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Small Press Mafia. 8th House of Montreal. A Review.

8th House of Montreal is a small press in, as the name suggests, Montreal Canada. Publishing according to its webpage, an eclectic list of Avant garde, esoteric and radical books.

8th House launched about 12 years ago and has published approximately 30 writers – poets, essays, novelists.

The works published are uneven in quality and presentation running the gamut from the completely unprofessional (The Hasidic Trauma Unit) to the interesting (poet,Claudia Serea). The Hasidic Trauma Unit is a fairly typical example of the lack of editorial acumen at 8th House. A dull tone, a conventional plot hidden inside a potentially interesting topic (i.e., a Hasidic private investigator) written with all the zip of a stale loaf of hala. One bad book and you could say mistakes happen but there’s a consistent lack of editorial focus, running from political polemics to books on esoteric philosophy, to mysteries, indicating a publishing aesthetic that suggests pretty much anything goes despite the claims or pretense of being cutting edge. Which brings us to the biggest problem and mystery with this small press.

8th House’s biggest defect is the total absence of any sustained or even limited media engagement. There are no reviews, no interviews with the publisher or indication of any staff, no bloggers mentioning the press, no photos of the publisher, no biographical information about the publisher, and absolutely no buzz or even an effort to generate buzz to promote the press. In other words 8th House is unique in the world of small presses in that it seems to be avoiding any attention and is seemingly doing so without any concern for how that might negatively impact the writers its publishing let alone its “reputation.”

The webpage is fairly standard, no frills no bells or whistles.

The publisher Emery Moreira seems at first blush, straight forward – a sometime musician, and at least in conversation, an ardent Canadian lefty with a soft spot for idealized revolutionaries.*

On the positive side unlike larger publishing houses, dealing with 8th House offers the general benefits of dealing with any other small press – direct access to the publisher (via emails which, it must be mentioned can take as long as 2+ months to receive an answer), a collaborative effort regarding book design and editing and, on the surface at least, a sense that the publisher is taking an active interest in you and your work.

Beyond that though things get sticky.

Most small presses have a small budget and limited ability to generate media attention. However, 8th House has taken this issue to a curious extreme avoiding any contact with the media, refusing to contact media to promote writers and their work, refusing offers for profiles, interviews and deliberately avoiding stories that would generate attention. In fact, one really has no choice but to wonder not if Emery Moreira, the publisher is avoiding media attention, but why and that raises a host of questions.

For example perhaps they’re really very shy? Or perhaps, they’re allergic to bright lights and break out in a hive if someone puts a microphone in front of them? Or perhaps the persistent lack of media cultivation is connected to a launch party for a new writer and the publisher sees a group of men at a restaurant and identifies them as being “The Montreal Mafia” and panics, insists that you get the hell out of Dodge as quickly and they run for the nearest exit.

You might in such circumstances, conclude something is amiss. For example you might conclude they don’t want to be identified by known psychopaths, drug dealers, pimps, and assorted muscle and frankly who would? Of course you might then ask why they would be afraid of being recognized and that might lead you to start asking other uncomfortable questions.

But of course that’s just speculation. After all, perhaps the reason they said that about the mafia and wanted to run away, is because they’re timid and have watched the Godfather and Scarface too many times.There could be a hundred reasons for a publisher avoiding the spotlight, even if none of them make even a lick of sense in terms of being a successful publisher in the same way that a chef with no hands who cooks with his feet might have some small difficulty in convincing people to come to his restaurant but keeps hiring dishwashers and waiters.

We’re not saying Emery Moreira is a crook, who is laundering money by overstating the cost of publishing books and related expenses and is clearly making an effort to maintain a low profile by staying out of the limelight. No sir, we are absolutely not saying that – anymore than when Hunter S. Thompson said Nixon was so crooked he needed a team of assistants to screw him into his pants every morning – he actually meant that Nixon was incapable of putting on his pants all by himself. Of course he could put on his pants by himself. Breaking and entering of course required more than one pair of hands.

Perhaps the publisher is just eccentric? After all Max Perkins kept his hat on while he was inside his office.

But we digress.

What we are saying is this: Emery Moreira has essentially no web presence. There’s a story he wrote for a newspaper about 20 years ago detailing his accidental incarceration in a Cuban jail (because he says, he lost his passport*) but beyond that, there’s nothing. Which makes it rather difficult to market and sell books.

Having no serious web presence is not illegal of course but, if you’re running a small press, and want people to know about it, wouldn’t you make an effort to get your name out into the endless land of zeros and ones?

