Selling My Books: Carol Cooper’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Carol Cooper headshot

The multi-talented, multi-tasking author Carol Cooper

I first met Carol Cooper via the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which we’re both Author Members, and soon discovered that as well as writing novels, she has a busy and successful career as a GP, a medical journalist for the UK’s top-selling newspaper, and lecturer to medical students at the prestigious Imperial College London. Oh, and she’s had lots of medical and healthcare books published too – phew! I thought I was busy till I met Carol…

Back to her burgeoning career as a novelistI really enjoyed her debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda (which I’ve reviewed here).

I’ve been very grateful to her for the support she’s given to my own book about diabetes, Coming to Terms With Type 1 Diabetes, (she’s given me permission to quote her review: “It’s a lovely uplifting little book, full of insight, wit, and practical know-how. I think it will appeal to anyone with Type 1 Diabetes and their family. Health professionals would also find it useful. The book is beautifully written. A little treasure as well as a ray of hope.”

She also beta-read a short story of mine about a GP, helping me get my facts right about an important plot point. “The Art of Medicine” is published in my new collection of flash fiction, Quick Change.

I’m therefore delighted that Carol’s somehow managed to find time in her busy life to stop by Off The Shelf to share her top tip for book marketing.

Cover of One Night at the Jacaranda

The new cover for Carol Cooper’s debut novel

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could just be the one you most enjoy.

Carol Cooper: My favourite tip is based on exploring the world around my novel, which I think is advice I first heard from writer Jonathan Gunson.

So on my blog Pills & Pillow-Talk, I write occasional posts in which I let characters out of One Night at the Jacaranda to have new adventures.  Dan, Sanjay, Karen, and the rest of them are all fictional, but I know them pretty well by now so they’re friends.  It would be rude not to invite them round occasionally.

The posts are like some of the extra material you might get when you buy a DVD.  I can’t tell you how well they work to sell books, if at all, but I believe that as I’m selling almost exclusively online, then online is where I should concentrate my efforts.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Carol Cooper:  I write each post from a character’s point of view, in the third person.  Using the present tense makes the text feel more like a blog post and helps distinguish it from events in the book itself.  I’ll add some photos, which usually also find their way onto my novel’s Pinterest page (http://www.pinterest.com/drcarolcooper/one-night-at-the-jacaranda/).   As each one is a mini-chapter in that character’s life, it’s short like most of my posts. And I try not to let the characters interact too much. There’s no point giving the plot away!

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Carol Cooper: I enjoy it because it’s creative and it’s directly about the material in the book, so I don’t feel I’m giving up writing time for promotional activities.   It also means I can add a few topical touches.  There’s one post where GP Geoff visits his grandmother, who’s now so dotty that she’s put up Christmas decorations in the bathroom (it’s not Christmas).  He muses about a new online cognitive test, so I included a link to that test.  And in a post last September called Female, 38, Seeks Altruistic Single Male, Laure has read new research showing that men who do charitable deeds make more desirable partners.

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Carol Cooper: So far I’ve only used it for Night at the Jacaranda, but I’m looking forward to doing the same for the follow-up novel once I’ve finished it.  I don’t want to write any scenes that might end up in the story, or, even worse, contradict the story.  Of course, one can do much the same for non-fiction.  Say you’ve written a parenting title.  You could write a post on, for instance, keeping your toddler amused on a car journey.  As it happens, I have authored childcare books, but I wouldn’t actually do this on Pills & Pillow-Talk as I wouldn’t want my fiction and non-fiction sitting cheek by jowl on the same site.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Photo of large ornate outdoor clock

The clock in Marylebone, London, where the action kicks off at the opening of “One Night At The Jacaranda”

Carol Cooper: I suspect I would do much the same.  A friend of mine includes interviews with some of the characters, which is a good idea too.

