Carol Cooper on why being indie and seeing your book in a High Street chain aren’t mutually exclusive

As regular readers of the blog will know, we like to celebrate the success of our writing friends whenever we get the opportunity. Carol Cooper has been a great friend to us over the years and wrote the introduction to our charity anthology ‘Winter Tales’. So we are delighted to announce that Carol has another reason to celebrate. Her second novel ‘Hampstead Fever’ has already been featured in several shops, including as a featured book in Waterstones Piccadilly, alongside David Nicholls no less. However, Carol’s latest success is to secure a deal with WHSmith for ‘Hampstead Fever’ to be part of a high profile promotion with a special offer of buy one, get one half price.

As more and more authors are taking the decision to go indie, and some feel the main sacrifice is missing out on the chance of seeing their book on the shelves of a bookstore, we asked Carol if she could give us some insight into how she’s achieved all she has with ‘Hampstead Fever’. Here’s what Carol had to say:

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I knew I had to have a quality product. Not one that was just good enough, but that would really hold its own amongst other titles from the biggest and best publishers. So I used professional editing and proofreading, and an experienced designer for layout. The inside was, in short, the best I could make it. Then I commissioned a really eye-catching cover from designer Jessica Bell.
 
When it came to WH Smith, I got in touch with their buyer for their travel shops, and asked nicely. That was it. Or nearly it, because it takes more than a quality product – an author has to think about distribution too. It helps that “Hampstead Fever” was printed by Clays, a market leader in print books, and is available through Gardners’ distribution network.
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We’d like to thank Carol for sharing both her great news with us, and some insight into how being indie and achieving that dream of seeing your book on the shelves of WHSmiths don’t need to be mutually exclusively. If you are an indie author who wants to see how it’s done, or just someone looking for a really great read, check out the details of Carol’s WHSmith’s offer below.

WH Smith Catches “Hampstead Fever”

 
 
Carol Cooper’s self-published novel Hampstead Fever has been chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops from March 30th.
 
This outstanding novel will be available in over 30 of their key bookstores at airports and rail stations throughout the UK on a buy one, get one half price offer over the busy Easter holiday period.
 
The perfect read for a voyage, Hampstead Fever follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners as they struggle to keep relationships from falling apart during one hot summer.
 
As a well-known media doctor and award-winning author, Carol Cooper has been a regular in print and on TV and radio over the last 20 years, giving her medical opinion on a range of topics.
 
With Carol’s in-depth understanding of people gleaned from medical practice and the media, Hampstead Fever wittily captures modern urban living.
 
About the book:
 
In a London heatwave, emotions reach boiling point…
 
Ex-con Dan has it all. The perfect job and a new baby with his dream woman. So why is he still an outsider?
 
Laure had baby Jack late in life. It’s only natural she’s a little over-protective. Motherhood is terrifying.
 
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
 
Karen’s love life is reduced to casual sex with the football coach. As a divorcee with four kids, romance is on her to-do list, just below the laundry.
 
Doctor Geoff’s relationship with actress Daisy is bound to be a bit dramatic. But why all the mystery?
 
A slice of contemporary multi-cultural life to make you laugh, cry, and nod in recognition.
 
“Combines the observational wit of Nick Hornby, the emotional depths of Anna Maxted, and the complex cast of Armistead Maupin.” JJ Marsh, author.
 
“Cooper has an impressive way of evolving her characters until you feel you’re reading about your own friends.” Sue Moorcroft, author.
 
“Fun and frolics, racy and pacy. The good doctor has done it again!” Matt Bendoris, The Sun.
 
About the author:
 
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author.  Between Cambridge University and general practice, she spent years in hospital medicine, worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and proofread manuals on rebuilding dual-diesel engines. 
 
Following a string of popular child health titles and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to fiction with her acclaimed debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda
 
Carol lives in Hampstead and Cambridge with her husband. She has three grown-up sons and three step-children.  She wrote Hampstead Fever while co-authoring another medical textbook.
 
