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In 1997 a book was published by an unknown author living in Edinburgh.

It was to become a publishing sensation, but since nobody knew that at the time the first print run consisted of a mere 500 hardback copies, most of which went to libraries.

The book was “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, by J K Rowling.

harry-potter book jacket

Image from boingboing.net

If you want to buy a first edition, first print run, copy of the book today you’ll need to have several thousand pounds to spend on it, and if it’s a signed copy you’ll need several thousand more. The copy above apparently sold for $29,875 in 2011.

Then again, if you just want to read the book you can get the hardback in a new edition for less than £10 and the paperback for about half that on Amazon. If you’re lucky you might even pick one up in a charity/thrift shop for much less.

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A good rummage in a shop like this might just produce a Harry Potter bargain.

When I self-published a little guidebook to tearooms last year I had no idea how many copies to order, but I found out from the printing company I used that the more I ordered the cheaper each book would be.

Taking a complete stab in the dark and lured in by the lower cost price if I had lots made, I plunged in and ordered 2000.

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A small sample of my book stock.

Had I known then what I know now about the sort of quantity I was likely to sell, I would have paid more for each copy and ordered far fewer, but such is the benefit of hindsight.

On the plus side, lots of lovely customers have shelled out for this small tome, for which I am most grateful, and who knows I may even sell a few more before they become completely obsolete.

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New book by local author in the window of The Bookshop, Blairgowrie, last year.

I was chatting to my sister about this today, and telling her that I felt I’d like to do something with some of the remaining copies.

The only idea I’ve come up with is to make them into some sort of art installation, but beyond piling them up, sticking them to a lamp-post, or arranging them in a sculptural manner, I’ve had little inspiration.

She suggested I ought to have a competition for people to propose things I might do with them, and that made me think about writing this blog post.

This reminds me of a situation my dad was in a few years ago, when he was lumbered with boxes of a book that wasn’t selling (he was running a book stall at the time). I remember leaving a copy on a train once, and on a bus, and I think possibly even on a park bench. I hoped that in each case someone might pick the book up and read it, or give it to a second hand shop or something, but I really don’t know what became of them.

I could do the same with my book, except that I am still selling it online and in a few shops, and I don’t want to upset anyone who’s recently purchased a copy.

The longer I have it, however, the more out of date it becomes, and I’d like to work towards putting it to another use.

If you happen to come up with an interesting idea for what I might do with, say, a box of 100 copies, perhaps you could leave a comment below. There might well be a teatowel for the winning suggestion.

Since I haven’t yet broken even on the cost of producing the book, I’d like whatever I do with spare copies to cost nothing. I have given quite a few to libraries, but I don’t want to offload more onto them when the book is getting a bit dated.

I’ll be putting my own thinking cap on again, and if I come up with anything of interest I’ll post about it anon.

Perhaps I’ll try wearing a pancake like this beautiful rabbit, to see if that proves more inspiring.

 

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A week ago I published a post entitled How to write a novel, which wasn’t so much a set of instructions as an update on my progress with writing one. I was pleased with myself for having hit my first 10,000 words. In the week since then I have added absolutely nothing to it.

This morning I began re-reading the first page of what I’ve written, and discovered that it’s so mindbogglingly tedious that I can’t even reach the bottom of the page without yawning my head off and wishing I was watching paint dry. Is this because I’ve read it so often, or is it because it genuinely is mind-bogglingly tedious?

I’m not sure, but it puts me in the sticky situation of not knowing what to do next. I could put the first 10,000 words to the back of my mind, pick up where I left off and keep writing regardless, or I could completely start again, rehashing the whole thing from scratch, or I could give up on it altogether, and accept that I will never write a novel.

Just at this moment, giving up seems a) the most sensible, and b) impossible. Even if every word I write is utter drivel, I don’t think I can stop myself from having a go at bashing out chapters of the stuff. Although I do think most of what I’ve written so far is excruciatingly dull, something inside me can’t seem to give it up on it.

Given this sorry state of affairs, having a bit of a whinge on my blog seemed like a refreshing balm for the soul. In fact, I feel better already, and would like to now make up for my moaning with pictures of a nice lunch I had last month in the utterly splendid bookshop and cafe, ReadingLasses (it specialises in books by women writers – rather a clever name, don’t you think?), in the small town of Wigtown.

I’ve written before about this place (here), and my most recent visit – while on holiday in Galloway with the delightful assistants – was as pleasing as ever.

It was exceptionally busy the day we popped in for luncheon, there being a busload of about 30 American tourists just having shipped in, shortly to be followed by a second busload. Each of them wanted to pay for their own meal, which led to a great deal of queueing and till-side confusion when it came to settling the bills. The way the shop is laid out, there’s not much space at the till area, indeed if you have more than one punter standing there it feels a tad cramped. We were seated near the till and the spectacle of politely shuffling tourists, peering at their strange currency and trying to remember what they’d eaten and therefore wanted to pay for, afforded us great entertainment. A small dog, that I think lives in the shop, added to the hullabaloo by getting in amongst the feet of punters and waitresses, and was clearly much excited by the sociable atmosphere.

