Reaching new audiences: taking serialisation seriously


This is a guest post by Laurence Kilpatrick. Laurence keeps track of developments in the world of non-fiction, offering bespoke book recommendations to The Pigeonhole business book club clients, while also managing projects with our publishers, ensuring that their stock of crime, thriller and commercial fiction titles reach the biggest audience possible. You can contact or @ThePigeonholeHQ.

Sometimes it can be a struggle coming up with original and inventive ways to market new books, create a buzz around their publication, and form some kind of connection between authors and their readers. There are lots of established methods – online advertising, NetGalley releases, blog tours, and author appearances – which all have their advantages and disadvantages, but the industry is definitely ready for some disruptive solutions to this recurring marketing dilemma.

Thinking differently

Another technique to drive reader engagement and spread the buzz about new books is through pre-publication serialisations. Giving readers the chance to read books before they are released, on a digital app, means that by the time the book is published, hundreds of people have read the book, and dozens of Amazon and Goodreads reviews are already on the board. Alongside this, if readers are given the chance to read alongside the author, leaving comments as they go, they have formed a bond with the author before the book is published.

And the benefit of such a system spreads beyond published reviews: this kind of serialisation allows the possibility of paragraph-by-paragraph data metrics, so that publishers can find out where readers tend to stop reading the book and how many people finish the book. There’s also the opportunity to market an author’s backlist titles in the digital margins of the book, so that readers can be led by their enthusiasm for this book to discover other books by the same author.

The value of giving books away

So many books suffer from being published to almost zero fanfare. Publication date arrives and the young book is then left to fend for itself with the author doing everything they can to give it some oomph. If you’re a publisher, the idea of giving away access to books for free may seem counterintuitive – we’re in this business to sell books, after all. But our experience at The Pigeonhole shows that pre-publication serialisation is demonstrably effective in driving sales, brand loyalty, and social media buzz.

By giving away free access to books through this kind of system, publishers are able to reach hundreds of engaged readers, who post comments, share remarks publicly with a hashtag and leave reviews. It’s one way of bringing the book to life, with readers becoming brand ambassadors overnight.

Case study: Alison Weir

While one very successful genre for pre-publication serialisation has been plot-driven psychological thrillers, another favourite genre is historical fiction. Our latest offering in this genre is Alison Weir’s new novel, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, which will be published by Headline Books on 3 May 2018. We’re offering 350 readers the chance to read the book alongside the author, with entrants being selected through a prize draw (draw entry open until 9 April at

Although Alison Weir is already a very well-known and successful author, she and her publisher have selected this strategy as a unique way of engaging with her readership in an increasingly congested marketplace.

Gathering momentum

Over the past twelve months, we at The Pigeonhole, a digital reading and conversation platform, have progressed from running small-scale serialisations for independent publishers looking to make the most out of their marketing budget, to larger and increasingly global campaigns for some of the biggest publishing houses and authors in the industry.

It’s a daunting task sending books out into the world to compete with thousands of their peers, but sometimes you have to take the counterintuitive option to set your books apart from the crowd.