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The Book I Will Write #6

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 episode, Fleming hears back from Roberta Hollymore, a senior editor at Knopf, who thinks he may be the dog-sitter who replaced her poodle with a “dense, ill-tempered” imposter.

 

 

 

you are the special one percent

Dear Mr. Fleming,

If I may give you some advice (you did, after all, ask for it) it is to write the novel about the pop culture icon and the tomatoes. This, at least, is a concrete idea that will allow you to write about your characters as if they were real people and to provide details from the actual world, both of which are common traits of published novels.

Your tomato idea also has the benefit of appealing to the many readers who follow the lives of pop culture icons and football players. And, assuming the tomatoes are grown without chemicals or genetic engineering, you have an organic gardening audience you can play to.

Remember, unless you are already a celebrity (You’re not, are you? Do you have a media platform?), books today need a marketing hook of this type, as well as a clearly-defined target audience. For more information about this, I recommend you visit some of the several million websites devoted to writing a publishable novel.

And then, as my assistant suggested, pursue representation by sending your manuscript to reputable literary agents. You will also find on the internet advice on how to write an effective query letter, along with many samples.

I encourage you not to waste your time contacting publishers directly. Your efforts at this stage are better directed toward writing a novel. I wish you the best in this.

Sincerely,

Roberta Hollymore
Knopf

P.S. What about my dog? I don’t remember the name of the young dog sitter from a few years back, but you sound somewhat like him. It’s probably too much to say that I loved that dog—she was a hyperactive, cloying toy poodle—but she was a dependable companion and a far better specimen than the one you left me with. If this is your doing, you should come clean and explain what happened. Consider that I have replied to your query and offered advice. This is something I do not (and cannot) do with 99% of such queries.

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About John Henry Fleming

John Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve, among others. He is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. He teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor for Saw Palm: florida literature and art. He blogs at johnhenryfleming.com.

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