The Bottom Line

Lucky for us, Campbell or Camp to all his friends and foes, was able to snag us our usual table at ‘Gramma’s’ Pub, on the glassed in veranda in the corner under the TV. Another glorious day with a few clouds drifting across the pale blue sky, a westerly whipping up a small chop in the harbour and providing some wind for sailing enthusiasts. All in all, a perfect late summer’s day. I said that much to Camp, who sadly shook his full mane of unruly white curls.

“We need some rain. I didn’t think I’d ever say that in these parts. We are after all in the rainforest, even though a lot of it is paved,” Camp said ruefully.

“I have to say I love the sunshine and since there is nothing I can do about the weather, I might as well enjoy it,” I said.

“Easy for you to say my friend, you’re retired and have a working partner. I’m on my own in the bookstore, which is truly a non-profit venture, albeit one that has it’s perks: Usually intelligent and curious customers, lot’s to do and read even when there is nobody in the store; a great view of the harbour out back and perfect working hours and last but not least: within walking distance of the pub.

We drank to that.

“You must have some best sellers that hold up the bottom line and always sell,” I said.

Camp was quick in responding. I must have hit a nerve. “A good book is a book that sells. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, who wrote it or if it’s literature or trash. All that matters in the book business is to be able to sell the book. It’s a sad truism that often times the best written books just sit on the shelf. Why? It’s as simple as a fickle public. Second guessing Joe or Jane Public is a waste of time. And yes, you can judge the book by its cover. Years ago our summer best seller was: ‘How to shit in the woods’. A thin volume that deals exactly with what the title implies. But what sold the book was the picture on the cover of a guy with his pants wrapped around his ankles, one hand with a roll of toilet paper the other holding a small spade. That image and the title sold that book, not the contents. The same applied to: ‘Women who run with wolves’ ‘Men are from Mars, Women from Venus’. If I would be interested in producing a book simply for it’s commercial value it would be entitled: ‘How to get rich quick, legally’, or ‘True love, just around the corner’, ‘Sex, love and money: Guaranteed!’ or ‘Life after death’, as told by the ones who came back.

All the promotion in the world isn’t going to sell a book if the public is not interested. I should know because we have the store full of beautiful coffee table books with gorgeous photography bound in expensive glossy paper and endorsed by famous people. Children’s books are a prime example. Grandmothers used to buy the old standby classics like ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ or the fairy tales. Not any more. Now they come in and bluntly ask: What do the kids like? If it has a TV show or a game attached to it that so much the better. All the beautiful artistic books by unknown authors just sit there and look pretty. The bottom line is like in any business: sales, profits and losses and if it’s not on the shelf, you can’t sell it.”

“And then there is Murphy’s law: ‘If it can go wrong, it will go wrong’, I lamely added, surprised by Camp’s passionate monologue.

“Or the weather,” he said. Remember Christmas Eve Day past which is always our best day of the year, except last year when we awoke on the morning of the 24rh December to the beautiful sight of a about a foot of fresh snow. This is Lotus land! This doesn’t happen here! Remember, it never snows in the lower mainland. I barely made it to the store. On foot that is. The best day of the year turned into the worst day of the best month. My thanks to all those customers who heroically braved the lovely weather looking for that last minute gift, we survived. I am in the book business because I love books and all that it entails. Definitely not for the money. Here is another truism, the last one for today: If it ain’t fun it ain’t worth doing. That after all is the ultimate bottom line.

That was by far the longest soliloquy by my friend.

“Hear, hear, long live Coast Books,” I toasted him. We emptied our glasses in one long drought, two thirsty men for sure. We immediately ordered another round from Vicky who must be a mind reader because she already had two fresh cool pints ready for us.

“But lucky for you Camp, you’re also a politician. I hear there are big bucks in politics. Just look at the latest golden handshakes for civil servants that have been let go by the new government In Victoria.”

“Well again, I’m the wrong kind of politician. Volunteer, not paid, honest and elected, unlike those deputy ministers who ended up with half a million dollars severance pay.”

“Disgusting,” I said.

“In the contract,” Camp retorted.

“There you go. All you need is a proper contract with lot’s of small print.”

“All I need is cold beer and a book that everybody wants to read.”

“Cheers to that,” I toasted my friend.



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