Literature and success

The Nobel prize winner, Kenzaboro Oe once said that you 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? (Valéry Peyrot, France)
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.

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  1. Megha says:

    Hello. My brother gifted me your Warrior of Light last year and I found myself doing a curious activity and thought I should let you know too.
    Whenever I found myself upset last year (and it was very often) I would open it randomly and read aloud that page. It gave me strength and happiness.
    Thank you Sir for giving me guidance in form of a book, it helped me live through a painful phase of life.
    Megha (India)

  2. VIJAY says:

    pauloji books contain several inspirational quotes it enhances once spiritual tandencies and guides the reader ton furthur explore the spiritual frotiers

  3. Mary says:

    I have a question about “The Fifth Mountain”. Was this book translated to Arabic? I enjoyed reading the first couple of pages, as well as your other books. But I think I’ll enjoy this book more if I could read it in the language I’m using to read the Bible.

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      it was, but I don’t know the name of the publisher

  4. Laura Tosi says:

    I published a review of your book “the winner stands alone”, which I enjoyed reading very much. It would mean very much for me knowing you read it and hopefully appreciated it :-) Thank you!

  5. barbara says:

    I visited Borders store in Boston (USA) recently and I look and I see an “Alchemist” as guests pick among few other books, so of course I had to snap a picture which I send to Pilar Piedra:)
    With love,

  6. Bota says:

    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.

    The passage gave me an idea that it is the sign of a real writer. The people, who care for market only, will find many things to change in their books! But can you change the feeling you have written with?

    1. HECTOR says:


  7. Safa Larhrissi says:

    I’m not a writer, however, I love sharing my thoughts with people around the world and I think this is the best place I can do this. I think Paolo’s quote “You write because you need to write. The career of a book is beyond your control” is valid for anything we do, a job, an activity, an action, I think when you do something passionately, it ends up being successful, it may not be appreciated by everybody, you may receive hurting comments, you may receive compliments, you take what you think is suitable for you, or can help you improve, but never give up because of a hurting or a negative opinion. Always keep going and improving your work/activity/writing… and seek personal satisfaction.

  8. Lul says:

    So because it is confession’s time in public…I’m afraid of failure and I’m afraid of success,what a freak I am!lol but nowadays,I’m actually correcting this slowly,trying to get better in all fields of my life..

  9. rinalyn capiral says:

    i do love to write a novel since i was a child, but i’m afraid about criticism. that’s why I transfer to read and collect a book novel

  10. La quinta montaña es una narrativa que me llevó a identificarme con la viuda, fue algo que me llenó de hermosos sentimientos realmente caminé con esta mujer fué algo maravilloso cuando aprendió el lenguaje en bilbos AMOR.

  11. Sunshine says:

    You write because you need to write. The career of a book is beyond your control.

    I need to write. I can’t start it. It all becomes a big mess ’cause what I want to say is not disappears in me starting to write. maybe I don’t know what the message is…maybe I do… It’s not that easy. You get a break and if you got the right flow you sell, if you got the right way…righteousness, you change and help people in their life while doing that. Paulo, I know you’ve helped more than me…but still, thank you. Your thoughts is making mine get reborn and understand it all again. Love and Light

  12. Joyce Palacios says:

    I am reading the winner stand alone and I really like it.
    Your writing is really inspirating.

  13. appen says:

    …. I love “The Fifth Mountain”

  14. Maria says:

    What? Seriously, the Fifth Mountain didn’t sell well when it’s my second favorite next to The Alchemist?

    My sister gave it to me as a surprise birthday gift a few years ago and ever since I’ve read it I’ve been recommending friends to read it. Honestly, I recommend it more than I recommend the Alchemist…

  15. Kaori Tamaki says:

    I had been writing my story and then decided to take a break. I took my iPhone and opened your blog, then I came across with this line, “You write because you need to write.” I am now!!!
    Oh I feel so right!!!
    I feel I am living MY life.

    Thank you Paulo for living YOURS.

  16. arun says:

    The writer does not think what he has to write and where he going in his book. he only understands that if in this story he has to face something worst then let it be. the god also thinks same like about us. he gives us best of everything and then takes the good value for the same . The writer understands his emotion through his characters and I feel god does the same through us. A book is not a simple document , it is a world of people in which characters breathe, walk, discuss, go thru pain and agony, they feel anger, they cry and repent as well. Writting is creating a new world where one(writer) feels like god and it is fun but he always understand that playing god is the most difficult task to perform and if one want to know that one must see “BRUCE ALMIGHTY” Big powers come with big responsibilties…

  17. hi! i love your writings because they are deep. we ignore small things because we are too focused on the big picture, the culture of the world today. But with your creation, it revives the true sense of humanity and reveals the mysteries of the world. We find inspiration to tap our inner selves and believe in the pureness of the soul. I can relate to the Alchemist, especially that part about the secret of happiness.I aspire to become a writer, not necessarily publish books, but just be good at expressing my innermost thoughts, my philosophy and beliefs. please check out my wall posts and notes in FB and also my blog and comment if you feel like doing so. You’re the best writer! You are also a psychologist and good motivator! Wish, you receive a nobel prize one day!

    1. by the way, just wanna share this quote I got:
      “critic educates the public,
      an artist educates the critic”
      ( dont know who wrote it )