SPS-410: Selling Serials with The Pigeonhole – with Mark Blayney

In the words of Mark Blaney “Getting reviews is like pulling teeth”. This is a common sentiment among newer authors, struggling to find a reader base willing to help them kickstart their careers with credibility. But what if there was a platform for exactly that? In this episode James sits down amidst writing conference chaos to talk with Mark Blaney about Pigeonhole, and how its services can assist in that initial push for readers.

Show Notes

  • Mark’s experience with writing and Pigeonhole.
  • Biker culture.
  • Pigeonhole and it’s services.
  • The author experience on Pigeonhole.
  • Pigeonhole for readers.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


SPS LIVE: Get your digital tickets here

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page


Selling Serials with The Pigeonhole – with Mark Blayney

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and James Blatch as they shine a light on the Secrets of Self-Publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Yes, hello. It is the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch and

Mark Dawson: Me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: We're recording this at the world's largest indie publishing event here in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mark Dawson: We are, yeah, 20 books. So it's the last ever 20 books conference, I think from next year. We've been coming for a while. Actually. This is my Fourth,

Third or fourth one at Sam's Town. And then this is the third here. So it's my fourth.

James Blatch: Yeah,

Mark Dawson: It

James Blatch: Might be my fifth. Could

Mark Dawson: Be, yes. It's your fifth, isn't it? Because I did that called in. Remember when you were on stage and I did a kind of a down the line from my Solsbury

James Blatch: Office. That's right. Yeah, we did a live, which actually worked on stage.

Mark Dawson: It did. It was very strange and fun. But yeah, no, it is the biggest conference in the world. And an announcement on Thursday, it's going to be rebranded next year with a friend of ours, Joe Solari's taking over. So we can't say anything about it. We just don't know he's keeping it.

James Blatch: Sherry Mcss face,

Mark Dawson: Sherry MCs face is going to be called apparently. So looking forward to that. But yeah, it's been good. James went in on Saturday and had a weekend with Young Tom. Very romantic weekend. I got in last night. A couple of cocktails. Feel ready to go today. Got a big announcement we're making today.

James Blatch: Yeah, well Tom and I went and did some space geeky stuff. We went, I mean Vegas is horrible. I just put it out there.

Mark Dawson: It's a code word

James Blatch: You need to get out of Vegas as soon as you get here. And we went down to look at a meteor crater, 50,000 year old media crater, which is very Impressive. See the Picture here? And we did, we looked through a 24 inch refactor telescope at Saturn, which was incredible. Oh my God.

Mark Dawson: Get off it.

James Blatch: What were you doing?

Mark Dawson: I was with my family.

James Blatch: Oh yeah. Well you're wasting your life. Okay, well look, we could perhaps do a little spin around. This is like the atrium in between sessions, although

Mark Dawson: should say Stuart Base is on,

James Blatch: Stuart Base is on camera today. The

Sessions, I think just starting again, so it's thinning out a little bit in here. But of course what happens in these atriums, these conversations is every bit as important as anything you learn in the actual sessions in a conference.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I hate networking is an awful word, but that's one of the valuable things about coming to conference is chats that you have. We had breakfast with our friends at written word media this morning. I'm seeing podium this afternoon. I'm seeing Apple some Amazonians. It's just loads of opportunities to make connections that could very well be useful to you further down the line as you get on with your

James Blatch: Career. And also, so I was just thinking how different this is as an experience

As an author today than it was 20 years ago in an author. And you may go to the Hay Festival once a year if you're lucky because most authors probably don't get invited to that. But who are your work colleagues, your friends? When I can see there's Hannah Lynn and her husband Jake there, there's Kara, there's Michael Web. I mean,

People we've Got to know over the years, some people work with us, some people are authors. It's a really brilliant experience as an author to be in a big room with other people doing the same as you. And I think that's a really unique indie experience.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. Yeah. And one you can replicate in London next year if you can't come to the States. And we do something very similar. June 25th and 26th,

James Blatch: Someone did say to me, your conference is the high bar in conference organisations.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, they did. Yeah. The guy from Vellum. Very, very kind of them.

