Monday, October 3, 2011

Paulo Coehlo and Me

According to Paulo Coehlo in the Wall Street Journal:

The act of writing allows me to feel truly alive. Knowing that I have sold 140 million books worldwide (and given an average of three readers per copy, have reached half a billion people), I have always wondered who these readers were who understood so well what I was saying. How could countries with such different cultures, like Israel and Iran, for example, be interested in my books? When I started using social media, without any assistance or planning, two things guided me: the curiosity to find out who reads my work and the challenge of writing on such a different platform.

My participation in social communities has carried on instinctively. But, to my surprise, when I recently logged on to Facebook, I noticed I had more followers than Madonna. At the moment I am writing these lines, the singer I admire and respect has 6 million “likes”, while I am close to 6.5 million. How can a writer—relatively unknown in the USA—reach so many people?

He then goes on to offer some rules he developed for using social media. I looked at one of his books at our local Borders Bookstore a few years ago and thought it was not for me. (How's that for delicacy and diplomacy?)

Then he concludes:

Currently I dedicate three hours of my day to this interaction. While the vast majority of a literary career like mine is delegated to people who belong to my universe—such as my agent, my editors, and the booksellers—I have time for and take pleasure in this direct contact.

I think he discusses his rules or notes for using social media with a very strange tone of pride and self-congratulation! When I made my presentation at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference in August, I think I touted my success--on my incredibly much smaller scale--and you can see for yourself here in this summary article I published on Associated Content, but he seems to be without any limitation! Seems to me that Paulo Coehlo is mistaking the three hours he spends on facebook, twitter, and whatever other social media he uses as real contact and a real measure of knowing who his readers are. Certainly the Catholic New Media Conference, which was held this past weekend in Kansas City, Kansas (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) recognizes that the practitioners of the new media still want to get together and see each other face-to-face. What do you think?


  1. Interesting. I'm going to have to think about this.

  2. Matthew M, I look forward to the results!
    I wonder if Mr. Coehlo really thinks that people pressing the Like button on facebook means that he has "reach[ed] so many people"?