Interest in epistolary novels has waned in YA editorial circles, it’s true. But often a format or category isn’t so much “dead” as just in need of a fresh spin to jolt it out of the doldrums. If you’re committed to this format, you’d better be offering something eye-catching in your concept or plot because, as much as I hate to write this, “excellent writing” isn’t enough to break anyone into a stagnant niche. Look for agents who rep projects with your kind of concept, tone, and audience, then emphasize those in your query: “I’ve got this great novel about X”, not “I’ve got this great epistolary novel.” If it’s still a no-go, why not recast your great concept, cast, and plot as a traditional narrative? Loyalty should be to story over format.
Could you define epistolary?
Natasha, you can peek inside Jaclyn Moriarty’s book to see the letter correspondence style at work. A popular epistolary novel for adults is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
Would email or text content be considered a fresh spin on an epistolary format?
Lauren Myracle rode the top of the e-correspondence wave of young adult novels with her TTYL series. The novelty of that approach has worn off, but one could argue that it has more relevance with today’s young people.
Oh, I’ve loved the epistolary novels I’ve read. It feels like I’m eavesdropping visually so I hope they aren’t completely dead. But truly, do kids write letters anymore? My 12-year-old daughter sends out notecards via regular post, but they are hardly full-length letters. I’m not sure how a contemporary novel could fit this format. Historical–yes.
It’s hard enough to get published. Trying to publish something in a format that is out of favor is even harder. Then again, you have to write the book you want, believe in it and hope that maybe you will be the one to define what’s the next popular thing. What’s popular today, wasn’t necessarily a few years ago.