Sep 27

The Business of Books: Blending Fact and Fiction – Jane Cable meets GP turned author Carol Cooper

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1) How much of your working life does the business of books take up?

About half my working hours are now taken up with book-related activities. It’s not all writing, as there’s social media, marketing, research, and the rest.

The other half of the time, I teach medical students, do some journalism, and fit in a spot of charity work. I’m involved with Tamba (Twins & Multiple Births Association), Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, and APEC (Action on Pre-Eclampsia). I have more time these days because I’m taking a sabbatical from seeing patients. After three decades as a family doctor, it’s lovely to have a break. Before that, writing had to be done during evenings and at weekends, but now my writing doesn’t just get the ‘tired me’.


2) What’s your business model to earn a living from writing?

Like most journalists who fell into writing books, I didn’t set out with a business model. My dozen or so non-fiction books bring in more income than my two novels. But journalism is still a more important revenue stream for me than books. Then there are activities like TV and radio appearances, and occasionally work for PR companies. I could earn more if I did more doctoring, but I enjoy the change of pace that I’ve allowed myself.

While I don’t normally spend much on book marketing, I did engage a publicist for my second novel, Hampstead Fever. That probably helped get it into bookstores. It certainly spared me a lot of time and footwork.

3) What do you write and what do you consider to be your major successes?

I’m now concentrating on fiction. My first two novels, One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever, are contemporary tales about dating, relationships, and family life. Set in London, they feature multiple viewpoints. Think of the film Love, Actually, and you’ll have good idea of the structure.

My non-fiction books are mostly on child health and parenting, but there are also two textbooks on general practice, co-authored with medical colleagues. I’m not ruling out writing another health book, but publishing has changed, especially for non-fiction because there’s now so much web-based information.

My major successes include writing for The Sun newspaper for the last 18 years as the Sun Doctor. My role is to write fast authoritative copy as needed when a health story breaks. I know some people are sniffy about tabloid journalism, but it’s a real skill being able to get ideas across in just a few words, and I work alongside some of the best in the business.

I’m also proud of my book Twins & Multiple Births: the essential parenting guide from pregnancy to adulthood. The first edition came out 20 years ago and the title is still going strong. It was also very gratifying when General Practice at a Glance received a British Medical Association book award.

With my fiction, I was thrilled this year when WH Smith picked Hampstead Fever for a front-of-store promotion in their travel bookstores. There’s nothing like your novel being in airports and stations to make you feel you’ve arrived!


4) Tell me about your latest project

The novel I’m now working on is a new challenge. It’s set mainly in Egypt where I grew up. While story covers nearly 70 years, and there’s only one point of view, it is still mainly about relationships. It’s the book I want to write.

Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author who turned to fiction after writing a string of popular health books. She lives in North London and Cambridge, and has three grownup sons. Find out more about Carol here:

Blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Website drcarolcooper.com

Twitter @DrCarolCooper