Paulo Coelho unknown author

Aleph - Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Aleph - Paulo Coelho: A spiritual journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

In 2006 I was called to my 3rd sacred pilgrimage. … I went to several countries, but the epiphany happened while crossing Asia in the Transiberian train ( 15 days, 7 different time zones, 9.2528 km from Moscow to Vladivostok). I was travelling with a Turkish girl, Hilal (not her real name), for reasons that you are going to discover in the book. This point where time and space converge is called ‘The Aleph’ (J.L.Borges has a wonderful short story about this point). Therefore, this is the title of my new book: ‘The Aleph’. … Why did I take so long to write about this pilgrimage? Because it took me three full years to understand it. — Paulo Coelho

We are a business that has not satisfied its customers for some time and is paying the price for that. — James Daunt, boss Waterstone’s

We need much, much better bookshops. — James Daunt, boss Waterstone’s

I was in Waterstone’s bookshop in Guildford yesterday. Behind the counter was chalked up on a big board latest releases. No mention of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in September.

Curious as to this noticeable ommission, I asked.

The staffer behinder the counter looked at me blankly.

He must be an unknown author, I was told, or not very popular.

Unknown author! Not very popular!

I explained that since publication of O Aleph in Brazil last summer, publication in English was eagerly awaited, that in the first six countries of publication it had jumped straight to No One.

I added that Paulo Coelho had over 2 million followers on twitter, more than five million on facebook!

I could have added that The Alechemist had been in the New York Times best seller list for a continuous 188 weeks. Not bad for a book that was published over twenty years ago!

It will probably come as a surprise to readers in Latin America, Middle East or Europe, especially Eastern Europe and Russia, that Paulo Coelho is not well known in England. I once put this to the test.

I asked a friend in Cyprus, receptionist at a hotel, did she know who Paulo Coelho was? Of course I do, she replied, in a tone that implied I was questioning her intelligence. When I explained why I had asked, that he was not well known in England, she did not believe me. We then asked guests at the hotel. None of the English knew who he was, all the others did!

Not that this can be any excuse in a bookshop. It is not that I expect the staff to know every single writer, I do not, but in this case Waterstone’s was running a promotion of a free trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway to coincide with publication of Aleph on 1 September 2011. Not that anyone walking into Waterstone’s would know this as no mention in the store, or at least not obvious.

The irony was that the only reason I was in Waterstone’s was to obtain a Waterstone’s card as it was required to participate in this promotion.

If bookshops are to compete with on-line retailers they need two things: Physical presence off books, to handle and look at. Staff that actually know about writers and their books.

Waterstone’s Guildford used to have staff with who one could chat about books, but then it was Ottakar’s flagship store. Against strong public opposition the Ottakar’s chain founded by James Heneage was taken over by Waterstone’s. Staff who chatted with customers were told off!

Earlier in the week, James Daunt, boss of Waterstone’s said the stores were in much need of improvement. Not a truer word said.

To be fair to Waterstone’s they do help new writers. Stuart Olds has been booksigning in Waterstone’s and shifting 50 books at a time. The record 68 copies of Hope’s Truth

Guildford Book Festival 13-22 October 2011. Hopefully this year will be a better book festival than last year which was very poor compared with previous years. [see Guildford Book Festival 2010]

Top story The Writer’s Cafe Daily Friday 19 August 2011.

Paulo Coelho announces details about next book release
Tears are words that need to be written
Aleph in Farsi

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24 Responses to “Paulo Coelho unknown author”

  1. marie-christine Says:

    Dear Keith,
    Going into the bookstores in Montpellier, I was surprised to see Paulo’s books in different languages available. I saw them in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

    I even ordered F. Morais ‘book “A Warrior’s Life” in English from them. It came from England. I know it took a while to get there. There was some sort of a problem. Maybe they had run out of them I can’t remember exactly.

    Both the Sauramps Librairie and the FNAC always have books in English as well as French. When you go to the Mediatheques (the local Libraries), books are also available in different languages. It’s good to see. I always look for these. It’s an interesting section, they have them in Braille as well.

