February 15, 2013

Stephen Clarke: A Self-Publishing Success Story

Meet Stephen Clarke – self-publishing star and writer extraordinaire of the hilarious and wildly successful Merde series.   With 10 books to his credit and another one on the way, Stephen Clarke is one of the most popular Anglophone writers in Paris today.   
Stephen Clarke author book
Stephen Clarke signing his book
Talk To The Snail

The book that started it all - A Year In The Merde - is the tale of British expat, Paul West, living the fish-out-of-water experience in Paris.  Through Paul West’s adventures and more often misadventures, this book sheds a humorous light on all the peculiarities of French life- from an Anglo perspective, without being malicious.   Paul West is the star of five of Stephen Clarke’s novels, while the other books range from the funny side of historical non-fiction to the not-so-futuristic science fiction.  

How did all of this great Merde success begin? 

Once he had finished A Year In The Merde, Stephen knew that he had written something special, in spite of all the rejection letters.   Instead of crawling away and disappearing as the publishing industry was suggesting, the conviction that everybody was wrong and he was right led Stephen to self-publishing. 

But Stephen didn’t want to go about self-publishing as if it were a vanity case of him wanting to see his book in print. Instead he treated it as a professional get-your-foot-in-the-door attempt.  Lots of time, energy and money was spent creating a high quality published book, from the professional looking cover all the way down to the ISBN #.   

Furthermore, to thwart any self-publishing sniffer-outers, he cleverly created his own fictitious publishing house, so that his book could have a ‘professional’ looking home. But yet, a professional publishing house cannot exist on just one book alone, so Stephen created pseudonyms for his other two ‘homeless’ books that he had previously written and voila – Red Garage Books was born.  3 books and 3 authors (2 of which were non-existent).    

Stephen Clarke writer author books
Stephen Clarke's books
Including  the original pseudonym covers
With a great looking cover, a fabulous story inside and publishing house peers, A Year In The Merde was ready to hit the pavement in search of Parisian Anglophone bookstores.   2.5 million copies of all of his books sold and translations in over a dozen languages have proved that Stephen’s singular vision of his book was right!  

How have the French responded to his books? 

Even though his books good-naturedly poke fun at the French, the French readers were initially the catalyst for making A Year In The Merde such a great success.   Now his books are stocked in all bookstores in Paris –both French and English.   Additionally, the most recent sign of French adoration of his work was  having his non-fiction history book 1000 Years of Annoying the French be short-listed for the Prix Guesclin in December 2012 at the Salon de l’histoire “en littérature”.

WICE members have had the pleasure of hearing Stephen talk about his books last year at the Paris Writers’ Workshop and at Kate Kemp-Griffin’s Write-In course.  Once you talk to Stephen, you understand why his books are so successful.  The understated humor that makes his books so engaging to read seems to be how his brain is hardwired.   There’s never a boring conversation to be had with him, and you’ll always find yourself laughing at his witty comments. 

Be sure to check out the details of the upcoming WICE events and courses so that you don’t miss out on any fantastic opportunities to meet interesting people like this!

For more information about Stephen Clarke and to read his books, visit stephenclarkewriter.com.  

Post by Veronica Kugler
Photos by Kate Kemp-Griffin