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When I am asked what my books are about, I try to respond with one sentence. That answer is not a synopsis, but what I would consider one of the synopsis’ “friends.” Books descriptions serve specific purposes. And just to make it easier, not everyone agrees on the rules. I’ve pulled together some thoughts and resources on what I consider the three most common forms of synopses.
Three Forms of Synopses
What it is: Tells the entire story, particularly the conflict
Length: One-page single spaced or two pages double spaced maximum
Purpose: To interest an agent or publisher to request manuscript
Tip: Convey emotion
Example: Spoiler alert! This synopsis includes the ending of “The Way Way Back.”
The Book Blurb
What it is: The 30-second elevator pitch normally seen in advertisement copy or on a book’s back cover or inside jacket flap
Length: 100 – 200 words
Purpose: To tell potential readers enough to get them interested or used by sales representatives to pitch titles, post on retailers’ websites, and post in catalogues
Tip: Make a connection with readers and book buyers
Example: Distributors’ book blurb (advertisement copy) for “Believing In Horses, Too”
The Super Short Synopsis
What it is: My term for the short answer to describe the book in conversation or to append to a biographical line in a written post
Length: One sentence
Tip: Not much written on this one, but it’s the one I use most
Example: A girl in a military family overcomes fears through her work with therapeutic riding programs (“Believing In Horses, Too”)
Following are some additional useful resources I’ve found, with a brief description of each.
Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman) – Outstanding advice, and many useful links.
Five Tips on How to Write a Novel Synopsis (Chuck Sambuchino) – This article and links to other articles on the synopsis; the author also provides freelance services for synopsis writing.
Query Shark – Blog providing advice on how to write query letters that work – much based on synopses. Writers may submit their queries for critique.
How to Write the Back Blurb for Your Book (Joanna Penn) – Advice on back cover blurbs, and a little more.
Now you try – at the very least, ensure you have a super short synopsis ready to describe your writing, your business, or whatever it is that you do. Feel free to share here!