The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. The Book I Will Write is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. In this first episode, Fleming writes to a senior editor at Knopf for help with his book.
Dredging the Mariana Trench of My Imagination
Ms. Roberta Hollymore
New York, New York
Dear Ms. Hollymore,
I am writing to you in the hopes that you are willing to discuss my new book. I’m still formulating my ideas, and I’d like to bounce some of them off of you, seeing as you’re an important editor.
Here’s where I’m at: my new book will be a work of fiction—a novel, if I can use the term loosely. It will have all the hallmarks of a novel—mainly, characters and events—and yet it will not be a work that is easily pigeonholed into existing marketing categories.
I admit this presents a problem for you, should you decide to accept the book, edit it, and turn it over to your marketing team. What will you say to them? How will you rally their enthusiasm and turn it into sales? I worry about this.
I don’t presume to know your job, but I will make this suggestion: the advantage of creating a new marketing category is that your company will be the first to release a book in that category, which means that in the short term you will have a monopoly on books in said category. Don’t you wish you’d gotten the jump on all those zombie satires?
Onto the book. Specifically, what is it about? These are some of the possibilities I would like to discuss with you:
- Fantastic visions of dancing foxes sporting mirrored sunglasses
That last image just popped into my head, I admit. But it’s the kind of image that I’m capable of dredging from the Mariana Trench of my imagination, and it may yet find a home in my book, should the tone and theme of the book warrant the inclusion of dancing foxes.
Coming back to Love: the book need not be “about” love in the strictest sense. It could very well address issues related to love, such as sex and relationships, and in a roundabout way define Love by marking out its boundaries.
Or, to speak freely, the book itself may be seen as the very Embodiment of Love—that is, an object of intense desire worthy of every reader’s devotion. This is my hope, though I am not usually a fan of Objectification, even under the banner of Love.
Well, I don’t want to go too far with this until we’ve had an opportunity to discuss these matters further. I think it’s important for a publisher to have input on a book’s contents when they are, after all, taking the financial risk of publishing it.
I hope the above ideas give you food for thought. At this stage, there are approximately an infinite number of ways we can go, and I look forward to your own ideas for containing my multitudes without, of course, sacrificing the beauty of their epic dimensions.
Is it too early to call this “our” book?
I anxiously await your response.
John Henry Fleming