James Blatch: Wwm said that as well.

Mark Dawson: Oh, well there you go. Yeah, no, it's good fun. So tickets are available for that. Dunno the You're on that SBS Live probably.

James Blatch: Yes. Self-Publishing live.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, on early bird pricing for another month or two. So if you want to come along, I'm actually looking around scouting the next couple of days for people I think might be interesting to come and talk to our readers. There goes Dan Woods. There are lots of people, lots people that we know. We have a great time next year in London. Sunny London by the Thames.

James Blatch: Yes, indeed. Okay, look, we have an interview, would you believe,

And the interviewee is Mark Blaney. Mark Blaney runs Pigeonhole, which I didn't know much about before this interview. And I have to say, I think at the top end, it's an expensive service at the entry level. It's actually a very reasonable service, but it is a way of interacting and getting a boost for your novel, getting feedback on your novel, getting some early visibility for it. So I'll let Mark explain how that system works and then Mark and I have a quick chat at the end of the interview.

Mark Dawson: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: So Mark Blaney, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Nice to have you here. We're going to talk a little bit about you as your writer and your business. We're going to talk about the Pigeon Hole as a service, which we will introduce, I suspect to most of our listeners.

So why don't you start off with a bit about you?

Mark Blaney: Yeah, so I'm Mark Blaney. I also am known as IIan Parke. IIan with two i's and Parke with an E. My first tip for writing a successful crime thriller series that you want to sell to people on Amazon is try and do under a name that people can spell, which was a mistake. So I'm a hybrid author. I wrote business books going back- ooh, First one about 20 years ago now, and was published by How-to books. It's now part of Little Brown. So wrote four business books, I think it was at the stage. And then I turned my hand to writing fiction, which I self-published as IIan Parke with a reasonable degree of success. I have to say this very carefully, but I have been called a bit of a cult. So those were quite successful. And then I've self published some more business books and also then started to run a small publishing company, publishing other people's stuff. And through that we started to use a service called The Pigeonhole to help promote the books that we were publishing. And then I found that the pitching hole was up for sale. So I liked it so much that I bought it

James Blatch: Aside Victor Ko all those years ago.

Mark Blaney: Yeah, yeah. Sort sort of.

James Blatch: Although people shouldn't remember V Kom went bust after that. But you have not.

Mark Blaney: Yeah, well, I'm hoping not. My background, my business background actually is I'm insolvency guy.

James Blatch: Oh, well hopefully that means you know how to avoid it.

Mark Blaney: Well, yeah, my career has been in businesses that needed restructuring and rescuing and some of them work and some of them don't. And when it doesn't, it's very painful, I can tell you.

James Blatch: Yeah, of course.

Mark Blaney: So yeah, the first book that I wrote was actually a book on how to turn a business around. So you would hope I knew something about doing it.

James Blatch: Okay, well look,

the fiction stuff you write sort of gritty crime, is that right? And as you say, yes, you describe it as a cult following. You have a hardcore of addicted readers.

Mark Blaney: Yes, yes. And it's quite hardcore, I have to say. So the first fiction I wrote, I went and worked for a couple of years out in East Africa doing a business restructuring. So the first book I wrote was really about therapy I suppose. Really? And it was a thriller based in East Africa. And then I've always been interested in bikes and biker culture. And I thought, well, I don't see anybody writing anything that takes the culture seriously. I mean, whatever you think about the outlaw biker culture and people are very firm views on it. It is something that the people in it take very seriously. But whenever you saw it in popular culture, it would be sort of Clint Eastwood in every which way but loose. They're comedy villains. And I thought, well, nobody's writing anything that takes it seriously. Why not? And I thought, well, why don't I do it? So I wrote a one-off thriller, which was really around why would somebody get involved in that scene? What would it feel like, et cetera? And tried to treat it seriously. And I've had some quite positive feedback from people more involved in the life than I'm about it. And the way that it came across. And that was it. I just did it as a one-off.

