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The Best Synopsis Format for Nonfiction Books

So, let’s say an agent has accepted your professionally written query letter and requested a synopsis of your nonfiction book. This is where you sell your manuscript, so the synopsis has to be convincing, well-written, and correctly formatted. Unfortunately, writing a synopsis can be tricky. That’s why we’ve outlined below how to effectively format a nonfiction synopsis.

A basic guide to the nonfiction synopsis format

Different publishers have different guidelines, so you need to follow each agent’s preferences whenever you write a synopsis. However, most nonfiction book synopses follow a basic format:

  • A succinct cover letter. The first part of the synopsis format is a cover letter, which should contain a brief description of the work, a short explanation of why the book is necessary, and a succinct justification of your authority on the subject.

  • A summary. The length can vary; you may outline each chapter or briefly outline the entire book.

  • A sample. This is the heart of the matter. The synopsis format generally includes the introduction and about three chapters. A rule of thumb is to include 10,000 words, although the final word count will depend on your particular manuscript and the publisher’s guidelines.

Formatting and writing a synopsis is an overwhelming task for many authors. You’ve poured hours of research and inspiration into your book, so it’s difficult to reduce it down to a short summary. And like many people, you’ll probably feel like a braggart for selling yourself as an author.

However, mastering the synopsis format is crucial if you want to see your book on bookshelves across the country. So take your time and try to compose the best nonfiction book synopsis possible. See below for an example of a well-written synopsis.

When is a short synopsis appropriate?

Sometimes, you can get away with composing an extremely brief synopsis, but only under certain circumstances. A short synopsis format can work if your book is targeted to people knowledgeable about your field, if you have proven authority on the subject, or if your writing skills are clearly excellent (for example, if you’ve previously worked as a journalist or in another position that requires high-quality writing).

Tips for writing a book synopsis

The longer synopsis format is still best if your nonfiction book is designed for the general public. When you’re crafting the summary, remember that you’re trying to sell your work. It’s an advertisement. You need to make the idea of the book clear, but you don’t have enough space to include every detail. If you want to incorporate more details, do so in a chapter summary, not in your general synopsis.

The job of the synopsis is to tell the agent why they should read your book and why you are the best author to convey the information. Format the synopsis to pique their interest. The synopsis shouldn’t be too long, but do include a beginning, middle, and end—a hook to catch the reader’s interest, a body to elaborate on the merits of the manuscript, and a conclusion that leaves the reader wanting to know more.

You can draw inspiration from book reviews for the format of your synopsis. Reviews don’t spoil the book, but they do highlight the most interesting parts to positively influence your opinion of the work. They cherry-pick the best parts, and that’s exactly what you should do, too. This is the format your synopsis should assume.

What next?

By embracing the tips in this article, you’ll find that your synopsis practically formats itself. It’ll take time and multiple revisions, but if you put in the effort, you can write a high-quality synopsis that captures your agent’s attention.

But above all, keep it succinct. Agents are busy, so don’t waste their time. Intrigue them as efficiently as you can.

Of course, you need to query an agent before you get the opportunity to submit your synopsis. If you’re struggling to write a query letter, get help from professional query letter writers. At, we can write a query letter for you to help entice agents into asking for a book synopsis.


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