    I don’t want to sound like I am bragging, I have to say I like the professionalism of the staff in some of the Librairie, Books are divided into special sections and each section appear to have some professional persons that can advise you on your choice or where to find it. It was kind of intimidating when I first arrived :).

    On a regular basis they also have authors that come booksigning their books first at the Librairie, then to a venue and anyone can attend.For ex I saw James Elroy, he had an interpreter with him to answer questions from the readers,. I am sure it is also available in other countries I had not seen that because I had never been to anything like that before. …I am just waking up, remember?

    Strange as you said that Waterstone’s bookshop are running a promotion of a free trip to the Trans Siberian Railways to coincide with the publication of Aleph and not too many people know about it. Maybe it is just a one off shop.I hope so.

    When I went on the Camino a few people also told me they had never heard of Paulo before. Some of them bought his book after so that was pleasing 🙂

    Thank you for your interesting comments.

    Have a nice day.


  2. marie-christine Says:

    Dear Keith
    I forgot to mention – I did enter the contest – the code was missing. Could you please mention this when you next meet?Thank you Keith. Much appreciated.
    How is Harper going?
    You know also another thing you might like to mention. Maybe the location is not a good one. They might need a good Feng Shui
    s consultant.
    Have fun.
    Keep on smiling.:)

  3. keithpp Says:

    There used to be several bookshops in Guildford, including two excellent second-hand bookshops, now we are down to two: Waterstone’s (the fomer Ottakar’s flagship store) occupying a prime location on the High Street and hidden away in Quarry Street (opposite St Mary’s Church) a Christian bookshop. Three if we count the Oxfam Bookshop.

    Waterstone’s in Lincoln: Aleph not chalked up on the board showing new releases. The response when asked of this ommission, he is ‘not a well known author’!

    There can be no excuse for this level of ignorance of Waterstone’s staff, especially when they are offereing a free trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway to coincide with publication of Aleph in the UK on 1 September 2011. If nothing else it highlights the poor quality of their management.

    In Lincoln, the best bookshop is through the Stonebow, up to the top of the High Street, up The Strait, up Steep Hill and part way up on the left a quirky (as bookshops should be) bookshop called Readers Rest. And yes, the proprieter knows who Paulo Coelho is.

    Soluciones in Puerto de la Cruz, an old colonial Spanish town on the north coast of Tenerife, has all the books by Paulo Coelho, including the excellent biography A Warrior’s Life by Fernando Morais. They are in Spanish not English. And yes, they know who Paulo Coelho is, as did all the bookshops I visited. Soluciones used to have organic vegetables!

    Books are being destroyed by the same malaise that has destroyed music, greed. Where once we had gentleman publishers who loved books and knew their writers, these publishers, if they survive at all, are as imprints of global corporations. Books have become a commodity, the latest blockbuster, the writer of the moment, to be heavily hyped. Supermarkets have a handful of best sellers, heavily discounted.

    Lewis Carroll approached Macmillan. The deal was, he paid them to publish his books, they got 10% of the sales. The Alice books have never been out of print!

    Yesterday afternoon, I showed a librarian a copy of The Alchemist. Do you know this author, I asked? Yes, she replied, he is very popular.

  4. keithpp Says:

    There are two Waterstone’s in Lincoln, one on the High Street, one in the market. The one that was checked yesterday was Waterstone’s in the Exchange Arcade in the market.

    Today again checked Waterstone’s Guildford. Still no mention of Aleph due out 1 September 2011. The crass stupidity is that the two books chalked up on their new releases behind the counter are due out until October and November!

  5. keithpp Says:

    Last summer I attended two excellent talks on El Camino de Santiago by Dr Catherine Ferguson a historian who had recently returned from walking the route.

    The History of the Pilgrimage to Compostela
    Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela today

    Prior to Paulo Coelho walking the route, only a handful were walking it each year. Following publication of The Pilgrimage the numbers walking the route has risen exponentially.

