In the publishing world, a book’s blurb is NOT the same as its synopsis. Yes, we are a world unto ourselves. Both are important to the success of your novel. However, each needs its own skillset and be written for a different audience. In this post, I’m sharing my tips on how to write an amazing synopsis for your novel.
Do you know the difference between a blurb and a synopsis?
A blurb, or cover copy, is the text you typically see on the back cover of a book.
Blurbs give an idea of what the story is about, but don’t tell you the whole plot. They’re written to entice and intrigue the reader, and the language used reflects this. They’re evocative, intriguing yet spoiler-free. For example, ‘Alyssa is plunged into an exciting world of sorcerers and spies.’ ‘Lily will discover a secret that changes everything.’ Or perhaps, ‘Will Graeme manage to overcome his demons and save the world?’
A synopsis has a different function.
The synopsis isn’t meant to tantalise the reader or show off your writing style (your manuscript itself should do that!). Rather it serves to inform the agent, publisher or whoever is reading it what happens in the story. A synopsis is clear and straightforward. You need to layout what Lily’s secret is, and whether Graeme does manage to save the world. You don’t need to use the rhetorical devices you would see in a blurb; plain and simple English is just fine and will allow your plot to speak for itself.
Writing a clear, concise synopsis or book proposal tells an agent, editor or publisher that you are a capable writer, and can help you stand out from the slushpile and secure a book contract.Writers Online
My tips for writing your synopsis
A literary agent or publisher will ask you to submit a synopsis along with your sample chapters. A well-written synopsis will help the agent decide whether or not to request the full manuscript. Therefore, it’s important to get this part of the submission package right.
Tell the whole story
A synopsis should cover the plot from start to finish. As mentioned above, don’t leave the ending hanging on an unfinished thread – we need to know what happens! Also, don’t assume that the agent has already read any sample chapters you’ve sent, and therefore it’s OK to start where those left off.
Include your sub-plot(s), but you don’t need to include every detail. The synopsis should focus on the main plot, and how those subplots feed into it. If you’ve written a fantasy novel, try not to get bogged down in explaining your world-building or how the system of magic you’ve invented works. Give only the details that are needed for understanding the story. These should (hopefully) be enough to give a flavour of the unique and interesting elements you have created.
If the book is part of a planned series with an ongoing story, it may be helpful to include very brief synopses of these (a couple of lines, maximum). Just to show that you have plans for where the story is going next.
Write in the third person, present tense
Imagine that you are sat in front of your potential agent or publisher and telling them about your story. For example, ‘On her fortieth birthday, Flora meets an old man who tells her that she will die on the same day that she meets her soul mate.’
Instead of ‘On her fortieth birthday, Flora met an old man who told her she would die on the same day she meets her soul mate.’
How long should it be?
Some agents/publishers will be very specific on their submissions page about the length they require (e.g. ‘no more than 300 words’). Therefore, it’s always worth doing your research. Adapt your submission package to fit the guidelines.
Generally, though, the consensus seems to be ‘no more than one side of A4’. Of course, it depends on what kind of book you’ve written. The storyline for a children’s book such as Winnie-the-Pooh could be easily summarised in a paragraph or two. Whereas an epic fantasy such as A Game of Thrones would understandably fill a whole page (two pages may be acceptable in this case).
Finally … does it make sense?
This seems obvious. However, as the author of your novel, you are intimately aware of the plot. You may be too close to it to know whether the synopsis would make sense to those who haven’t already read the book. The best way to test this is on people who know nothing about the book and ask them to be honest.
For further details and help, I recommend checking out How to write a Synopsis by Sophie @ Liminal Pages where she also includes some databases when you’re ready to contact an agent.
As you can imagine, writing your synopsis can also highlight potential problems in your plot. If you’re struggling to write a concise, logically connected summary of the events of your novel, you might find it isn’t ready to be submitted to agents just yet. If you’d like professional feedback on your draft, consider hiring me to carry out a manuscript critique.