• Renate Stendhal
  • From the First Self-Publishing Summit to a First Self-Published Book, Part 2
From the First Self-Publishing Summit to a First Self-Published Book, Part 2
Written by
Renate Stendhal
April 2014
Written by
Renate Stendhal
April 2014

Baby Steps in Platform Shoes

Continued dialogue between Kim Chernin and Renate Stendhal


Kim: Let’s call this blog post “Stumbling onto a New Path.”

Renate: Could be funnier. How about, “Walking in platform shoes.”

Kim: Okay, but how about “Walking with baby steps”?

Renate: I’ve got it: “Taking Baby Steps in Platform Shoes”!

Kim: That’s it: “Baby Steps in Platform Shoes.”

Renate: This little model of our collaboration shows how we managed to write the book in record time. We laughed our way through it and kept up the spirit as much as possible, having NO idea how much work it would be -- even now that Lesbian Marriage: A Sex Survival Kit is out -- fresh off the press as a Kindle book and Amazon paperback!

Kim: Writing it was fast and easy. Our friends read, commented, suggested, laughed and said, every marriage has the same problems, gay or not gay, so far so good.

Renate: What I had learned at the Summit now had to be put into practice. We gave our ms to Kindle expert Howard VanEs, and the adventure of e-publishing started. With Brooke's guidance I hired a young Facebook whiz to walk me through that mystifying site. Howard reminded me that in the new E-pub world, Twitter is a “must do”--unavoidable like blogging. So…

Kim: I can avoid it! I cannot stand these platforms, I am too old, it’s not my world. Don’t people realize that writing short pieces takes much more time than writing a novel? How are we supposed to still do our writers work?

Renate:  Howard said: with the help of a really good VA. A new acronym I'd never heard before. Virtual Assistant. It so happened that my writer friend Joan Gelfand had one who had extra time to take me on.

Kim: Does that mean it’s virtuous to let someone else write your FB posts and tweets?

Renate: Ha! This is a new world: Break down the writerly perfectionism and play fast and easy. If no perfectionism is needed, any good assistant who “gets” you can do it for you, and you play along and guide or interfere as much as you like. I found very quickly that this could be fun. Another form of collaboration.

Kim: Great, I’ll step out of this part of the collaboration and let you do it.

Renate: I am so curious about unlearning old methods and trying on new ones. I am tempted by the speed and ease of postings on platforms, or the more spontaneous voice of blogs. You have always been a very fast writer whereas I am the typical slow-slower-slowest snail. So there’s not the same excitement or challenge for you.

Kim: Tell you what: I will learn to write slowly and aim for perfectly crafted aphorisms as tweets for our book. Like:  “Hang out the banner: Lesbians rock and so does lesbian sex.” A series of Read It Out Loud tweets, like “Read it out loud: Bed death is dead!” “Read it out loud together in the elevator. Pause between floors.”

Renate: Let’s talk about the next baby step. Luck had it that my Gertrude Stein blog (started here for She Writes, in 2006) led to a contact with cartoonist Tom Hachtman who had done the notorious Gertrude Follies. Maybe he’d have an idea for a book cover? He did. He sent me a sexy toon girl with dark shades, leather jacket, tight Jeans and lipstick. The Leather-Shades Girl, as I called her, was designed by his life companion, cartoonist Joey Hachtman. “Couldn’t you make a cover out of this?” we asked Joey. “Add another woman so we’d have a couple?” Another collaboration began with exuberance and nutty, crazy back and forths.

Kim:  Joey read the ms and started doodling, and within one crazy night, she sent us a good dozen sketches which, lo and behold, fit exactly each chapter of our book. A dozen chapters, a dozen illustrations. No way would these cartoons have been acceptable to any of my previous NY publishers. They were funny, racy, edgy and came out of a great love and celebration of women.

Renate: What a fight we would have had over Joey’s cover idea – pop colors, an agelessly young butch-femme couple, one woman of color: endless debates. The beauty of this new publishing venture would have been dead on arrival.

Kim: The same quarrels would have come up over the flap copy or the back of the book. Instead of some executive making the decisions (they always end up winning) we had an expert guide who was on our side.

Renate:  I don’t want to make it sound like it was all a piece of cake. It was a huge amount of work. Everything took much longer than we thought, but still not even half as long as the usual nine months publishers take to “birth” a book. Because we cared about making our self-published book as perfect as possible – proofing the whole thing four times, tweaking the page design, the illustrations, colors,  working the press release twenty times… Every single detail had to be discussed and decided. Sometimes we felt overwhelmed and scared. Limp like plants without water.  PPS, Pre-Publishing Syndrome, Howard called it. We also had to dip deeply into our savings to get it all done and to get the help we needed.

Kim: To be honest, a few times we reminisced about how easy it all used to be when you could hand all of this over to the publisher…

Renate: Howard weighed in on all these decisions, and he did it with such patience and good judgment. He could be tough and so could we. We often cracked each other up over our different perspectives.  Giving the book its own website or “landing page”? Alright, unavoidable. Starting a database? Okay, if we must -- just teach us how. One baby step after another. Creating tiny YouTube videos as promo? That goes too far. Forget it. But suddenly Joey felt she might get back into animation. A book party? No way!  But guess what? We are going to have one.

Kim: We’d love to have everyone here join us in their platform shoes. 23,000 women… Has anyone already invented the virtual book party? 



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  • Renate Stendhal

    Hi Patricia, yes, so true - it was great to get inspired this way and that it worked out! This kind of teamwork really is the best part of the self-pub experience. As for the virtual book party, that was tongue-in-cheek, but I wonder, too: can it be done? Has it been done??

  • Patricia Robertson

    I appreciate how you were able to choose your cover and illustrations. Advantages of self-publishing! No, I haven't done a virtual book party. How is it done?