Do you have mixed feelings when an agent asks you for a book synopsis? Although you’re excited because your query letter was successful (possibly because you had it written by professionals), you’re also dreading the difficult and time-consuming task of writing the synopsis. This one document will determine your manuscript’s future, so no doubt you’re feeling the pressure to write something amazing.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for writing a book synopsis. Length, content, and format can all differ, but what’s important is to write well and include relevant details. The purpose of the synopsis is to sell your book and present yourself as a promising author, so you need to capture the agent’s interest and impress them with your writing skills.
We’ve compiled the following five tips to help you compose a top-notch synopsis for your novel.
Include only the main plot
A book synopsis doesn’t allow much space to summarize your novel, so exclude subplots and minor characters. Of course, you need to introduce the protagonist(s) and other pivotal characters, but try to avoid minor characters as much as possible. It’s also important to identify the protagonist’s motivation in the synopsis.
Next, outline the story’s main conflict. You should specify what leads to the conflict and how the protagonist deals with it, including whether they succeed or fail. You should also reveal the end of the story, describing how the conflict is resolved and what has changed for the protagonist.
Generally, avoid mentioning backstory or flashbacks unless they’re explicitly relevant to the plot. In most cases, flashbacks reveal reasons or motivations without influencing the story’s events in the present. Mention backstory only if it’s absolutely essential to the plot.
To determine what to include in your book synopsis, ask yourself the following question: Does a character or plot point need to be mentioned for the ending to make sense? If yes, then include it. If no, leave it out.
Explain essential details about the world of the story
If you’re writing a synopsis for a fantasy or sci-fi book, you’ll need to explain certain aspects of your fictional world so the plot makes sense for the reader. If, for example, there’s magic in the world of your story, mention it immediately. Otherwise, the reader will simply assume the story is playing out in a world that resembles our own.
Show off your writing skills
Your book synopsis needs to be engaging. Don’t simply relay plot events mechanically and matter-of-factly—make your story come alive by using powerful adjectives, adverbs, and verbs to help paint a colorful picture in your book synopsis.
However, your writing still needs to be direct, concise, yet engaging. A book synopsis affords only limited space, so don’t get poetic and try to impress through elaborate description. Remember that agents have to wade through endless synopses every day; they’ll thank you for writing one that gets to the point and tells them exactly what they need to know. Use the synopsis to advertise your writing skills and how you can communicate your ideas efficiently.
Describe the events, not their interpretation
If your book contains lots of hidden meaning and messages, that’s great. But don’t explain these in your book synopsis. Instead, let the themes of your story speak for themselves, and stick to describing the main events that drive the plot of your story. In the manuscript, you don’t tell the reader how to interpret the book; why would the synopsis be any different?
Similarly, avoid phrases like “at the climax” and “after several tense scenes.” Your book synopsis shouldn’t contain any explicit references to the book’s structure.
The art of writing a book synopsis is not entirely intuitive, which is why so many authors struggle with it. But once you gain more experience and implement the tips outlined in this article, writing synopses will get easier. And if you’ve been pitching your book to agents but haven’t yet had one ask for a synopsis, you may need to improve your query letter. Need help? Consider hiring the professionals to write a query letter for you.