Hampstead Fever was first published on 30th June 2016
Hardwick Press, £7.99
ISBN 978 0 9954514 0 7
 

Location, location, location – it’s all about heavenly Hampstead for Carol Cooper

MSP_8587-Edit-2 cropWe are delighted to welcome back Carol Cooper, a long-time friend of the blog, to tell us all about how she decided on the setting for her second book. Carol is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College.

After a string of trade-published non-fiction books and an award-winning medical text, she chose self-publishing for her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest novel, Hampstead Fever, is out in June. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.

Like her fictional characters, Carol lives in leafy Hampstead, North London. Unlike them, she got married again in 2013. She loves a happy ending.

Over to Carol…

Why did I set Hampstead Fever in Hampstead?

Some fiction writers like to invent entire locations, but it’s not for me. I prefer to deploy my imagination on characters and plot rather than geography. It seems an unnecessary headache to make up a whole town. Besides, there’s always the risk that the street map in the author’s head is physically impossible.

Real places already have meaning for readers. Think of Liz Fenwick’s Cornish romances, or Glynis Smy’s choice of EastHampstead Fever FINAL EBOOK COVER London as the setting for Ripper, My Love.

In case you didn’t know, Hampstead is one of the most charming parts of London, and, logically, I also chose it for the title of my novel Hampstead Fever. The area is beautiful, trendy, and has a rich cultural heritage, although, on a Monday morning when Camden Council arrives to empty the bins in my street, you’d be forgiven for missing all of that. On bin day, a queue of irate drivers builds up, many of them turning the air blue because they can’t drop off their little darlings at school without walking a few extra yards.

The area is full of character, but it’s not edgy. Neither are my characters in Hampstead Fever. If you want edgy, you’d be better off reading Irvine Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk.

The people in my books have relatable problems, and Hampstead means different things to each one of them. For Harriet, the area is aspirational. She is a freelance journalist who finds it increasingly hard to pay her bills. Commissioning editors for the magazines she writes for don’t want well thought out features. They prefer pieces like “What’s My Bottom Line?” (the topic is literally pants). Harriet does her best but is overawed by all the successful authors and journalists in London NW3.

At 40, Laure is a first-time mum who panics every time her toddler develops a new symptom. Her partner works long hours and there’s no extended family, so Laure’s parenting guidance comes from books and the uber-competitive mothers at toddler group. Alas, Laure is so wound up in her child that she has little time to spare for her partner.

I think many readers will identify with single mum Karen. Her style is the opposite of helicoptering. I call it submarine parenting. She has four children ranging in age from six to 12 and is facing an early menopause, so energy is at a premium. No wonder Karen lacks the enthusiasm for a suitable relationship.

There are plenty of men in Hampstead Fever too, like Geoff who’s a doctor, and Sanjay who works as a fundraiser. Laure’s partner Dan is now an up-and-coming chef at a new restaurant in the heart of Hampstead Village. It’s the perfect place for a trendy bistro, but Dan complains he’s not paid enough, so, rather than use one of the existing restaurants as a setting, it seemed fairer to make up a new one. But I sited it in Flask Walk, a very real street.

A plus is that I live in Hampstead. Researching a location involves little more than a brisk walk, unlike, say, a writer in the UK who chose Venice as her setting.

I wanted my new author photo to fit in with the locale, but as I discovered you can’t always take one when and where you want. Hampstead Heath proved a little windy and wet on the day, which wouldn’t have been right for a book set in mid-summer.

My photographer got me to pose in the street near the Freud Museum. While the connotations may be a little heavy for my brand of contemporary fiction, the building is attractive. Alas, I hadn’t bargained on the crowds of people arriving to pay homage to the father of psycho-analysis. The Freud Museum doesn’t open till noon, so they were outside, waiting to be shown in to worship at the great man’s couch (yes, it’s still there in his study). One of the prospective visitors had even brought a suitcase, so there he was, on the pavement with his baggage. Now that would have been a great picture.

Hampstead Fever was released on June 30 and available on ebook platforms and in bookshops.