James Blatch: Is your biker group nefarious criminal biker group or is because you, the only reason I ask is because we were on us one on family holiday a couple of years ago, a traffic jam in California and traffic jam for roadworks, and suddenly we're surrounded on all sides by this biker group and they looked mildly threatening. I was sitting there thinking, do I just press the lock button on the car just in case

All tattooed and all the patches and all that stuff. And they had a problem with one of the bikes and then one of them to my heart, I leaned down and tapped the window on my wife's side and I said, I Linda, he goes, buddy, we're quite a big group and when we pull off, would you mind just holding back and letting us all go just so we don't cause any problems? I thought that's an entirely fair request. But then we've got chatting to 'em, and it turned out to be a law enforcement biker group. So they're all cops or ex-cop, they all love bikes and they travel the country and from a glance they look fairly menacing. But actually we're this brilliant bunch of charitable guys, and I think that's probably quite a lot of bike groups in America, isn't it like that? Rather than the, what was the TV series with the Greg, I can't remember the name now. The

Mark Blaney: Sons of Anarchy.

James Blatch: Sons of Anarchy was a brilliant series. So you do get good biker groups.

Mark Blaney: Yeah, no, people are into bikes. We run across the whole range of, of people. And even then when you get into the outlaw biker groups, there is a view amongst some people that this is just a sort of mafia on wheels type thing. And actually I don't think that's right. Certainly there are people within those groups who are involved in crime, and I think there's probably quite a level, level of crime. But there are certainly some of those groups where people, all the guys have to have jobs, they have to work. There is no drug dealing do. So it very much depends on the individual bit within a club, I think.

James Blatch: So outlaw is the term for a group that is not necessarily law abiding as the express termin.

Mark Blaney: Well, actually it's slightly more sophisticated than that. So rolling back in America there is the a a, the America Motorcycle Association. And going way back to the early days after World War ii, there was a sort of riot or a bit of a hoo-ha at a place called Hollister. And the a famously came out and said, this is the 1% of motorcyclists, we're the 99% and we are fine. And sly is 1% the troublemakers and the people who didn't really fancy being part of this very respectable thing. Well, I find I'm, I'm going to identify as outlaw because I'm not part of, and I'm going to identify as 1% because I'm not part of the 99%. So it became a sort of badge and a term. And so outlaw doesn't necessarily mean outlaw in terms of the

James Blatch: Conformity rather than carrying a gun and holding up a shop. And I do see on Wikipedia, there's a list of outlaw motorcycle clubs, people tracking them. Okay, anyway, we're getting bogged down on this, but it's fascinating stuff. We would like to learn this stuff.

Mark Blaney: So I wrote it was about would you get, so the reputation you referred to, well the book really was about, well, why would you get involved in something that has that sort of reputation? And I say, I wrote it as a one-off. And then about six months later after I'd finished it, two of the characters met up in my head for a meeting and they were just off. I was along for the ride. And that's where it then went

James Blatch: Brilliant.

Mark Blaney: And then it turned into a trilogy and I'm now six books into the trilogy.

James Blatch: Like Douglas Adams a trilogy in Five Parts. Yeah,

Mark Blaney: Well Douglas Adams I think only made five. So I

James Blatch: You up one up on his trilogy. Exactly.

And do you write as a discovery writer, as they call him the way that the characters took? Well, or having had that moment of clarity of these two characters, did you then plot out the books or

Mark Blaney: No, if I do have a plot for a book and when I start to write one, I've usually got a structure in mind. By the time you're halfway through it, the characters are generally taken over and they go where they want to go. They have their logic and they don't end up where I think they were going to end up, let's put it that way. So I really do feel like I'm just following these people I've created. But my other tip, I suppose for writing a series is whatever you do at the end of book one, don't have a massacre and kill off most of your characters.

James Blatch: That's another thing you did as well as having IIan with two eyes. Okay. Yeah,

Mark Blaney: Well I say it was only going to be a one-off, so it sort, I sort, well, let's wrap up a lot of these stories. And then when it went on, it was, hang on a minute, I'm going to have to invent a whole load of new people.

James Blatch: Yes. Okay.

