Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Highfield Mole -- aka Tunnels

Gee whiz, crumbs, and all like that.

Back in 2005 I wrote about a children's book: The Highfield Mole. Originally self-published, it had then been taken up by a big-time agent and sold to Barry Cunningham of Chicken House.

Chicken House have not exactly bust a gut to rush it out, but it is soon to be published (July 2007, to be precise) under a new title: Tunnels. Back on their own web site, the joint authors have a lot more info about the book, and themselves.

So far so mundane, if a good boost for those who believe that self-publishing will lead to mainstream success. But there are those in this world who remember that Barry Cunningham was the only publisher in town who had any time for the original manuscript of Harry Potter. And they wonder if he can do it again. Some of these people are therefore looking around for copies of the original, self-published, version of Tunnels, i.e. The Highfield Mole. And they are prepared to buy same in the hope that one day, after (perhaps) seven successive Tunnels and the usual succession of Hollywood movies, the self-published ur-version of this classic will be extremely valuable.

And this is where it gets a bit gee-whizzy. Richard Davies of Abebooks tell me that, through Abebooks, dealers have recently sold copies of The Highfield Mole for £590 and £700 respectively.

You can currently (as I write) buy a signed copy, in mint condition, for £2,500. Plus, of course, £3.80 for shipping.

It may not entirely be a coincidence that one of the two authors of Tunnels has a background in high-level finance; and some of his friends doubtless have sufficiently big bonuses to take a punt on this kind of thing.

As I said last time: we shall see.

Crumbs, eh? Who said the secondhand-book business was dull?

P.S. An hour later: the £2,500 copy has been sold.

14 comments:

Jasper Milvain said...

It appears that Barry Cunningham is encouraging the kind of hopes you describe. As he would, of course.

Andy O'Hara said...

Somehow the carnie show flavor seems a bit overbaked, but if it works, more power to them. They worked hard for it.

(Apologies--posted above on the 2005 entry in error. 'Must cut down on the mouse-clicking...' )

Ann said...

The young reviewers at my local bookshop's reviewers' club have read the proof of Tunnels, and didn't hesitate in saying they thought it was rubbish. Chapter after chapter of digging, I understand.

Anonymous said...

This book is great. Not sure what you read.

Sam said...

This is more of an ethical question. I am a neophyte bookseller in the states. My store is called Wellington Square Bookshop. I had one copy of Highfield Mole (paperback) in mint condition signed by both and doodled with their cute and self-promoting comments, much as the manner of Jasper Fforde. I had it listed for 60 dollars. Four orders came in within 18 minutes last week and I shipped the book to the first buyer for the 60 dollars it was listed at. I thought it was the ethical thing to do. Should I have removed it from stock, advised the buyer that it was sold, just as I did with the other orders from Bibli, Amazon and ABE? The order I filled was from Tomfolio. Throughout my life, I could generally be classified as a gold-plated idiot. I wonder if you all feel the same way, or laud me for my heroic ethical stance? Thanks.

Sam Hankin

Clive Keeble said...

The secondhand book business is seldom dull and in these times of spin and manipulated markets for many shooting stars it is a question of the higher they rise the harder they fall.

I know Chicken House to be a fairly shrewd publisher, with many quality titles but since I have not read Tunnels (or The Highfield Mole) then I am not in a position to be judgmental.

The comments made by Sam Hankin raised an important question on bookdealer ethics. Firstly, speaking as a shareowner in TomFolio - a bookdealer's co-operative website - I am naturally pleased to see that the website produced a sale for the book, and from an ethical point of view I am grateful to see that Sam processed his original order in a timely manner at the listed price.

Nobody should enter the booktrade hoping to make a fast buck on the back of hype and spin which has become the staple diet of the trade's "secondary market".

One might ask how much those who list the book at say $1,000 would be prepared to pay for their investment : only at a time when bookdealers are prepared to pay premium prices for original printings of titles like The Highfield Mole can the market be an accurate reflection of the sales potential.

Since there currently sits a signed copy on Amazon and Abe UK at £250, presumably with other dealers shrugging their shoulders and not willing to purchase, then I think that Sam can take some relief in knowing that this title's current heady priced sales are built more on hype and spin rather than long-term values.

Far from being a gold plated idiot (Sam's words) I consider he would have a better future in the trade than those who rush for the fast and often unethical buck.

Arne Schaefer said...

Sam, you're an instant hero in my estimatio. Firstly you priced the book at what you thought it was worth - ie $60, not some ridiculous astronomical figure as if the damn softcover was made of 24 carat gold-leaf. Secondly you stick to your price when you got an order, even though you may by then have realised that other dealers were cranking up the numbers. Long may you prosper.
from a fellow Tomfolian

Arne

Glenn said...

I was in the fortunate position of having 3 hardback copies of 'The Highfield Mole', which I paid cover price for a couple of years ago. Not wanting to appear too greedy, I listed one on eBay at a start price of 99p and 24 hours later I sold it for £438 (of which eBay / Paypal took just over £60)I listed another copy at £500 and sold it in a few hours. Perhaps I could have waited but a net return of about £800 still has me smiling. These things don't happen very often, and they have a tendency to fizzle out in most cases. Nobody knocks an investor for buying shares cheaply and selling high, why should booksellers feel guilty?

Walter Ellis said...

Yes, yes, yes. But what else is happening? It's been more than a week now, Grumps. You do have a public, you know ...

Anonymous said...

You might be interested to know that a huge proportion of the hardbacks were sold off by Gordon and Williams in 2005 at discounted prices - I should know, I bought twenty at a tenner each! And the bulk of these books went to dealers so no clever high finance skulduggery there, as you seem to suggest. I heard in a recent radio interview that they also went large on leaving copies of the softbacks in parks and on buses, because they just wanted their book to be read (in the face of zero interest from booksellers), and not to end up in a jiffy bags as an "investment". Hats off to the guys! My bank manager certainly loves them.

Jason said...

I am very glad to hear the news about the books demand and the news that the film rights have already been purchased for development. I own the domain name Tunnelsbook.com and this news will surely put purchasing my domain name in high demand.

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