He is, arguably, the most popular writer on the planet, one so successful that he’s being vetted with a party tomorrow for having sold 100 million copies of his books worldwide. Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian “Alchemist of Words” gave the keynote speech this morning. Entitled “The writer as pop star,” Coelho meditated on his own use of digital publishing tools to reach his massive audience. (His blog alone gets 50,000 unique visitors a day). Coelho joked before starting that the book had 1,000 more years to go before it would disappear “then the government can rescue it,” he said, making a reference to recent government bailouts of the finance industry.
Last year, in his keynote address, publishing consultant Michael Cader urged publishers to harness advances in technology to connect with their readers; Coelho has taken that advice to heart and demonstrated how it benefitted him. Already a superstar, Coelho has the instincts of a big time performer, a Bono of the literary world and has been prescient enough to embrace the Internet as a friend rather than foe. Earlier this year he made the decision to place his Portuguese works on his web site in a free digital format. Then, he explained, because he did not own the rights to the translation (they were not his work), he linked to file sharing sites across the Web that offered “pirated” copies of his works.
Following the appearance of his books online for free in America, where they can be read online but not printed, he found he had two books – the Alchemist and The Witch of Portobello – on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously for the first time. Coelho’s thinking about the subject of giving away his book for free is simple: “People will read the first chapter and then realize they can’t take the computer on the subway so they will go and buy the book.”
And of course, in the spirit of sharing, he also made his Frankfurt speech available online immediately following the talk. Read it, it’s enlightening if only to underscore the fact that even a man closing in on retirement age is capable of mastering MySpace, blogging and the Internet in general. (Coelho slipped in the fact that his Web master is, appropriately, Turkish). If Coelho can do it, then publishers and authors half his age have no excuse not to at least make some effort.
Despite his enormous success, Coelho appears to have retained some humility. His answer to a an audience question about his opinion of women’s literature was simple and skillfully avoided controversy: “Writing is a feminine process” and as a consequence “there was only feminine writing, written by male authors and female authors.”
When asked the age old question of where he gets his ideas, he replied “other people.”
A quick survey among audience members suggested that self-styled “book people” may not be converted to Coelho just yet. More than a few said they’d yet to read one of his books.
Mostly likely, that wouldn’t give him pause and he’ just see them potential sales.
Alex Goia, a radio reporter from M94.5 in Munich was impressed enough to give him a try.
“He was smart, and funny. Older, but still young at heart,” said Goia. “I’ve not read any of his books, but a friend recommended “The Alchemist” and I think I’ll read it now.
And that is a perfect example of how is how you get to one hundred million sales – you do it by selling one book at a time.
Este artículo tiene relación con el post anterior sobre los libros online y el destino apocalíptico de los libros impresos de aquí a unos diez años. El invitado de honor, Paulo Coehlo presenta una estrategia que emplea para influenciar de los ebooks a los impresos. Definitívamente la presencia de este escritor brasilero calentó la formalidad y frialdad alemana, ¿cómo será el 2009 con Argentina?