Well let's talk about the pigeonhole, which is our main topic really here. So this is a service that you came across when you were publishing other people, you run an indie press.

Mark Blaney: Yeah.

James Blatch: Tell us about finding it and why you valued it.

Mark Blaney: I actually can't remember how we tripped across it in the first place. It might've been a press press mention of it, I think. So we're an indie press, small indie press called Bad Press. And we are publishing essentially generally debut authors and it's difficult to get traction. And what we found with the pigeonhole was it's a service. It was originally set up to be an online book club, and the idea was that they would publish book in serial form and readers would subscribe and pay to read books in serial form. That was the original idea. Actually, that's where I came across it because I was thinking in the same thing and then found somebody had done it, so I thought, let's not go down that route Anyway, so they set up to do that. People didn't really want to pay for that as a services readers, but there's a group of people who are quite interested in reading in Serial form.

So they sort of flip them, pivoted the model on its head, and essentially what they do then do is they go to publishers and say, would you like to put your book in front of 250 readers who will read it in serial form? So it gets released in daily staves that each are about 30 minutes worth of reading. So a typical book gets released over 10, 12, 15 days in chunks. And the way it works is that the readers can actually comment, type comments as they go, that appear in the margin of the book as they go. So you get readers starting to have conversations with each other and the author is actually also involved. So they can answer questions from, or if a reader makes a comment that says, oh, I don't fancy this character's chance as much, the author can go, well wait and see type thing, and gets into a conversation.

So what you find is over 10, 12, 15 days, the author is having a conversation with a group of readers as they get to the end of the book. And what that then leads to is a, well, you've built up a body of potential fans, number one. Number two, for the author, it's generally quite affirming because when you launch a book and you put it out, you're not necessarily getting a lot of interaction with people about it, whereas this way you do. And then the third thing is that because people have had that interaction with the author and the conversation, they're more likely to go and leave reviews. And actually the pigeonhole, we at the pigeonhole in the background then go and chase, in fact follow up with the readers who've finished the book and been involved in conversation, say, yeah, I see you haven't left a review left.

Would you like to leave a review? So a typical listing in the pigeonhole, there's 42,000 readers registered. So typically we make 250 slots available for a book. So people subscribe. So you get 250 readers at the outset. What that translates through to on average is about on average, it's about 52 reviews that are posted on Amazon or Good Reads for the book that is completed. And you also get quite a lot of social media coverage and view page views because to recruit the readers, we are putting out a lot on social media saying, this book is available to read on the pigeonhole, do you want to come? So a book typically gets about 9,000 social media views as well. So for getting that first body of reviews on Amazon, that gives you that credibility and social proof that it's not just your mom and your best friend who've read it and said, oh, it's lovely quite, we found it quite valuable.

James Blatch: And also

The author's also getting feedback, right? Valuable feedback.

Mark Blaney: Yeah. Oh yeah. We've actually, one of the things we've then done is we've taken the functionality and we've also added on another service, which is that we can offer a sort of managed beta reader service, and we do it at two levels. So there's a free one, which is you sign up to do this free beta reader, you can invite 15 people who can become your beta readers, and they will release it the same way and they can comment and you get to that discussion the same way. And there's also, because you've got all those comments and the data we can provide data about if people stopped reading, where did they stop?

Where were most? And you can produce graphs, how many people actually got through to the end? And if they didn't, where did they stop? Where did people comment? And we produce some very nice graphs that actually tie people's level of comment and interaction to the plot points in your book. So we can provide quite a powerful tool for analysing how your book performs with readers. And we do that, as I say, on a free basis for a sort of private walled garden. Or we've got a paid one where you can invite up to 50 people, or we can try and recruit 50 people from amongst our readership to give you a bit of a bigger review base if you like. So there's a sort of use the service to improve your book and get it polished, and then you can move on to use the service to actually then launch and generate and get your reviews to get your social credibility on Amazon, good reads, et cetera.

James Blatch: So what is the fundamental difference between the first service where you are inviting in people or your company is trying to find people versus it being serialised and there being 250 slots? I'm confused as to what the difference is.

