How to Write an Effective Book Synopsis: Tips for Fiction Authors

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So, your book is all written up, and now you’re looking to have it displayed on bookshelves across the country and maybe beyond. Unfortunately, you still have a lot of work in front of you. To land a traditional publishing deal, you typically need a literary agent, and to persuade an agent to take you on as a client, you need a query letter with a book synopsis.

The synopsis is arguably the most important factor in determining whether an agent will accept a manuscript. Unfortunately, literary agents are inundated with queries (often from new and inexperienced authors who aren’t necessarily great investments) and simply don’t have time to read everything that comes across their desks, so the synopsis needs to hook them.

Before we jump into the matter at hand, we invite you to learn more about our query letter package and get us to write a great synopsis for your book.

What is a book synopsis?

The synopsis is a summary of your book—its characters and story arc. It’s a compelling snapshot aimed at convincing literary agents or editors that they should read your manuscript. It’s like an extended book blurb that reveals the ending—after all, the goal is not just to get the agent to read the manuscript but to convince them to invest in it.

A synopsis begins with the hook, that is, a one- to two-sentence summary meant to intrigue the reader right away and compel them to go on. In all, a synopsis should be no longer than one to two pages (500 to 1000 words). Agents often won’t read synopses of more than two pages. Although you don’t have to include the ending of your book, it’s generally advised to do so as it allows the literary agent to better assess the quality of the story. They know that a bad ending can completely ruin a good book, so they’ll be more willing to take you on if they already know your ending is solid.

A good synopsis is compelling, easy to read, and free of flowery language. Be concise and succinct—this isn’t the time to show off your brilliant metaphors or rich vocabulary.

The dos and don’ts of a good synopsis



Write a complete play-by-play of the book, including every scene. The agent doesn’t need to know every single detail.

Write an overview of the plot (the main plot points will suffice). Provide the basics of what the book is about and what’s at stake for the characters. Focus only on the parts that are truly important for the plot.

List every character in the book and all their relationships with each other. Again, the agent doesn’t need to know everything.

Provide basic information about the main characters and keep the relationships simple. You only need to introduce characters that are integral to the main storyline.

Detail the specific themes or ideas in the book. These elements should emerge organically in the manuscript if the agent goes on to read that.

Match the tone of the book. For example, if the book has high tension, you can write the synopsis with tension to convey that “flavor.” Just be sure to keep it nice and concise at the same time.

Write devoid of personality. You don’t want to be flowery or overly dramatic, but you also don’t want your synopsis to read like a lackluster grade-school book report.

Showcase the heart of the story. The writing in the synopsis shouldn’t be overly elaborate, but you don’t want it to be dull or robotic, either. A synopsis has to be gripping and enjoyable for the agent to read.

Send your synopsis to a literary agent without getting feedback. You are likely too close to the story to judge the synopsis for yourself.

Send your synopsis to a friend to read. Check if they can explain the story and characters and whether they found the summary compelling. If they understood the gist of the story and were intrigued to read the book, your synopsis might be ready.

An effective synopsis is one that gives an accurate impression of the book—what the tone is, what kind of characters to expect, and what the overall story arc is. You want an agent to read the synopsis and think, “This sounds like an interesting story, interesting enough to request the full manuscript.” That’s really what your book synopsis is—an advertisement for the full manuscript.

If you are still unsure how to write a great synopsis, ask us to write it for you. We can help put together a query letter to get your manuscript in front of a literary agent.

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