I had been hoping for the shepherdess pie I had on my last visit here, but it wasn’t on the menu, so I plumped for a delicious sounding three bean chilli (vegan, to boot) instead. It came with crisp French bread, tortilla chips and some lettuce. The chilli was extremely hot, but the side items and a lovely glass of cool tap water helped to cool down my burning mouth. It was tasty and satisfying:

Thanks to it being, although quite substantial, also fairly light, I had room for a pudding. The puddings here are as good as the main courses, and I was tempted by the rice pud I had enjoyed previously, but then I remembered the chocolate brownie.

On the whole, I’m not much of a one for brownies, being suspicious of the sort of uncooked texture of the middle, but I had tasted one here before and recalled how exquisite it was. I took the plunge. It was served hot with ice cream, and I paired it rather decadently with an excellent decaf cappuccino:

I don’t know if that appeals to you or not, but I wish I could let you taste it. It exceeded my expectations, and even now I can lapse into a state of bliss just thinking of how the chocolate melted on the tongue and how the texture and warmth seemed to nourish my blood and make me fitter, stronger, and almost invincible. (This might be stretching things a bit, but it did make me feel magnificent, despite its artery-clogging potential.)

I can’t resist another picture of it, to emphasise the pleasure:

Delightful assistant no.1 also indulged in a dessert, and the rice pudding called to her. It was, to be truthful, more a plate of cream with some rice in it, which exactly suited her tastes:

And so, when I feel useless and unable to achieve what I’ve set out to do in the novel-writing department, at least I know I still have the ability to consume and enjoy delicious fare. Not perhaps the world’s greatest ever achievement, but eminently satisfying for me all the same.

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If you haven’t seen my Teacups Press blog post, you might not know this yet but my book, “Tearoom Delights: a little guide to delightful tearooms of Perthshire, Angus and Dundee” is now available!

I picked it up in boxes two days ago from the printer. I’m pleased with it, and happy that it’s come to fruition as I’d hoped. Now I just have to try and shift all these copies…

For the meantime, it’s only available on ebay, or from me directly (by emailing me, Lorna, at teacups@sent.com). Unfortunately I can’t process credit cards at the moment and so the payment options buying from me are cheque (sterling), cash, postal order or bank transfer. You can use a credit card via an ebay account.

Very soon the book will hopefully be available in local bookshops, tourist information offices and tearooms.

A lot of things make me think of my grandparents, and doing this book is one of them. This rather yellowing picture is of me with my grandad, as a tot at the seaside:

I often think of my grandparents, and this grandad in particular because he’s the one I remember best. When I’m feeling stressed by modern day life, and computer challenges in particular, I take some sort of comfort from thinking how much more baffling it would be for my grandad, if he were alive today. He would be astonished by blogging and the internet in general because he died before it all took off, and I sometimes wonder if life was simpler and easier in his day, although I wouldn’t want to give up all the comforts and conveniences of life in 2012. I suppose every generation has its good and bad points, and there is much to be thankful for in this day and age.

Back to the book, something I wish I could show to my grandparents, but am very grateful to be able to share with my parents. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to dedicate a book to them, and now that I’ve been able to do that, I feel very satisfied.

It’s not easy to market your own work, perhaps especially for most Brits who are brought up to believe that blowing one’s own trumpet is to be discouraged. There are other cultures that are more comfortable with the idea of personal success and achievement, but it’s part of the British psyche to downplay things and be self-deprecating. (I have been told that this is a charming aspect of the British character, although I could imagine that some people might find it intensely infuriating, exasperating and possibly quite ridiculous.)

Luckily for me, fellow blogger and Tearoom Delights customer, Christine, has done a lovely post about my book on her blog, Writing from Scotland, and I would like to direct you there for an independent review. The teabag mentioned on her blog varies, incidentally, and if you have a special preference I can offer the following choices:

Earl Grey

Lady Grey

English Breakfast

Ceylon

Assam

I hope that no-one receiving a book now is going to be disappointed by the teabag I chose for them, but if you are, please let me know and I will gladly send an alternative.

Here are a few more pictures of the book. This, as you may have gathered, is the front cover:

And this is the back:

This is a wee sketch on page 25:

If you’re thinking that £7, plus postage and packing, is a lot to be spending on a small book about tearooms you might never even visit, you could be right. However, if it helps you to make your decision about whether or not to splash out on a copy, here’s a bit of extra information. £7 will get you:

  • 104 black & white pages with 49 illustrated line drawings/lettering
  • 6 full colour photos on the inside and outside covers
  • a coloured fold-out map on the inside back cover with tearoom locations
  • 23 tearoom reviews with a useful information section for each one
  • a page on local history by my dad
  • a few pages of witterings from me by way of an introduction

If you order it direct from me, you also get a teabag (woohoo!). That’s it really, I hope it’s worth £7 to the kind people who’ve purchased it so far, and to anyone else who parts with their hard earned spondoolicks in the future.

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