The Pigeonhole Unlocks Mobile Readership & Discovery Through Serialized Fiction
Serialized fiction isn’t a new idea -- it dates back to the Victorian Era -- but it’s gaining wider appeal today as more consumers use their mobile devices to read. Smaller screens mean smaller chunks of reading. The Pigeonhole, a U.K.-based digital publisher, has capitalized on this growing trend by creating a platform to share serialized, digital versions of all of its titles. Users can download the app for free and gain access The Pigeonhole’s ebook library. Once the reader purchases an ebook, she will receive it in daily or weekly installments. Readers are also encouraged to discuss the title with one another through digital book clubs on The Pigeonhole, and in turn increase the discoverability of the title.
“Our aim is to use the magic of delayed gratification, along with lots of carefully created fun extras and a direct communication with our authors, to really bring books alive for our readers,” explains The Pigeonhole founder and editorial director Anna Jean Hughes. Here Hughes shares why she founded The Pigeonhole and its ambitions for the future.
What problem are you solving?
A long time ago my business partner and I sat down and asked ourselves what it was that actually sold books. We figured out discoverability and word-of-mouth were about right. Serialization addresses the problem of discoverability, extending the life cycle of a book, giving it much more exposure, and creating an ongoing connection with readers. This drip-feed release also creates a sort of digital water cooler moment, one that drives people to talk about what they’re reading. We are not simply creating another ebook platform, but actually addressing the next generation of content, creating something dynamic and interactive.
From the aspect of improving content creation, we can offer anyone published on our site a unique insight into what happens to his or her book once it’s left the shelf. We can chart a reader’s interaction with a book to mind-boggling minutiae. Eventually we want to be able to ensure that no publication is wasted; that each book is sold direct to a targeted and tested audience. If you were to serialize your book on our site before the physical publication of a book, we can tell you exactly where and who to sell the book to, what time of day they read, on what device, and what part of the book sees the most reader interaction. You can also communicate with these readers. It’s about making the absolute most of the life of your book.
How did you come up with this idea?
I did my time at both traditional publishers and agencies and it seemed to me that despite huge enthusiasm and talent in the industry, there were far too many books that fell through the cracks of the publishing system with little or no support. Everyone was so stretched, all fun removed in favor of an assembly line. From my perspective I wanted to create a new channel for authors to directly sell, market, and publicize their books to a global audience, with the careful guidance of professionals.
My business partner Jacob has a more altruistic attitude – to give brilliant stories to anyone and everyone with a smart phone or computer. He spent a lot of his previous career in emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East, where access to books can be limited. For him it was not only about providing wonderful writing to everybody, but also to make that experience exciting and connect people globally. There is something awesome about being able to discuss a book with someone on the other side of the world through the text itself. Or even with the author.
What important trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?
Publishing is going through what many have termed a disruption, or upheaval, but is in actual effect nothing so negative, simply an evolution. There will always be physical books; there will always be ebooks. Good thing too. These are excellent products. But there is a new stage being built for mobile reading and distribution. Your phone is always with you, so why not utilize it for something a little more interesting than Facebook and Candy Crush? Disappear into another world in a carefully crafted ten-minute short story, learn something from a new philosopher, or a summary of a business book. With mobile reading comes a certain freedom, no print and distribution costs, an enormous potential audience, new subscription methods, as well as an increasing wealth of free content.
For me, the next big trend is data tagging. The company that can curate all given content for you, so that you no longer need to scour all these companies yourself, but simply open the app and find your next favorite things, whatever the genre, writing style, or creator, is going to be the big winner.
Who is your competition?
There are companies that serialize their content, such as Wattpad or DailyLit. They also create conversations around all their content. There are those that create beautiful and brilliant ebooks, like Canelo. Bookmate and Mofibo are also building interesting mobile reading platforms. Oolipo is a really interesting new short fiction platform that allows users to create mixed-media stories; they also provide paid-for channels from exciting musicians, artists, and writers. There are crowdsource publishers like Unbound. And Amazon is always trying to finger everybody else’s pie, so they are starting to develop more and more interactive content.
But no, there isn’t another site that I know of that does all of the above, as well as offering a private book club function.
We’re currently building a new app, one that contains the whole online experience of The Pigeonhole. And from there we will roll out our Android app. For the future we are looking towards more partnerships with publishers and agencies, also towards an annual subscription that gives you a new story serialized to your phone every month. Something I’m very keen on is to work on our translation program, I want to get to a point where we can publish a new foreign/English language book in tandem, to really harness the global buzz around both launches.
I’d also like to start having really wild Pigeon parties where people get down to soundtracked book readings and dance to the power of words. Everyone’s got to dream, right?