Do I need APs if I have strong extracurriculars as an International Student>?

I'm from Bulgaria, a small country in Eastern Europe. Our educational system is quite different from yours. Our schools don't calculate GPA and don't offer AP courses. Does not having APs put me in a disadvantage, as I'm going to apply to top US colleges?

The difficulty for me in taking APs is this: there are, indeed, a couple of schools in the capital that offer AP courses/ classes, but I live far away from there and I don't have time to travel regularly to the capital.

Would it be a problem if I self-study for AP exams? Which are the best AP English Literature Books? The Princeton Review book?

Also, I have very strong extracurricular accomplishments. I have won many national literature competitions (and one international). I had my debut fantasy novel and a few of my short stories published. I don't really have time to prepare for AP exams because writing and school coursework take up most of my time. I'm going to take the New SAT and two SAT II Subject Tests this year. If I score in the top 90th percentile, do I need APs at all?

While having some APs can moderately help, you do not need APs at your level of performance.

First, winning international literature competitions is great. This is what will get you into Yale (or Harvard, Columbia, etc). Keep on putting time into this. I would never sacrifice this. Just make sure the competitions you're applying to are recognized and truly are the most competitive ones.

If you lack APs, colleges you apply to will most be concerned that perhaps your academics are not as strong. In this way, if you get a great score on the New SAT and the SAT Subject tests (of course PrepScholar Online New SAT prep is a great choice for international students -- we have lots of them who want US-quality prep without traveling to their capitol or going outside their country!)

If you want to study AP's on your own, I recommend Barron's AP prep. I used this myself and got 5's. You can definitely self-study for AP exams if you're a strong self-studier.

APs will give US colleges confidence that you can do well in a US curriculum, but you don't need it. And even if you do take it, reading the book yourself and taking the test in a willing test location will suffice.