Does the thought of encapsulating your story into a short form synopsis make you want to run and hide? Take a deep breath. Yes, writing a synopsis can be a little tricky, but if you have it in you to write a book length manuscript then you can do this. It’s just another way to exercise your writing skills. Time to roll up your sleeves and take on an important challenge that will help you sell your book!
Written in a narrative style, third person, and present tense—a synopsis is a condensed version of your book. Though not to be confused with book-flap copy or an elevator pitch, both of which are used to whet the appetite of readers, your synopsis should be more detailed. It should offer the nuts and bolts of your book such as title, length, and genre. Your synopsis should also include thoughtful descriptions of your characters, setting, and plot, woven together with strands of theme. You should write your synopsis in such a way that that tone and voice of you as a writer and your particular book are both evident.
The synopsis is more than a document to engage readers; it’s a marketing document for publishing professionals. You should tailor it to reach agents, editors, or marketing staff, and engage wholesale buyers and librarians. The synopsis will help these professionals decide to publish or represent your book, offer you a marketing budget, or decide whether your book is worthy to appear on library or bookstore shelves.
In order to be effective, the synopsis should show professional readers how your book fits in the marketplace and who its readership will be. Do remember: your synopsis is NOT open-ended summary used to tantalize readers, but rather a simplified version of the entire book. As much as we wish we could entice these professionals with a short paragraph of interesting prose, the reality is that publishing professionals will not invest time in reading your book unless you can convince them that your book is a worthy use of their time. Your synopsis should tell them everything they need to know about the book to decide if it’s worth the investment without actually having to read it.
There are several common synopsis pitfalls. One, avoid just listing off characters and events. While this makes your job easier, it does nothing to entice professionals to buy-in to your book. Two, don’t fill up space with unnecessary adjectives/adverbs. This is not only your chance to sell your book, but to sell yourself as a writer. Write your synopsis as well as you wrote your book. Third, be aware of length requirements. You will likely need to create a number of different synopses—anywhere from one paragraph to ten pages—depending on each professionals’ needs and wants. Preparing for these needs and following directions will put you ahead of the competition.
As you create your synopsis, remember how much you love your book. Let that love serve as the subtext of every word you write.
A little confused here; I have heard from other sources (on this website and elsewhere) that agents do not expect the synopsis to be a work of art, or as well-written as the manuscript/book.
Great information - Thank You! I am a first time writer just having finished my incredible life story: "Naked in the Middle of a Tornado: The True Story of One Family's Unbelievable Fight Against Polycystic kidney Disease (PKD)". I now have a starting point.
Hello Molly. What page length or word count do you suggest for the synopsis?
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