Self-Publishing Success Story: Emelie Schepp
It’s a great privilege to be interviewing Emelie Schepp, bestselling author and one of Sweden’s most successful self-published authors.
Did you have any idea that your debut novel, Marked for Life, would be such a huge success when you first decided to self-publish it?
When I decided to self-publish Marked for life, I knew that it was essential to do everything as professionally as possible and that meant that I couldn’t do everything on my own. Therefore, I hired an editor, a proofreader and a graphic designer. Right from the start I was aiming high and I worked really hard to reach out to my readers. I believed in the story of Jana Berzelius and I put all my effort and spare time into selling the book, but I had no idea that Marked For Life would be such a huge success.
How did it feel to see your ebook in bestseller lists and winning awards (most recently, the Crime Time Gotland Specsavers Award)?
Three years ago nobody except my husband and I believed in the story, but I thought that if I managed to sell my book to readers, they would believe in the story as well. Winning the award shows that I was right. I am so happy and grateful that the readers voted me for The Best Crime Writer Of The Year 2016. Having fans supporting me is the best feeling in the world.
Why do you think this particular title sold so well across such a wide range of formats? (I understand it was hugely popular as an audiobook, for example).
I believe it has to do with my main character, Jana Berzelius. I decided early on to write about a woman who was brilliant, physically strong and striking yet by necessity odd, even secretive. But it wasn’t until I read an article about child soldiers that I realized how dark Jana’s background would have to be. Many readers are fascinated by her. Perhaps it has to do with her personality; that she has two sides to herself. On one hand, she is a famous and successful prosecutor working hard to maintain laws and order in society. And on the other hand she is tough, a fighter who doesn’t hesitate to break laws in order to hide the shame of her dark past.
Ed: I suppose the take away point from this is that if a book grips readers, it’s likely to appeal to a wide audience – and the wider the audience, the more likely it is that a subsection of that group will prefer to read in a different format.
How has self-publishing changed your writing life? Did you find that being popular as a self-publisher helped you to gain credibility with trade publishers?
Being a self-publisher, you learn so much about the industry. You also learn to be creative… When your book isn’t accepted in some bookstores you try to find other ways to have them sold, for example. When I became Sweden’s most successful self-publisher I gained some credibility and then I was contacted by trade publishers. Today I teach others about self-publishing; besides writing a good story it is all about working hard, being dedicated and having patience and persistence.
Finally, what would be your main piece of advice for other authors?
Believe in your story and set time aside to write it. Since I still worked fulltime, I had to make time to write Marked For Life at night. So, every night at 8pm when my kids had fallen asleep I sat down in front of my computer. I turned off my cell phone, the television, closed my emails and started to write. Six months later I held my first draft in my hand.
Thanks so much for agreeing to speak to us. Hopefully, your experiences will provide encouragement for everyone considering self-publishing as a viable route to market and success as a writer.