For example, wouldn’t you, as a would-be small press hep kat, publishing “avant garde” literature want to be interviewed? Wouldn’t you want to be profiled by a blogger looking to make a name for themselves? Or by a blogger who already has made a name for themselves and has the ability to get your name and small press on the radar of more than a few people? Wouldn’t you want some attention so people would think of you when they think of the “avant garde” hip publishing scene in Montreal?

Of course you would.

But apparently, not Emery Moreira. Emery Moreira is nowhere to found. There are no recent photos, no reviews, no interviews, no comments of any kind. There’s a big yawning hole where a reputation should exist. Check out Google or the search engine of your choice and plug in” 8th House of Montreal” or “Emery Moreira” and guess what you find? Essentially, cyber boilerplate. You find the webpage. And you find a few boilerplate aggregate pages that repeat the same old same old from 8th House that says, we publish x y and z – send us something.

Beyond that, what do you hear or find? A trip to the book fair in China. That’s right, not Frankfurt, or New York or even something in exotic far away…Toronto. Not something that make sense from a marketing standpoint as well as a financial one. But Beijing. The PRC. Where “copyright” is as flimsy as the concept of human rights. There’s the announcement on the 8th House webpage. “We’re going to the book fair in China! Stop by and say hi!” Except, funny thing: a check of the Beijing Book Fair web page shows no listing for 8th House. Nothing. Crickets.

Consider the following: They publish a novel. Author doesn’t get paid – standard for a lot of small presses – and the author, eager to get some attention, asks 8th House to whom did you send ARC (advanced Reader Copies) of my book?

Well, says Mr. Moreira, here’s the list.

Writer goes through the list. It’s extensive. Over 50 different people and organizations. But funny thing, over half of the reviewers don’t review the type of book you have written. In other words, you wrote something that might make people think of Pynchon or Calvino and 8th House has sent your book to people who review romances, and westerns and romantic westerns with vampires. And then in addition sent it to people whose emails are bogus.

But best of all, this fellow with zero web presence, with no interviews, no profiles, no blogs no buzz of any kind, has sent copies to The New Yorker, The New York Times and a dozen other major media outlets that won’t touch you or your book because…they’ve never heard of you or your publisher.

So, you send an email.

You say well, this business with the ARC’s is the latest in a consistent string of “mistakes” (typos, entire paragraphs printed upside down, zero effort at marketing, missing deadlines, taking months to answer emails, etc) and highly questionable decisions that reflect poorly on your marketing “strategies” and as a result you want to cancel the contract you signed.

Two months and a follow up email later you get a reply that says: We have spent far too much money to simply hand over the rights to your books. If another publisher wants to purchase them that’s fine have them get in touch.

And: As to reviews, no publisher can ethically promise to get your books reviewed by the New York Review of Books or the NY Times…

You respond that the contract clearly states the author retains the copyright to the books. You add that sending review copies to over 50 places that don’t review your type of book undermines the reason for having a contract and at no point in discussions or anywhere in the contract is the amount spent on production mentioned nor does the contract mention that the amount spent attaches to or gives credence to a claim on the license to print the book.

And as to the fatuous, insulting attempt at gas lighting by claiming that the writer had been irritated to discover that they were not being reviewed in the illustrious pages of the Grey Lady – you, as the kids say, call bullshit because of course no such complaint was made. Rather what was said was – hey you jackass, sending review requests for a postmodern romp to people who review westerns and romances and vampire stories is a total waste of time as is sending requests to bogus email addresses and if you have zero media presence major players like the NY Times won’t talk to you.

And so here we are. Yet another cautionary tale. Another example of a small press that appears to have the ethics of a crack whore laundering money to pay for more crack. Because if they were accused of being inept, incompetent,or crooked, you would be unable to defend them with anything more than a shrug that says – beats me; who knows what the fuck this guy is doing.

Which is not to say he’s a crook.

No sir. we’re not saying there’s anything crooked or negligent going on with 8th House of Montreal.

What we’re saying is that Emery Moreira and 8th House have been accused of being unfit to sleep with the pigs.

And we’re defending them.

He’s plenty fit.

 

*We note with wry amusement that Moreira’s original account of his time in Cuba was published nearly 20 years ago and has remained unchanged until just this April when, it got some beef added to it. Expanding the details if not the quality of the tale, Moreira has now, apparently become far less a fan of the famed hospitality of the Castro regime.

Update: 7/26/18

We note with some amusement that in the latest example of sketchy editorial acumen, 8th House now lists books but not the authors. We are willing to assume this is due to a glitch rather than malfeasance but nothing one way or another would surprise us.

 

 

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One comment on “Small Press Mafia. 8th House of Montreal. A Review.

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