    I gave Catherine Ferguson a copy of The Pilgrimage as thanks for her excellent talks.

  6. keithpp Says:

    Saturday I was in Farnham, a lovely little market town on the banks of the River Wey.

    Did the local Waterstone’s list Aleph with the latest releases, did they know who was Paulo Coelho?

    No, Aleph was not listed as a new release, no they were not aware that Aleph was due out in September. They could not even find Aleph on their system! Yes, a vague awareness of Paulo Coelho. No pre-orders, they told me. Surprise surprise when no mention of the book in the store.

    Sometimes we are delayed for a reason. [see The Zahir]

    Before setting off for Farnham I was delayed for two hours by heavy rain. As a result I met a Nigerian couple. I asked them did they know who Paulo Coelho was?

    Yes, they both replied, told me of the books they had read. Does he have a new book out, they asked?

    I told them Aleph was due out in September and of my experience of Waterstone’s, which they found unbelievable for such a well known author.

    I arrived later than intended in Farnham, and as a consequence ended up at Cobbstock III, music and a hog roast at the William Cobbett pub.

  7. Paulo Coelho Says:

    Thank you Keith. This is invaluable

  8. keithpp Says:

    Waterstone’s has two bookshops in Lincoln: High Street and Exchange Arcade in the market. Neither has Aleph chalked up on their board of new releases. In both the same excuse: Paulo Coelho is not a well known author.

    We are the biggest bookshop in Lincoln, staffed by people who LOVE books and love talking about books and love Lincolnshire.

    Were they to look at the cover of Aleph when released on 1 September 2011 they will discover that Paulo Coelho has sold worldwide in excess of 130 million books, and that is not counting the pirate copies!

    Last week I was in conversation with a very charming Polish librarian. I showed her a copy of Brida and asked her did she know the author.

    Yes, of course, she replied, he is a very famous writer. She went on to tell me the books she had read. She flipped through Brida and pointed out those she had read. She thanked me for showing her Brida as it was a book she had not read.

    I told her of my experence of Waterstone’s. She found it unbelievable. But they should know, she said, they work in a bookshop!

    On Saturday I had a message on twitter from Waterstone’s Guildford telling me they knew who Paulo Coelho was. This was in response to a message from me asking why they did not know. Well they would say that wouldn’t they!

    Looking in Waterstone’s Guildford today there is still no mention of Aleph on their chalk board of new releases!

    On Saturday I gave a copy of The Alchemist to an attractive female friend. It brought a smile to her face and she said she will enjoy reading it over the weekend. She runs a shop. I told her of my Waterstone’s experience. Her view was that if they work in a bookshop then they should know.

  9. keithpp Says:

    Yesterday I met one half of the Nigerian couple I met on Saturday. He thanked me for telling him of Aleph and said they would be buying it for Christmas.

  10. keithpp Says:

    W H Smith (aka W H Smug to Private Eye readers) is not really a bookshop, more a newsagent that sells books.

    I visted the book floor in Guildford today. Very dull and grim and depressing. No mention of new releases.

    I talked to one of the girls. Do you know when Paulo Coelho has a new book out and what is it called, I asked?

    She did not know and offered to look it up. Then her face lit up. Sorry, she said, it has been a long day, of course I know, he wrote The Alechemist. I should know she added, because I have The Alchemist. She then told me that her Mother had all the books by Paulo Coelho.

    I said I found it very depressing in the shop and that no effort was made to list new releases. I told her of an excellent Independent record store in Brighton where they always listed the new releases. She agreed, and said that was because they were independent. She told me the problem was that everything was centrally decided, right down to the exact placement of books.

    If you treat staff like moronic robots, that is what you end up with.

  11. keithpp Says:

    Waterstone’s Lincoln: Four copies of Aleph pre-ordered! How many would it be were there information in-store that Aleph is to be published on 1 September 2011? 10, 40, 100 copies?

    Talking to a librarian last night I told him of my experience in Waterstone’s. He thought it terrible. He could not believe they thought Paulo Coelho a not well known author and no mention of the release of Aleph. To him it was indicative of the decline of bookshops.

