QUESTION: Like many writers, I hate to grapple with the synopsis. I can write an interesting novel, I can almost manage an intriguing query, but the synopsis is torture…Are there any tricks to getting a synopsis as short and meaningful as possible? Are they even necessary, despite what agents say in their guidelines?



Writing a book synopsis is challenging but sometimes necessary. A synopsis is a super-condensed version of your book, beginning to end, and serves as a document for publishing professionals such as agents, editors, publishers, and book buyers to make a quick assessment. The synopsis will help them decide if they want to read your entire manuscript and consider it for publication or representation, marketing support, or placement on library and bookstore shelves.

For most writers, the thought of summarizing their story into a few pages or less makes them want to run and hide. You are not alone. It’s true that writing a synopsis can be a little challenging, but remember that you have it in you to write a whole book. A synopsis is just another opportunity to exercise your writing muscles!

Is a synopsis necessary?

Whether or not you will need to prepare a synopsis of your book will depend on your chosen publishing path and distribution plans. If you are using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to self-publish your book and have no plans to distribute it through other retailers or get it placed in libraries, you may never need one. However, if you plan to pursue a traditional publishing path or want to broaden your distribution, you will likely need one. You may even need multiple versions—anywhere from one paragraph to several pages—depending on each professionals’ needs and wants.

In short, if you are approaching any decision-makers about your book and they request a synopsis, be prepared to write one. By not following their specific requirements your book will likely go into the automatic “No” pile. You can stand out from your competition and entice decision-makers to give your book a chance by providing a compelling synopsis that meets their specifications.

How to Write a Great Synopsis

In order to be effective, the synopsis should be a summary of the entire book without any fancy prose or marketing and sales fluff. Your synopsis should tell the professional everything they need to know about your book without them having to read it. Yes, it may seem a little dry, but the tone should be neutral and to the point. A synopsis is one place where you have permission to “tell”, not “show”.

To write a great synopsis, you need to sum up your entire story, beginning to end.A synopsis for a fiction book should be single-spaced, written in third-person using present tense, and include a summary of your story’s plot, main characters, and major themes. The purpose is to demonstrate a clear story arc and present a satisfying ending. Here are additional tips for writing a great synopsis for a fiction book:

•  Include your name, book title, and book genre.

•  Follow the order of events as written in your story.

•  Reveal all major plot points including the introduction, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution.

•  Focus on your main characters only (4 or 5 at most). Reveal their key traits that are relevant to the story.

•  Share more than just the facts of the story, share the emotional journeys of the main characters as well, what motivates them throughout the story, and what conflicts they face along the way.

•  Put your main character names in all CAPS when first introduced so that it’s easy for the professional to navigate the document.

•  Even though a synopsis is more of a professional business document, make sure it’s an extension of your writing style and voice.

•  Name the file wisely. Use all or part of your book title and the word “synopsis” in your file name.

•  Search online for good examples that demonstrate how to properly execute a synopsis

How Long Should My Synopsis Be?

When a specific word count isn’t provided, start short with 500 – 700 words. Some agents or publishers may ask for more. It’s important to produce whatever is requested; otherwise, your submission may be ignored or rejected.


A book synopsis may not be high on your writing priority list, but is an important tool when presenting your book to various publishing professionals. Even nonfiction authors may be asked to write a synopsis as a part of a larger book proposal. See it as an opportunity to further showcase your writing skills!