Paulo Coelho @DLD 08

Paulo Coelho (seminal author of books like, “The Alchemist” and “Veronika Decides to Die”) gave a great, compelling keynote at DLD, which for me, was one of the highlights. The man simply oozes charisma and wisdom.
 
Unlike Martha, he’d thought about his audience and gave a speech that we would find both relevant and interesting.
 
His main theme was that copyright is a lost battle and that we should accept that and live with the consequences in the new world. Moreover, this isn’t something we should grieve over and regret, but that all content creators could use this to our advantage.
 
He doesn’t just pay lip service to this sentiment, but has used the philosophy very astutely to create considerable commercial advantage for himself (and his publishers).
 
His learning went like this. First, he published a free downloadable book in 2001; “Stories for parents, children and grandchildren” showing quite an early awareness of the web and its possibilities for a non-geek. He describes it as his least read book, despite getting millions of downloads. People download, but don’t read he thinks and no one has ever talked to him about the book!
 
Next, he found a pirate version of The Alchemist in Russia, where we was selling only 1,000 copies of the book each year. With nothing to lose, he used the pirate version himself to create a free download. The next year, he sold 10,000 and the next 100,000 copies of the book itself. Nothing else had changed, so he sees the free download as a sampling exercise. People download, read a bit and if they like it, they go buy a book.
 
These days, he’s more structured in his approach. He finds pirated versions of his work in different languages and tells people about them via his alternative blog “Pirate Coelho”, which he promotes via his official blog. He also allegedly leaks drafts of official translations onto Pirate Coelho too.
 
He claims this has dramatically increased worldwide sales and as a best-selling author with 100 million books to his name, it’s hard to see how his blase attitude to ownership of his intellectual property has done him any harm. Besides which, the goal of most writers is actually to be read first and foremost. Any money you make (or “lose” through piracy) is mostly secondary.
 
He also told an amusing story of a blog post he wrote, inviting the first 10 readers who emailed him to a party he holds every year on March 19th. The party was held in an obscure corner of Spain, so he was surprised to get replies from places like Japan, Qatar and Iraq.
 
He wrote to the ten people clarifying that it was just a 2 hour party and that he wasn’t paying for flights or accommodation or expenses in any way. But they all came anyway – the Japanese lady had never even left Japan before!
 
A great man.
 
Posted by Russell Buckley