Dead Man Talking

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Category Archives: How to Save Canadian Literature

How to Save Canadian Literature by Crad Kilodney

How to Save Canadian Literature by Crad Kilodney

April, 2001


Canadian literary publishers are an endangered species. There is no way they can make a profit on their books. They just don’t sell. Publishers lean on the government to support them through the various arts councils. But what happens when arts council budgets are cut? What if a publisher gets cut off altogether? This sort of dependency is not healthy. Fortunately, there is a better way: publishers can launder money for organized crime! Let’s see how it could be done.

Useless Press is a typical small Canadian literary press. They sell only a few copies of their titles, and most of their print runs sit in a warehouse gathering dust. Inventory that gathers dust is working capital that isn’t working, and that’s the biggest problem in the publishing business. But Useless Press is going to make friends with a gangster named Boris, and here’s what happens: once a month, Boris buys $20,000 worth of back-list inventory from Useless. (For the sake of appearances, the books are sold at the wholesale discount of 46%, and the invoice is made out to Boris’s shell company, which supposedly exports Canadian books.) Boris has his man pick up the books in a truck. Boris pays in cash — very dirty cash, of course — but once it gets deposited in Useless Press’s bank account, it becomes untraceable.

Now it is necessary to get most of that money back to Boris — about $14,000, I’d say, since a return of 70 cents on the dollar is more or less standard. (Useless Press gets to keep $6,000 as their commission.) It’s simple: Boris returns 70% of the books for a $14,000 refund. (Believe me, this happens all the time in the book business.) Instead of issuing the usual credit, Useless Press writes him a refund cheque for $14,000. That cheque is clean. Boris can do whatever he wants with the money. As for the 30% of the books that Boris has kept, he can always sell them at a ridiculously inflated price to another of his shell companies just to launder additional money or at least move it around.

Don’t look so shocked. Is this any worse than having the government spend your tax money subsidizing Poems From My Deconstructed Anus, by Zit Temblor? Hell, the dirty money was already out there. Besides, who do you think smoked all that dope in the first place?

For a small literary press like Useless, an extra revenue stream of $6,000 a month is more than enough to keep them cranking out their miserable, uncommercial books that will have no lasting impact on anyone, anywhere, and the stale inventory gets moved out. But the important thing is to provide an outlet for marginal Canadian writers, who don’t care where they get published as long as they get published. They don’t have to know where the money comes from that pays for their books. And even if they did know, they wouldn’t care. What matters to them is the thrill of holding a real book with their name on it in their hands. Trust me. I ought to know.


by Crad Kilodney


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