Writing a Book Synopsis for an Agent or Publisher

September 28, 2015 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

A book synopsis is your first tool in the book publishing process. Without a synopsis forget approaching a publisher, they will not want to know you.

What is a Book Synopsis

writing a book synopsisThe business side of book writing is often overlooked by would-be authors. But a business it is, and the moment you contact agents or publishers with a view to writing and publishing a book they will request a synopsis. A synopsis is a summary of your project; no more, no less, but writing a book synopsis is an important step on the traditional publishing route .

Paradoxically, the ideal time to prepare a synopsis is at the ‘back of an envelope’ stage of a book: that moment when the idea for your work first arises. This spark was unadorned and caught your breath at the time. A synopsis should never lose that vital element. The version you eventually send to a publisher will cover more ground and may have changes of emphasis and treatment, but the clarity of the message you send should be preserved.

The ability to write brilliant synopses passes most people by. It requires special skills and a disciplined, calm brain. That rules me out. I still believe, however, that writers should be the author of their synopses.

The Book Synopsis

The synopsis you submit to a literary agent or publisher should do no more than ensure a chapter or three of your book are subsequently read by them.

Include, therefore, only details most likely to make this happen. Anything else is just wasting everyone’s time.

By sticking to the theme and essential elements of your draft, your synopsis should race through the development of your story – leaving the reader informed, but not fulfilled; only the book can do that. If it has, at its heart, a fresh theme, well treated, then once you have conveyed this, your work is done. This really is how to publish a book, by following the publishers’ rules.

Over-egg the synopsis and with each dollop you will be in danger of losing the reader’s attention – or worse.

Some Tips for Writing a Book Synopsis

One page, single-spaced, should do the job (500 words). Two pages is stretching the attention span, unless your subject matter has to be detail- driven. This is often the case with non-fiction. But for fiction, keep it short.

Remember, this is supposed to be a business document, not great literature. Make your essential points in a few short words – then stop.

The synopsis is not the place to sell the book. Stick to unveiling aspects of the book which will prompt the reader to examine your work further.

If this particular chore is an exercise too far, there are independent book editing services that have editors who will write a synopsis for you. Not everyone is a born editor/summariser with an understanding of the business aspects of publishing. If you have confidence in your manuscript it really makes sense to ensure you submit it professionally. A poor or inadequate synopsis will scupper your chances of a deal, often without a word of your book being read. Invest a little time in getting this right, and be one step ahead of the competition.