The Nobel prize winner, Kenzaboro Oe once said that Paulo Coelho had discovered the secrets of literary alchemy. I’m sure there are several younger writers interested in leaning about these secrets. Would you mind sharing them with us? (Marcelo Mendonça, Brasil)
The average book print in the US or France is that of about 3000 copies – the same as in Brazil.
Therefore, the only secret I know is the word-of-mouth.
It took me close to ten years, for example, to appear in the New York Times Best Seller List. (but now the book is breaking all records – almost four years there)
As for the formula: an author that tries to express himself or herself thinking only about the market, may have a successful book once, but he/she most likely will not repeat the same success – which will not permit that the author makes a living out of literature.
In my case, I did the only thing I should have done, or use my writings to get to know myself better. As long as I kept being loyal to myself, without looking for formulas, the readers have also remained loyal.
Two of my books, for example, did not sell well: The Fifth Mountain and The winner stands alone. However, if I could go back to the past, I would still write these two books, because they express what I feel about tragedy and celebrity
Literature got further away from criticism, exactly because instead of being more traditional, criticism became reactionary. Thus, literary criticism does not have the power neither to sell, nor to avoid sales.
The reader, on the other hand, is watching reality more closely, and he/she buys whatever will reflect his/her state of mind or the status quo.
You write because you need to write. The career of a book is beyond your control.