To merely say Theresa Cramer is an Indie author would be a major understatement. She deserves extra attention and could quickly rise to the top thanks to talent plus major involvement in the field. Theresa writes books, articles, blogs, you name it. She’s the editor of EContent magazine and Intranets newsletter. She’s also a 10 year veteran with a background in both newspaper and book publishing and writes the Fiona Blake Series and publishes a Paper.li news-bulletin called DIY Daily: Self-Publishers Unite and more. Follow her on Twitter @TheresaCramer.
Theresa, you’re among the over-qualified Indie authors I interview—don’t even know where to start.
So not true! When I look at how much work other indie authors put into copyediting and rewriting and just the daily grind of writing, I am ashamed. I feel like such a lazy writer. I totally wing it and hope for the best!
Ashamed? Crazy. Now I know your toughest critic. I read your novel, Fiona vs. Foot Tickler—the title caught my attention and the writing is just as clever. The book is hilarious. Feels like you could be selling more on Amazon so wondering if you have it on the back-burner with all these other projects?
First of all, thanks. When it comes to marketing the book, I am totally slacking. I go through periods where I’ll spend a few nights looking for publicity or trying to get Amazon reviews, but then real life always takes over again. As much as I love my job, when you’ve been reading or writing all day it can be hard to convince yourself to sit down and do more of it at night… especially once the weather gets nice.
Fiona is so much cooler and bolder than I am. She also drinks a lot more. But so many of the characters in the book are just caricatures or composites of people I know—especially her boyfriends. Once someone told me they didn’t think Murph’s hard drinking-preppy, foul-mouthed character seemed realistic. I wished I could trot out my friend Melissa for them. (Murphy is a lady, btw.)
You’re busy, much more than the average Indie. What are you writing in order of most to least between EContent Magazine, DIY Daily, Writer On The Prowl, your books, other things I don’t know about?
I’ve recently had a blogging resurgence. I had an unexpected hit with a post about Bikram Yoga, of all things, and ended up with lots of Writer on the Prowl followers out of it. So I decided to capitalize on it by trying to post more regularly.
Then of course there’s work… I write a column every month for EContent and usually end up cranking out another news story or two to fill the holes. I don’t do as much freelance as I’d like, but I’m coming into a little lull at work so I’ve been trying to dig more up. (Spread the word!)
I’ve got a couple of other blogs, that I operate with friends, that I often neglect. (The blogs, not the friends I’m guessing.) I’m full of ideas, but there isn’t always enough time in the day to make them all a priority. And lately, I’ve gotten back into writing some essays for one of my favorite local NPR shows. Hopefully I’ll be doing more of that, because it’s so different than anything else that I do.
DIY Daily is pretty much self-sustaining…and the books…oh, the poor books. I’ve been so neglectful.
Sounds like a quick history lesson is in order. UConn and then what until now?
Well, I kind of fell into journalism. I was a local reporter for three years or so (which is how Fiona Blake came to be), and then I up and left for New York. I spent a couple of years at Harper Collins working in rights and trafficking, before returning to journalism. I headed back to Connecticut and took a job as an assistant editor at EContent… and voila… here I am.
DIY Daily: Self-Publishers Unite, tell me more about it and your involvement?
I continue to be baffled by the amount of information out there about DIY publishing. It’s such a helpful, knowledgeable community and it hurt my head to try and take it all in. I’d set up a Paper.li for EContent quite some time before I became active on Twitter, and I knew it was a great, low maintenance way to pull together a bunch of info. So I started looking around for people from the self-publishing community to follow and include —then moved on to hashtags and keywords and the like. Before I knew it I had the DIY Daily.
And frankly, I was more than a little surprised at how popular it became. It’s really been an excellent marketing tool, though. Every time an issue comes out, I get a new follower or a bunch of retweets. When the Paper.li people contacted me to do a story about it, I was shocked. As easy as it was to get rolling—and as little attention as it takes to keep it going—it’s really been a handy tool.
How do you find the time for all this?