Mark Blaney: Okay, so the Beta reader service, this is you putting the book up, going through the process of serialisation in comments, and it's not published at this stage,

It's not published at this stage, or not necessarily, I mean you might've published it, but this is a process to try and improve it. So for those 15 or 50 readers, we aren't going to go and chase them for reviews because I say it may not be published, it may not be reviewable. If it is reviewable, those 50, some of them may leave reviews. But the purpose of the Beta Reader Management service is about helping you to improve the flow of the book and iron out any rough bits. So if you've got a book and everybody's reading along and the end of chapter five, 50% of the people turn off, there's a problem at the end of chapter five that needs fixing, and I'd suggest you fix that before A you launch, or B, you put it onto our review generating service. If you don't fix it, you're going to lose half of the people who are reading it at chapter five.

James Blatch: Chapter five is obviously where they killed the dog, which is what makes people probably stop reading books genres.

I mean, is this all genres?

Mark Blaney: Yes, it's all genres. I mean, our core readership tends to be women 35 to 65. They tend to be keen on plot driven fiction. So crime psychological thrillers do very well. Commercial type fiction as you would expect, does really quite well. But no, we are, in theory, we are open to almost all genres.

James Blatch: And how do they choose your regular readers? Just see a list of books that have come up when they finish one, they just look down the list and see a bit of blurb about it.

Mark Blaney: Our regular readers are getting emails and alerts as books are coming available. So we have quite a marketing campaign going out to our regular readers. And then at the same time, we have a social media campaign that's going out more generally saying, hello, we are the pigeonhole by the way, this week or coming up. We've got AB, C by Joe blogs that's being serialised if you'd like to read it, log on here and join. And also we then provide all that collateral to the author so the author can go out to their social media network and say, oh, my book is being serialised on the pigeonhole. If you'd like to read it for free, log on here and join. So it gives them something to put out to their readership, their contact base as well.

James Blatch: And another question is about ku.

So does this count as publishing? So if your book in London Unlimited, you wouldn't be able to use this service?

Mark Blaney: That's a very interesting point, and I will be honest and say I don't actually know the answer to that. We certainly have no problem about it, and I'm not aware that we've ever had any of our authors have a problem with it, but it's probably something that they would need to check out. So it's not a problem that's raised its head yet. There

James Blatch: Are a lot of people who listen to this podcast who know the terms very well. So they will no doubt comment on it. I know you can send to advanced readers, obviously that doesn't breach, so it might fall under that or some people might say it's got a problem. I dunno.

Mark Blaney: I think as far as I'm aware, putting a book onto Net Galley isn't going to give you a problem. And effectively we are a curated version of net galley.

James Blatch: Yeah, okay. But people do have to take their own advice on that, we should say.

Mark Blaney: Yeah,

James Blatch: Get into trouble.

And how much do people pay for this service? Mark?

Mark Blaney: The core, as I say, the beta reader at the bottom end is free. The paid for beta reader is 250 pounds. But we then give you a voucher if you want to then use the main service. The main service is 4 99 pounds. There is a slightly cheaper option if you want to just focus on the us. We have the bulk of our readership at the moment is in the uk,

James Blatch: Right?

Mark Blaney: We are trying to grow our readership in the us but if somebody comes and books a service with us, we want to try and make sure we fill their slots. So for a worldwide listing, which will mainly generate reviews on uk in the UK it's 250 slots. We have set up one specifically focused on the States and American readers where we generally go after a hundred slots to make sure we can fill that to Target getting reviews. In the US what we're looking to do is grow our American readership so that in due course we can offer 250 slots in the states or 250 slots to the focus worldwide, including the uk. But at the moment, we just want to make sure that if somebody books something for the States, we can fill it and get them the readers.

James Blatch: And you can't presumably guarantee the number of views someone's going to get for the moment?

