Interview by Magdalena Ball
Tell me about The Pigeonhole – how did it come about?
The first inklings of the Pigeonhole started on the back of a napkin one starry night in Soho. Founders Anna Jean Hughes and Jacob Cockcroft were trying to conceive of a way to give authors more exposure, increase their discoverability – serialisation and in-book conversation quickly became the methods to lift each launch from pedestrian to innovative. All the Pigeon has ever been about is offering a platform for people to meet and discuss stories, inside a book.
What does it offer that other reading devices don’t?
An immersive and interactive experience where readers and authors come together to bring books to life. Imagine being able to ask your favourite author a question about the novel you are reading as soon as it presents itself – and have them answer as well! With The Pigeonhole, this is a reality. Extra content within the book and the opportunity to discuss the text with other readers are also part of this dynamic way of reading. Serialisation is a brilliant way of keeping readers engaged and involved with the text they are reading, which is why we are so keen on it!
Talk to me a bit about your role and how you became involved.
I work as an editorial assistant, but since we are such a tight-knit team, I get to contribute to almost every part of our offering. On an average day I could be helping with marketing books, writing adverts, copy editing text, or even heading out to Kingston University to spread the word about The Big Read and our involvement with that.
Have you been surprised about the pigeonhole’s reception?
Not at all. We live in a digital world so it is entirely natural that people are ready and willing to read digitally on devices that they are inseparable from.
How do you choose the books you feature?
We offer a range of texts, including both classics and more contemporary titles. The classics are an in-house decision, though we encourage readers to let us know if there are any classics they’d like to see on The Pigeonhole. Over the last year or so we have been working alongside a number of large and small publishers, and it is a case of holding discussions with the publisher to agree on titles we think would work particularly well as part of a serialised format. We are currently working with Kingston University and The Big Read to serialise Matt Haig’s The Humans. We didn’t have any input on the selection of the text but it’s an absolutely brilliant book so that has worked out very nicely.
Do some types of books work better than others, and why?
The genre is important to an extent – thrillers and books with cliff hangers lend themselves to a dosed format like serialisation – but some of our most successful titles, things like The Sacred Combe and Don’t Try This at Home, are just excellent literary fiction and get our readers very excited regardless of genre.
Author engagement with readers seems to me to be one of the key benefits; and the live read – do you find that this creates a lasting relationship?
Definitely. Based on some data we received recently, our serialisations are markedly driving book sales. We just completed a writers help serialisation that prompted huge levels of feedback and commenting. The author, Claire Wingfield, was involved every day and would respond to almost every user comment. In terms of creating bonds between authors and readers – which is essentially impossible through a print book – the opportunities are very exciting.
Are there some tweaks or changes you would like to make/or that are in the pipeline?
Our Android app has been in the pipeline for a few months and is imminent. This is a great development as it more than doubles the number of potential app users we can connect with.
How can readers who want to jump in best become involved? Do you recommend they join a live reading?
Joining a live serialisation is one of the best ways to get involved. You can read along with hundreds of other users and be one of the first to experience our enhanced version of the text. Making your own book club is another great way to make use of The Pigeonhole. This allows you to schedule your own serialisation and invite as many or as few of your friends as you like. All your comments will be private to your own book, giving you free reign to agree or disagree as much as you like! After all, no two people ever read the same book.
What’s coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
We’ve got some great titles coming up on The Pigeonhole after striking a deal with a major publisher – so watch this space for some very big names coming to the platform. That’s all I can say for the time being but it’s set to be a great end to 2016 for us and our readers.