhionero said. “Making the books appealing products, making the books beautiful in your hands.”

For Occhionero, who does all of the editing at AOS, the most important aspect of the company is publishing high-quality writing. The best writing he comes across is what he wants to publish, but he knows the value of an inviting cover.

“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but if the cover [intrigues] you enough to open it and read the first few pages, that’s definitely a win for publishing.”

In addition to Love and Other Anxieties, we can look forward to seeing work from renowned Canadian author Bruce Meyer this March. Author of over 60 books, Meyer is signed with AOS to publish a collection of short stories themed around different pandemics, including COVID-19.

Taking the place of the publishing house’s first nonfiction will be a training guide on how to become a professional soccer player, written by a former McGill player.

In acceptance of the modern shift away from bookstores in our digital world, all of Ace of Swords’ books will be available for purchase online. Occhionero also extended Concordia writers an invitation to submit their work.

“I’m a writer and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who appreciates writing as much as I do and I love connecting with other people that feel the same way. Anyone who’s interested in submitting their work with AOS, they’ll find that it’s a really fun process and they’ll definitely enjoy working with us. We’d love for anyone, especially in Montreal, to submit to us.”

Follow AOS on Instagram to keep up with their book releases @aos.publising.