Mark Blaney: Absolutely not. No. No, because these are real reviews by real people, and it really depends on how they like the book and to a degree, how they get on with the author. And the range is actually quite huge. So I say our average is 52 2, my understanding of having started to look at some of the stats is the worst book we ever got had 10 reviews and the best book got 140. So you've got quite a spread,

But we can't guarantee anything. It's about how the readers like the book. And we are very happy to have self-published books on the site. But what I would say is the core business around which the business has been grown so far is in publishing, is in promoting books by the very big publishers. So we've got books by Alexander McCall Smith, Ann Cleves, Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Laplant, mark Billingham cetera. So we've got the books that are being published by the big publishers, and obviously our readership effectively expects all the books we put out to be of the same sort of standard. So we are very happy to publish self-published authors on, but author, if you want to put something onto our site, we want it to be good. It's going to compete against the books from the big publishers. And if it's not finished to the same standard, that's not going to help you as the author and it's not going to help. Obviously it doesn't help us as the site if

James Blatch: so it needs to be professionally edited. Or if you do self edit, you need to be a very, very competent self-edit editor. But ideally,

Mark Blaney: Which is all the standard of dice that

Anybody who's going to be serious about self-publishing and will have had from yourselves and from all the other advisors, it has to have a professional cover, it has to be properly edited, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We are the same. We will be saying we have to make sure that what we put out to our readers is of the appropriate quality of writing, production, delivery, and all the rest of it. So we just have to make sure that, because we don't want to put out somebody's book and they get 10 reviews of which half of them are, well, it's not being proofread and it's spelling mistakes. That doesn't do anybody any good.

James Blatch: No, it does not.

And what is the lead time on this? How much, if somebody wanted to use your service tomorrow, how long do they have to wait for slot?

Mark Blaney: I think at the moment we are filling slots in September and October.

James Blatch: Okay. And

can you book in advance? Can you say, well, this manager's going to be ready in March next year?

Mark Blaney: Yes. Yeah. I mean, when people have different lead times that they want to work to, yes, we're very happy. So one of the questions when Puby books is, well, okay, when would you like it to go on? If somebody came in and said, I'd like to book and I'd like to have my book come out in March or January next year, that's fine. We just schedule it ahead.

James Blatch: Well, my book's be already in March, 2036, so if you could just, I will actually get back to writing my fourth book soon. Alright, that sounds really good. I'll tell you what, just if you don't mind, just recap those three levels of service, they do vary quite a lot from three to four. Nine nine, just so people understand.

Mark Blaney: In fact, there's a fourth level. So we have got a free beta reader management service that is free. Then you as the author, invite up to 15 people and you have the functionality where they can read, you can get the stats, you can see how they interact with the book. So that's free. Step up from that is we have a paid for beta reader management service, which costs 250 pounds, but you get a voucher towards a full listing later on with that. Either you can recruit in up to 50 readers or we can also try and recruit 50 readers from our reader base. So it gets you a bigger population looking at your book and therefore probably better information back.

James Blatch: So one quick question on that, is the voucher worth 250?

Mark Blaney: No, no. The voucher is worth, I think we've set it at a hundred pounds.

James Blatch: That's a decent chunk. Yeah.

Mark Blaney: Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mark Blaney: And then the next stage up is right, I actually want to boost the number of reviews I've got for my book or I'm launching and I want to get a set of reviews on Amazon, et cetera. And there we have our review service where in the uk rest of the world you'll get 250 reader slots available. The US it's a slightly smaller one to make sure we can fill it, which is a hundred. And for the UK rest of the world, that's 499 pounds. For the American one, it's slightly cheaper. I think we've got it at 350 pounds. And we also then have an enhanced version of both of those where in addition to the standard promotion, serialisation and promotion and chasing for reviews, we also add on things like a sort of a front page takeover of the pigeonhole, a reading event at the end where the author can do a reading and have a live interaction with the audience and some additional and analytics and tonal analytics of the comments, et cetera. Just to try and help. There's a bells and whistles version as well, if you like.

James Blatch: Yeah, great. And as you say, it's used by some pretty big authors, the excellent Mark Billingham and they just, and Samantha King, Rachel Ward. Yeah. So you've taken over the company. Has it changed much in your ownership?