    Today I had a chat with Bob the Cobbler, my local cobbler. He thanked me for letting him know Paulo Coelho had a new book out. I told him of my experience in Waterstone’s He found it incredible that a bookshop has no information on a new book by an author such as Paulo Coelho, the staff do not know who he is. He said on publication he would expect the book to be on prominent display, as how otherwise does anyone know of its existence? He said he no doubt would have found out eventually.

    It remains to be seen. Will Aleph be on prominent display in Waterstone’s next week?

  12. Sarah Louise James Says:


    I can’t help but feel I need to post on this topic. I was happily checking out Waterstones Guildford twitter feed to see when the next kiddies party was when I saw this! Im not sure if you were either very unlucky with the service or if you were slightly blinkered. I have been a regular customer of this shop for around 10 years now. Yes, they have changed hands, but I feel that every time I go in I am served by professional, enthusiastic, booky people. I have a circle of friends who all meet up at least once a month, sometimes to buy a book, sometimes to have a breather from the kids and let the staff look after them for a while, but usually to buy and talk about books.

    Have i read Paulo Coelho? Yes.
    Will all booksellers in Guildford know who he is? I’d be surprised if they didn’t.
    Would they do everything they could to find a book if they couldn’t/didn’t: absolutely yes.

    You are being very unfair to people that I can honestly say, from my own experience, conversations with friends and family and their reputation; do all they can to bring books to the public. Yes it’s sometimes what some would call “mainstream”. But I still remember the day a bookseller told me to read “One Day” because “it was awesome” That was a LONG time ago. As well as the more popular books, I’ve found some of my favourite books from their recommendations and talking to them (yep. They still talk to people!!) These guys know what they’re talking about.

    I hope you try them again, or if you don’t get a chance, realise that they love books, maybe just not as much as you love some individual authors.



    • keithpp Says:

      No Sarah, not being unfair at all. One would expect Aleph by Paulo Coelho due for release 1 September 2011 to be chalked up on their board of new releases. It was not. When this was querried, I was looked at with a blank expression and told Paulo Coelho must be a not well known author or not very popular!

      To date Paulo Coelho has sold worldwide in excess of 130 million books!

      Sadly this bad experience has not been unique to Waterstone’s Guildford.

      Can there be any excuse for this? No!

      I can talk to librarians, members of the public, all are of the same view. They find it unbelievable that a bookshop does not know of the new release by a very popular author.

      What makes this all the more appalling is that Waterstone’s has a promotion of a free trip on thre Trans-Siberian Railway to tie in with publication of Aleph. Not that you would know of this from paying a visit to Waterstone’s Guildford.

      Yes, they did have good staff there, but that was when it was Ottaker’s flag ship store. When staff get told off for talking to customers about books and authors as though they are standing around doing nothing, it is no suprise that they then lose those staff.

      Your view is contrary to the view of the new boss of Watersone’s. The only reason he took on Waterstone’s is because he has seen how bad their stores are and that there is much needed room for improvement.

  13. keithpp Says:

    This afternoon I looked in on a friend who runs a coffee shop. I let her know Paulo Coelho has a new book out in exactly one week’s time on 1 September 2011.

    Thanks for that, she said, I did not know.

    I then told her of my experience in Waterstone’s. She was gobsmacked.

    But they are a bookshop, how can they say he is not a well known author? How can people know a new book is out and buy it if bookshops make no attempt to communicate that information?

    My thoughts exactly!

  14. Ken Crane Says:

    Off course Paulo is one of the well known writer of this world.
    I don’t know why but not that much people know about him in my country.
    Alchemist was sold quite a lot here in Japan, but compared to other country, it is not wildly read. So am trying to make the people know about his book using Twitter acount PauloCoelhoJpn.
    So far about 2500people are following PauloCoelhoJpn.

    • keithpp Says:

      Paulo Coelho is not well known in England. But it is bad when a major bookshop chain that dominates every town and city claims he is not a well known author and they do not know he has a new book out.

