.Marketing Synopses That Sell
A lot of writers think of the synopsis as something they get forced into writing after they’ve completed their novel or non fiction book. Here you are with a finished book and your agent or editor wants you to condense all of that material down to a few pages or paragraphs. Haven’t you already done enough work writing the book?
They aren’t asking for a synopsis to be cruel. There are 30,000 books published every day. Imagine how many submissions that implies. A synopsis gives agents and editors a way to quickly review manuscripts before reading them. This allows them to filter out books they wouldn’t buy anyway, without reading each and every one.
The synopsis is also important as a marketing tool. First it’s your marketing tool to get others to read your manuscript. Whether you go with traditional publishing or sell your book as an ebook on the internet, the synopsis can get people hooked. When you use your synopsis on the internet, you’ll condense it down to an article of less than 2000 words. For traditional publishing, you’ll follow submission guidelines and it will be quite a bit longer; around four percent of the total length of your manuscript.
After your book is complete, a good way to start on your marketing synopsis is to sit down with your finished manuscript and read it through. At the end of each chapter, write a one or two paragraph summary. Which characters did what? Where did the action happen? What were the major story changes? This outline is much different than the one you wrote before starting your book. Now you know all the details. I can be tempting to write too much. Don’t do it.
If you wrote an outline and preparatory synopsis before you started your book, you now have three sizeable documents to use as source material for your marketing synopsis; the pre-outline, the pre-synopsis and the post-outline. The only one of these four documents you’re going to pass on to others is the final version of the synopsis. This is your marketing synopsis and when your agent or an editor says “synopsis” this is what they mean.
.What Goes Into the Synopsis?
Your synopsis needs to tell the entire story from your book in two to ten pages. You need to make it interesting and a page turner. You want whoever reads it to think “this has got to be a great book.” If you go over ten pages, it had better be a really fantastic synopsis. If it’s not fantastic, cut until it is.
What do you cut? Adjectives and adverbs can go. Side stories can go. Condense descriptions. “Jeb works as a forklift driver in a warehouse shipping electronics worldwide” becomes “Jeb works in a warehouse”.
You can find many examples of short synopses if you read movie synopses. IMDB has thousands. Search for movies based on books where you’ve read the book and seen the movie.
You know how important the opening of your book is. The opening paragraph of your synopsis also needs to have a good hook. Your protagonist’s conflicts need to be clearly shown throughout and the reader should be able to relate to all of your characters. Cover all of the major scenes, conflicts and changes that take place in the book. Make sure the synopsis has also resolved all of the conflicts by the end. And, yes, you do need to give away the ending of your story in the synopsis. If you’re using the synopsis as a webpage to market your book, you can be very general so as not to spoil the ending for potential buyers.
When you believe your synopsis is complete, get someone who hasn’t read your manuscript to read it. Are they confused? Write down their questions. You’ll review your synopsis many times before you manage to do a good job of cutting that which does not truly matter and making a good summary of what does. The final synopsis is almost a short story version of your book if it’s any good.
When the synopsis is complete, it’s time to consider the plot again. A one or two page summary of the story, a plot, can be used as a marketing tool also. If you’re selling your book on the internet, it can be the sales page (instead of a synopsis). If you’re selling to a traditional publisher it may be a good query letter. Good examples of plots are written on the backs of paperback books.
You can now write a new one or two line description of the story. This description is the theme. The theme you pick may be the hook that gets an editor interested in reading more. It can also be the link text to your sales page if you sell your book online. It may also appear on the cover of your book. Good examples of themes can be found in the books section of amazon.com under the “Editorial Reviews” section for a book.
Some writer’s prefer to go back to the sequence used before they started their book. First write the one or two sentence theme. Then expand the theme into a plot of about a page. Finally, expand the plot into a synopsis. Give each method a chance and see what works for you.
The characters in the synopsis must have the same name throughout, not “Mr. Windbag” in one place and “Horatio” in another. If you’re writing it for an editor (as opposed to an internet sales page), the first time a character appears type their name in all capital letters. When the main character first appears, also type (POV) after their name.
The synopsis must also be told in present tense, no matter what tense the book is written in. It also should be double spaced unless you know for certain your reader will want single.
I hope you’ve found some good ideas here. If you’re already halfway through writing a book, you don’t need to go back and make the other documents. On the other hand, it is a good writing exercise that helps you learn to condense your material and makes you a better writer. It may just reveal some trouble ahead and give you a chance to change the story direction before you write your way into a dead end.
Article by Ivan Izo.