The new language of writers

November 7th, 2008 § 4 comments

alt textPaulo Coehlo also has free postcards available for download

Paulo Coehlo published his first book after 35 years of wild music journalism, mystical explorations and pop song writing.

His most famous book to date is The Alchemist, a story that has a consistent habit of changing people’s lives and is often mistakenly pushed into the New Age section of bookstores. There is no genre for the types of books he writes.

Coehlo is 61-years-old and he is the child of Web 2.0. He has a blog that he’s been regularly updating since March 2007, he uploads pictures from his personal and public life on his flickr site and when you add him on twitter, he actually follows you back. Coehlo has the tough exterior needed to regularly upload to YouTube. He believes the more you give online, the more you receive offline and the sales of his books are proof.

In 1999 Coehlo was having trouble selling his books in Russia. He noticed, however, that a pirated digital copy of the Alchemist was circulating so he uploaded his own digital copy, for free, on his website. In the first year, sales jumped from 1,000 copies to 10,000 copies. Two years later, he was selling a million books in the territory and today he has sold more than ten million books there.

He continues to give books away for free. A terrific one which I suggest to download is Stories for Parents, Children and Grandchildren.

In a recent speech to open the Frankfurt Book Fair, Coehlo said (and then consequently uploaded to his blog):

“[When it comes to] sharing ideas…the technologies that succeed are the technologies that enable ideas to circulate and touch the widest possible audience.

“The web does not involve production and distribution costs. And because of that, we are seeing a paradigm shift. From this moment onwards, the democratisation of an idea, made first possible thanks to the Gutenberg press, starts to reach a whole new scale. Little by little, people start to understand that

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a) they can publish virtually anything and put it on the web for anyone to see if so they wish

b) they are their own broadcasters, i.e. they have their own television channel – such as YouTube – or their own radio show – such as BlogTalkRadio.

This way, they are no longer passive spectators of society’s transformations, but interfere in the collective process. Consequently, as long as you have an Internet connection, the creature becomes the creator. The user becomes someone that not only has something to tell, but who is also able to share their likes and dislikes.

“Yet what I saw as a writer came as a surprise, and a lack of understanding of the web on the part of the industry…given that books as media are still widely used, why not share the
whole digital content of books for free? Contrary to what common sense tells us – and common sense is not always a good guide, otherwise publishers, booksellers and writers would probably be doing something more profitable – the more you give, the more you gain.

“Of course, I make a living out of my copyrights, but at this very moment I am not concentrating on this. I have to adapt myself. Not only by connecting more directly with my readers – something unthinkable a few years ago – but also by developing a new language, Internet-based, that will be the language of the future: direct, simple, without being superficial.

Time will tell me how to recover the money I myself am investing alone in my social communities. But I am investing in something for which every single writer in the world would be grateful: to have his texts read by a maximum of people.

The Internet has taught me this: don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas. Don’t be afraid of engaging others to voice their ideas. And more importantly, don’t presume who is and who is not a creator – because we all are.

Thank you, Paulo Coehlo.

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The one thing that has stuck to me from a degree in journalism is: the greatest writers convey complicated ideas using simple words. This is becoming especially important in new media. When no one (precisely, hardly anyone) is getting paid for their opinion, people will write the truth as they see it.

Most magazines, yes, I’m attacking you GQ, Cosmopolitian et al, have succumbed to advertorials. It’s frustrating as a reader to find out that my “cure to dry skin” or latest feature is actually a list of products or a shout-out to a restaurant. Where is the truth?

The media has been hyperventilating about the downward spiral of recession for the last month so it’s always good to focus on a positive story that gives writers, bloggers and any creative being strength amidst all the doom and gloom.

I have a habit to take the web for granted. It’s over-saturation. We can do so many amazing things online. Research that used to take journalists and historians weeks of searching now takes a 0.02 of a second.

Our pictures, videos and words can be viewed by millions around the globe for absolutely nothing at any given time. Think about that for a second. It’s like the old saying of only using ten percent of your brain. Perhaps we only harness ten percent of the internet’s power. We need to let our guards down, to be more willing to give more of ourselves. And I’m going to start by publishing this.

How do you give your stories/ideas online? Are you scared of putting too much information out in this all-encompasing web?

Contrary to what common sense tells us…the more you give, the more you gain – Paulo Coehlo

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§ 4 Responses to The new language of writers"

  • Tash says:

    Read The Alchemist for starters then get lost in his words.

    Gem, I’ll have a read of your novel now!

    Thanks for the lovely comments guys.

  • Carm says:

    That was a fantastic article Tash! Really good. What a cool guy. It’s true that the internet is MARVELLOUS… if I could cuddle my computer I would Lol… it’s just great that u have an instant platform for getting ideas out.. back in the day it would take weeks, months to publish an article and even then it may end up cut so blogging, online TV etc is definitely the way to go.

  • Gem says:

    oh, great article Tash! I’ll have to have a look for some of his books. I’ve recently made the decision to publish some of my novel online, although I am still seeking an agent/publisher to get it published in print form.

    If you want to have a look, it’s here:

  • Vicki says:

    Wow, he’s really inspirational, I’ll have to give some of his books a read!

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