  15. keithpp Says:

    I hoped on a bus to Godalming, a small market town south of Guildford. In the centre a Waterstone’s bookshop which just happens to also be the Post Office. On the chalk board of new releases no mention of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in exactly one week’s time on 1 September 2011. But to their credit they had far more releases chalked up than Waterstone’s in Guildford (which had a grand total of two!). The girl I spoke to was very helpful but sadly did not know of Aleph, though she did know of Paulo Coelho. She thanked me for letting her know Aleph was out in one week’s time and said she would chalk it up on their board. She said there had been no pre-orders of Aleph. Whilst we were talking a grim-faced man with management written all over his demeanor walked up to her and demanded she came away with him as he wished to talk to her for ten minutes. Let’s hope a girl who was being friendly and helpful does not get into trouble.

  16. keithpp Says:

    Saturday I looked in Waterstone’s in Alton. No mention on their new releases of Aleph by Paulo Coelho due out in less than a week’s time. I asked. The staff were not aware of Aleph. They looked it up on their system, it was availabe at a discount but no idea at what discount. No pre-orders.

    Paulo Coelho is not that well known in England, at least that was the reasoning of the staff at Waterstone’s Alton. But is it true for Alton? Alton Secondhand Books which I had visited earlier in the afternoon had a good selection of books by Paulo Coelho and furthermore told me he was a very popular author.

    Today I looked in Waterstone’s Guildford. Two days before publication of Aleph they finally have it chalked up on their board of new releases. Miracles will never cease!

  17. Michael Says:

    To be honest keith i don’t think that it matters that one or two people haven’t got a broad knowledge of paulo coelho. as you have said yourself, “It will probably come as a surprise to readers in Latin America, Middle East or Europe, especially Eastern Europe and Russia, that Paulo Coelho is not well known in England.” so it is not unreasonable for someone (even a bookseller) to suggest that he is not all that popular in this country. I think its unfair to deem a bookshop awful based on one particular title not being advertised as thoroughly as you’d like (remember that not everyone will be as shocked as you are). bookshops also tend to be tailored to their particular local clientelle and guildford, to me, doesn’t scream Paulo Coelho, although i’m sure they sell a certain amount.

    • keithpp Says:

      It is true, Paulo Coelho is not well known in UK, although the paradox is he is well known in secondhand bookshops and independent bookshops and the wider public appear to have better knowledge than a mainstream bookshop chain.

      Yes, I would expect to walk into a bookshop and they know of Paulo Coelho and be aware of a new book out in September. The experience was sadly not unique to Waterstone’s Guildford.

      What makes it all the worse is that Waterstone’s has an offer of a free trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway linked to the launch of Aleph.

      What makes it perverse is that Aleph in the first six countries of publication shot straight to number one within days of publication. If I owned a bookshop and I knew an international best seller was about to come out I would ensure everyone knew about it, especially the staff who were employed in the bookshop.

      I am pleased to see that today Waterstone’s Guildford does have Aleph on display as you walk in the door and the cover is eye catching.

      On the other hand Waterstone’s in Lincoln has Aleph on a table with other books and when asked the staff were not aware of the free trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

  18. Michael Says:

    Interesting….deleting peoples posts that you don’t know how to respond to? Well done….

    • keithpp Says:

      To my knowledge nothing has been deleted!

      The only deletions are spam and posts that have nothing to do with the subject. There is also automatic spam blocking software in operation.

  19. marie-christine Says:

    “one title not being advertised…’ Paulo Coelho has been nr 1 in all the countries the book ‘Aleph” has been published should not it be a better incentive to do something about it and promote it ? If you don’t promote one of the best authors in the world who are you going to promote.
    What is the aim of a Bookshop? To sell books perhaps, so the more you sell, the better it is for the bookshop.

  20. Danish LiveCam Says:

    Danish LiveCam…

    […]Paulo Coelho unknown author « Keithpp's Blog[…]…

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