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Dancing All The Way: Ann O’Loughlin’s The Ballroom Café

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Ann O'Loughlin

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What a wonderful feeling writing The End. After months, maybe years of germinating the idea; writing and rewriting; finally I had turned the corner; The Ballroom Café was finished.

Yes, we had found a publisher; yes all the editing was done and the cover by Black and White Publishing, Scotland was amazing. So it was time for me to sit back and let the book sell itself. Time then to concentrate on the second book, while The Ballroom Café stepped out in to the jungle of books on its own.

Time to recharge before the reviews came in; time to sit and sip tea from a china cup rather than just writing about it.

The path to publication is often a lonely one and there are a lot of twists and turns, but after the novel was sent off to the printers, I turned another corner. What lay ahead was not, as expected a week of R&R before months of writing and research on my second novel, but a whirlwind of ideas and new ways to help promote the book; another huge mountain in unknown territory to climb.

The Ballroom Café has pulled me along on what has been a roller coaster of excitement, since it first came out on kindle in May and hit the book shelves in June. In fact it all started way before that.

Months before anybody else had heard of The Ballroom Café, my publishers, Black and White Publishing, Scotland were planning those key times around publication day.

Irish Examiner Reporter Ann O’Loughlin at the launch of 'The Ballroom Cafe' in Dubray, Grafton Street. Picture by Fergal Phillips
Irish Examiner Reporter Ann O’Loughlin at the launch of ‘The Ballroom Cafe’ Dubray Grafton Street. Picture by Fergal Phillips

Once they launched the cover on Twitter and Facebook in December 2014 with a drum roll and all things fitting on Twitter, the social media whirl began and frankly, has not stopped since. To take part in this frenzy, I had to do what I had avoided for so long, set up Twitter and Facebook accounts, decide on a profile; set background pictures and set up a blog, http://annoloughlin.blogspot.ie/

Then came the Blog Tour. When the publishers told me I would do a ten day Blog Tour around the time of paperback publication, I nodded sagely and agreed heartily. When nobody was looking I googled Blog Tour and found out instead of tramping around bookshops in the UK hoping to link with readers, I was to guest on key influential blogs in the UK and give The Ballroom Café a platform. Sometimes I had to write a piece; sometimes I was interviewed and often I had to wait to see what sort of review was put up. Honest and full reviews were posted; it was thrilling to find that all the hard work on The Ballroom Café had paid off and people were really enjoying it.

Sitting at 5am writing in the kitchen with only the dog at my feet, I could only dream that there may be people who would want to read and enjoy the story I had to tell. Reading the first reviews is a heart stopping moment, but the bloggers loved what The Ballroom Café had to offer and not only did they say it on their own blogs, but they helped spread the word on Twitter so that the cake, the tea in china cups, the gossip and the vintage brooches as well as the more serious theme of forced illegal adoption were all aired on Twitter. I joined in this conversation linking with new readers, answering questions and getting valuable feedback.

The blog tour started a conversation about The Ballroom Café, which has continued past the publication of the paperback and on my own blog and with the lovely input of readers, who have contacted me on all social platforms to tell me how much they enjoyed and got involved with the book.

When Black and White Rights manager Janne Moller told me in January 2015 “this is where the fun begins,” I thought she was mad. But now, nine months in I have to say, it has been a crazy whirlwind, which at times has left me exhausted; a life dominated by notifications on social media, but yes it has been hugely exciting and enjoyable and above all heartening. I would never have connected with so many readers or book clubs and never got The Ballroom Cafe before so many people, if it were not for the bloggers, who took the novel to their hearts and helped spread the word.

Black and White are always looking at new ways to promote their writers work. And so The Ballroom Café video was born. Talented filmmaker Clara O’Keeffe used all her skills to make me feel completely at ease in a fireside chair, a china cup of tea at hand and chatting about The Ballroom Café. The video has been seen by thousands all over the world and again brought me close to readers who responded by making contact through my blog.

The Ballroom Café went on pre-order in April. Based on the cover and summary people began to order the novel so that by April 16, The Ballroom Café had entered the TOP 100 on Amazon UK. By the time it was released on kindle in May, the book ranking was #13 and by the time the paperback hit the shelves in June The Ballroom Café had been in the Top 20 for two months and was ranking #3 on the day of publication June 18. Since then the book has hovered in the top 20 and has garnered over 900 reviews.

Recently, ten weeks after the paperback came out, I was caught up in an even bigger publicity and media storm, when The Ballroom Café was named as one of the Top 20 bestselling eBooks on Amazon UK in 2015. National newspapers wanted to interview me; I had to explain to the listeners of Morning Ireland what a blog tour meant. Even Hot Press and the Nigerian Herald ran a piece on the novel, as well as publications in the US. One of the sweetest moments; when I appeared on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One for a chat on The Ballroom Café, the presenter called me a novelist. For the first time, it actually felt like that.

There was even a TV appearance on RTE Ten. The excitement lasted almost five days, but my favourite moment was seeing a story about The Ballroom Café in Hot Press. Once could say The Ballroom Café was rocking!

What have I learned from all this? Easy; enjoy every minute, because you never know how long it will last and don’t forget when you are on radio and TV to keep mentioning the name of the book. Embrace all that the book offers, all the opportunities to connect with readers, because it is this, rather than the media attention that brings the most satisfaction for a writer. Isn’t that why we are writing in the first place, to get our story out to readers?

What greater moment than when a reader tells you why they love your book. Social media and blog tours has brought me in contact with readers, like I never imagined and that has been uplifting and encouraging. Now, I am moving on to do live events and connecting with readers in person and so another exciting chapter begins.

(c) Ann O’Loughlin

About The Ballroom Café

Sisters Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan live in separate wings of their crumbling Irish mansion. They haven’t spoken for decades, torn apart by a dark family secret from their past, and only communicate through the terse and bitter notes they leave for each other in the hallway.

Debbie, an American woman, is searching for her birth mother. She has little time left but as she sets out to discover who she really is and what happened to her mother, she is met by silence and lies at the local convent.

With the bank threatening, Ella tries to save the family home by opening a café in the ballroom much to Roberta’s disgust. And when Debbie offers to help out in the café, the war between the sisters intensifies. But as Debbie finally begins to unravel the truth, she uncovers an adoption scandal that will rock both the community and the warring sisters.

Powerful and poignant, The Ballroom Café is a moving story of love lost and found.

The Ballroom Café is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!

About the author

A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with Independent Newspapers, where she was Security Correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper, covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland, she now lives on the east coast of Ireland with her husband and two children. The Ballroom Café is her debut novel.
Find Ann on /http://annoloughlin.blogspot.com/   and on Twitter@annolwriter

Read Ann’s previous articles for writing.ie (and get her insider tips!)

How to Make Your Characters Dance

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