IT was the morning after Brexit and in a state of shock I was making my exit from Britain.
Boarding the flight to Dublin, I wasn’t sure exactly how my hosts would react to the shock news that Britain had voted to leave the European Union.
First impressions weren’t favourable. “I’m not sure where I should go now,” I explained to the man at Dublin Passport Control.
“Well, yous got to be joining that big long queue over there, fella,” he said, pointing to the non-EU arrivals. He couldn’t keep a straight face for long, though. “I’m kidding you. Come on through.”
I jumped in the taxi and started a conversation with the driver about the other big European issue of the day: Euro 2016. “You did well beating Italy,” I said. “If you beat France then you might meet us English in the quarter-finals.”
“Don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m from Romania. We got knocked out in the group stages. I’ve been here for 13 years. Came over to do some building work and never left.”
Nice bloke. Reasonable fare. And I was dropped off at the Castle Hotel in the City Centre which was the perfect base for the weekend I had planned. I was attending my first official 3-day Dublin Writers’ Conference with Books Go Social.
I joined this writers group shortly after my book came out, mainly because they seemed to have an incredible social media reach and many fellow Indie Authors were on their books.
The brainchild of Laurence O’Bryan, an Irishman who was disillusioned by the whole traditional publishing “monopoly”, it has been going from strength to strength since the eBook revolution and Amazon’s decision to take the plunge and back the Indie Author scene.
For me, the jury was still out on BGS, though. I can’t put a single extra sale down to the tweets that have been put out on my behalf.
This was maybe the acid test. The Annual Conference. And if I had any doubts about joining the group they were simply blown away by what, for me, was the highlight of the year.
The self-publishing professionals who attended were an absolute mine of information, whether you wanted to learn about the art of writing itself, formatting, marketing, getting your novel into book shops or even turning it into a Hollywood blockbuster.
That was where Ken Aitchity came in. Once dubbed “The Story Merchant”, Ken is actually based in Hollywood and has produced film and TV shows, written books, lectured on writing and guided fellow authors. Who could fail to be impressed by a person whose CV reads like an A-Z of the creative arts.
Ken wasn’t alone though. Among others there was Ben Galley, an author of Dark Fantasy, started life in Croydon as a worker in a small food outlet dreaming of doing something better with his life. When he discovered self-publishing was no longer frowned upon he got in on the ground floor and has now produced 10 novels including an epic fantasy called the Emanska series.
Ben has started a shelf-help consultancy designed to assist budding authors and his particular strength is marketing. For those like me who struggle with this aspect his talk about reader funnels was fascinating and his website is well worth a look.
Jessica Bell, too, is a legend in self-publishing. She does virtually everything herself including formatting, cover design and self-editing, while somehow finding time at home in Greece to pursue a singer/songwriting career as well.
And these were just the people I met on the first day: There was a revolving door of professionals throughout the weekend, each with their own unique take on the art of writing and self-publishing.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect is meeting fellow writers and discussing their individual journeys, reinforcing the fact you are not alone. On Friday night volunteers had a chance to read from their own work and critique each other with expert feedback from Jessica and Ben.
Through it all Laurence and his team were extremely helpful and their organisation couldn’t be faulted, with events switching between the famous Gresham Hotel and the Irish Writers’ Centre.
The Books Go Social Dublin Writers Conference was well worth the investment. I would recommend it to anyone who has been in two minds about whether to take the plunge.
Britain may have voted to split from the EU, but it’s comforting to know the writers’ community goes from strength to strength around the world.