Debbie Young: Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Carol Cooper: It eats into precious writing time (bet you’ve never heard that one before!).  I usually say I also dislike acting cold-calling or acting in any way like a salesperson as it’s far too brash, but the truth is that I’m not averse to stopping a woman I see in red heels, telling her that her shoes are just like the ones on the cover of my novel, and giving her a promotional postcard to prove it.  I think promoting a book is all about using and creating opportunities whenever you can, as long as it doesn’t feel icky.

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Carol Cooper: There are many activities that I haven’t perfected!   Next time I’d like a book launch.  As a traditionally published author, I never got book launches either.  Publishers tend to save their resources for books from big names – do I sound bitter?  Anyway I’ve seen the fun they can be, and of course you can post photos and blog and tweet about your launch, which all helps create a buzz.

Debbie Young: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Carol Cooper: I’m working on the follow-up to One Night at the Jacaranda, which will also be set in London.  Then there’s the prequel crying out for attention too.  It will go back about 15 years, to when Geoff was a medical student.  I also have plans for a novel partly set in Alexandria, where I grew up, and it probably won’t be chick-lit.

Debbie Young: I’ll look forward to reading both of those, Carol. I never knew you grew up in Alexandria – how interesting! Thanks for sharing your favourite book marketing advice here today, and good luck with all of your many books.

Carol Cooper: Thank you so much, Debbie, for inviting me onto your blog to share my thoughts.  I’ve really enjoyed your questions.

Debbie Young: I’m sure you’ll want to find out more about Carol Cooper and her work – so here’s a link to her website again so you can hop straight over there: www.pillsandpillowtalk.com

FOR MORE TOP TIPS FOR SELF-PUBLISHED & INDIE AUTHORS:

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11 thoughts on “Selling My Books: Carol Cooper’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

  1. Wow what fun! Great idea. A home for those little scenes which float by as you’re in the shower or having insomnia …

    • I’m not the only one, then, who has her best ideas in the shower – or in the middle of the night in pitch dark (hence the need to keep a notebook always at the side of my bed). Carol’s is a fun blog to read, Clare, definitely worth following!

  2. Ah, those insomnia scenes! I know just what Clare and Debbie mean. My mother used to have an amnesia pad by the side of her bed. I didn’t know I’d be doing the same so soon!

  3. Oh, i like this! I have done a few microstories around my characters on my blog (especially on the prequel basis, as my characters are already late fifties / early sixties) but got so caught up in the books I haven’t done any lately, this is both reminder and development of a very vague idea 🙂

  4. It’s good to know that my tip struck a chord, though I’m beginning to suspect my microstories owe more than a little to a short attention span… Now back to writing that sequel, as it could bring me nearer to a real launch.

  5. I loved this! My mind is often percolating with scenarios and situations for my series characters, and sometimes they even distract me from what I need to be writing for the current book, so I’ve often thought about producing some blog “vignettes” or even publishing some short stories (as another ALLi member suggested) as a sort of “intermezzo” between novels. One of the (probably ridiculous) things that’s been stopping me is the fear that if I publish it on the blog or as a short story, I’d have to give up the idea of having that scene or storyline in a future novel. Have you encountered that neurosis at all, Carol? Or, have you ever put out something and later wished you’d saved it to include in a full-length book?

    • Thanks for the compliment, Kathryn. Not encountered that neurosis yet! But then I’m not giving any of the story away, just filling in some detail that may fall by the wayside in the novel. They’re my ‘uncut’ scenes, if you will. My blog posts rarely advance the plot, though they may illuminate a side issue, like Geoff’s relationship with his much-loved grandmother. The tone of the blog is different. For one thing, I believe a post can be a bit more didactic, whereas in a novel I prefer readers to draw their own conclusions.

  6. I’ve been inspired to experiment with putting out some of the scenes I cut from my first novel about Max and Jenny – bits about their childhoods – at present stymied by finding that the old files won’t open on the present computer … however, haven’t given up the idea yet.

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