I work from home, so I’ve got a very flexible schedule. I also recently bought my first house, which means I have almost no disposable income… so staying home and being productive is often my only option when it comes to keeping myself entertained.
You seem well-connected in the publishing industry. How does that help or hurt with what you’re doing?
You’d be surprised how little it’s helped when it came to getting published the traditional way—but I’m also not one to ask for favors. I did send my manuscript to an agent who had been a publisher at HarperCollins when I was there. Still got rejected… In other forums, though, it can be helpful. A couple of friends of mine and I were working on a script together, and one of my columnists at EContent used to be a producer. He was very nice about letting me pick his brain.
Honestly, I really like my job. I get to work from home and produce a magazine about a subject I find fascinating. It doesn’t get much better. But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t love to make a living as a full-time author.
Where do you get your ideas, inspirations?
The people around me. I recently realized that all my favorite TV shows revolve around a group of slightly eccentric folks in small towns—Friday Night Lights, Northern Exposure, The Gilmore Girls. They’re all really about community and totally character driven. That really appeals to me, and I find that I love writing about the quirky characters that make up everyday life—and there’s no better place to compile a list of those characters than at a local newspaper.
Even at EContent, I can’t tell you how many story ideas come from just talking to a colleague. The great thing about my magazine is that I’m writing about the business I work in—digital publishing—and so when I have a phone conversation with my former boss about the struggle of building circulation in the digital age, I can say, “Hey, maybe we’ll do a story on that…”
Know the feeling—I’m always looking for content to write about. So what’s a typical day in the life of Theresa Cramer? Is there such a thing?
Oh absolutely…I am such a creature of habit!
I am usually woken up by either my hungry cat or the dog who needs to go outside. I cater to the furballs, put the kettle on, and start reading my email over breakfast. I work for a few hours—which can be anything from putting together our newsletter, to assigning or editing stories to putting together payment reports to reading proofs—before finally getting dressed and taking the dog out for a nice long walk. When you work from home it’s so easy to become a couch potato, and without the dog I’m pretty sure I’d have become a hermit months ago. I go back to working when we get home, and sometimes in the late afternoon I’ll go outside to do some gardening (now that it’s nice out). If it’s a busy week, I often find myself working in the evenings. Now that the days are growing longer, though, I try to get outside again.
What do you do when not writing?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of hiking—it’s free, it gets me out of the house, and I’ve found a new favorite trail where I almost never see another human being. I’ve also been getting my raised beds ready for this summer’s vegetable garden. Other than that, it’s a lot of time with my friends and family. The past couple summers I’ve tried to do some local sections of the Appalachian Trail and I’ll probably do some more this year.
I read you’re very green. What are you focusing on for the environment lately?
Right now most of my green efforts are out in the yard. It was pretty much a blank slate here when I moved in—the former owner barely had grass and the soil is practically sand. So I’m trying to use as many native plants as possible and organic measures to improve the soil. Lots of manure comes through this yard…
I just got a composter, which I am soooooooo excited about. Between my obsessive recycling and the composter, I’ll barely ever have garbage to take out. I’ve also been putting in raised beds for vegetables—going as locavore as possible. For years I’ve been growing stuff in pots, and in small little plots, and now that I’ve got a yard of my own I’m taking it to new heights. I put in a blackberry bush, and two blueberry bushes. The strawberries already have flowers on them—hopefully the birds don’t get them this year.
I would absolutely love to get chickens, but my yard is pretty small and I think they’re illegal in my town but I hear a rooster in my neighborhood. I figure if that guy can get away with a loud rooster, I should be able to get away with a couple of hens. Between the dog and the cats, though, I think my poor, hypothetical chickens would be miserable.
What’s something most people don’t know about Theresa but should?
I’m a terrible copy-editor.
Not sure I believe that. But I do believe you’re a great talent among the Indie ranks, still flying under the radar. Just wait until the readers see how funny your books are. And I’ll be able to boast, “Interviewed her before they knew she was a star.”
Read Fiona vs. The Foot Tickler if you love great comedy with your mystery/thriller.
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