Mark Blaney: Well, we're going wider, I think is the answer to that. I mean, hence this conversation, for example. So the business really up until my getting involved was very much focused on relationships with the big publishing houses.

So effectively, if you go onto the site now, there is a tab at the top which says, promote your book, which takes you to these services. That's new because up until my getting involved, it was all done on a relationship basis between the business and the big publishers. And what I'm keen to do is make it more widely available to the independent publishing community and the self-publishing community to make it easier to understand what it is and how it can help to add on these additional services like the beta read management service. And because I think it's such a useful service, it seems a pity to have keep it so

tight as it were. So yes, so the plan is to make what it does more visible, create these additional services such as the freebie to reader management and make it more open and accessible to Indian self-published authors.

James Blatch: Well, it's a tempting investment in the beginning of a book's launch to get those first reviews are difficult. It's almost chicken and egg situation. A lot of readers will look for reviews before they buy a book, but without readers you can't get reviews. So it's a pain point for authors.

Mark Blaney: And I mean, getting people to review is like pulling teeth.

James Blatch: It's a low percentage conversion. Even if you beg your reader, your mails, it's a low percentage of conversion.

Mark Blaney: Yeah, it is. And the stats for giveaways and numbers of, if you give books away, if you do a BookBub and give books away, you can be giving thousands of copies away and be getting relatively small numbers of reviews. Because if you're simply giving books away, there's not that much engagement with the reader. The good thing, I mean, the key I think, to the pigeonhole and why it works is this reader engagement is this fact that you've got a community of readers and the readers know each other. So from a publishing point of view, we put a book on from one of our authors, which was a sort of bit of a mad cap fantasy thriller, comic fantasy thriller about a very heavy, hard drinking, hard smoking gun, totting monkey basically, which had lots of swearing it. And we put that on. And one of the comments from somebody when they started reading the first chapter is, oh dear, there's a lot of swearing. At which point, other people from the group, other readers were then commenting, well, you never like swearing, so why did you sign up to read this in the first place? So there's a real community,

James Blatch: Don't work on your behalf really.

Mark Blaney: And it really gets that engagement going. So I say that's why it does then turn to generate reviews as opposed to, I'm going to bang something out, make it free, and just spray and pray.

James Blatch: And how can people become readers?

Mark Blaney: They sign up, it's free. So if you go onto the pigeonhole, you'll see that there are being listed. You can just sign up to join.

James Blatch: As I say, when we're listing a book,

Mark Blaney: We will send out stuff on our social media feeds and that will have a click to say, I'd like to subscribe to read that. And that will include a joining adjoining link. And as I say, it's completely free to join and get books delivered to you and join in the conversation.

James Blatch: Brilliant. Okay. Well mark, Stroke IIan, it's been illuminating. Thank you for clueing us in on that. Sounds like you're a valuable series, and I suspect you'll probably get some readers from this as well. I think most authors are avid readers and probably like the idea of training, they can always train yourself to become a dev editor. But if you do enough of these books and get the gist of a feeding back.

Mark Blaney: Yeah, yeah, no, it's a nice community. Please do join and enjoy the books. It's a different way of reading because it's so communal.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: There you go. That's Mark Blaney talking about pigeonhole. So we've got some sessions that we are doing. I'm going to be talking about TikTok with Cecilia Mecca tomorrow. We are making an announcement in a couple of hours about Fuse Publishing, so I suppose we can talk about it.

Mark Dawson: Not today. I think we've already gone on a little bit today. We'll have a separate podcast on that in maybe the next week or two,

James Blatch: but it's out there so you can look up what that announcement is. I want to find out. There's Hannah. Okay, look, that's it for now. People are sloping back off to their meeting rooms. There's like six tracks going on at any one time in this conference. It's slightly insane. We'll go and find, I think there's someone doing a session on how to Go To Crowd is doing a session on how to start publishing company, which as we're doing that could be useful.

Mark Dawson: Could be, yeah. Want for us to have a little look and see what we've got to say? Check it out.

James Blatch: Indeed. Alright, that's it. All the remains we say is goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: and a goodbye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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