What Are Query Letters and Synopses? 

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As if writing a manuscript wasn’t hard enough, now you have to go out into the world and sell it. It’s tough, we know. Selling is probably the most universally hated part of being an artist, whether you’re a painter, a sculptor, or a writer. Still, if you want to see your manuscript turned into a book, you need to pitch it to literary agents and publishers, who will ask you for a query letter and a synopsis. 

Query letters and synopses have similar elements but are fundamentally different, so keep reading for a few tips on how to write them yourself. If it all feels too overwhelming, we can put a query letter package together for you, complete with a synopsis, an outline, and a list of targeted agents and publishers you can submit to.  

What is a query letter?

A query letter is a short sales pitch intended to describe your project and grab the attention of an agent or a publisher. No longer than a single page, it should include the main idea, or hook, of your story and a short biography. It’s similar to what you would see on the back cover of a printed book—it’s what first catches your attention and leaves you wanting more.  

In your letter, you want to make it clear why you’re querying this specific agent. Mention a book they have published that seems similar to yours. Explain why you think they are the best fit for your book. You don’t want to be sending the same query letter to every agent. Thus, make sure each one is tailored to the specific agent you’re reaching out to. In this way, you will ensure that an agent doesn’t toss away your query letter simply because it’s too generic or vague. You want to demonstrate that you have done your research on potential agents, but don’t spend too much time discussing their past projects. Make a solid connection with them, then spend the rest of the query letter focusing on your book.

The query letter should offer a brief summary of your story, not the major plot points but a general idea of it. While you must mention your main character and the catalyst (whether external or internal) that sets the story in motion, don’t delve into the details or backstories as this is only meant to give the agent a taste of your project. 

Since you only have a page, you need to be as concise as possible. Don’t discuss subplots or minor plot details here; instead, make sure you focus solely on the plot points that relate to the main story. You can also include the titles of similar books to give the agent or publisher a better idea of what to expect from your manuscript.

What is a synopsis? 

A synopsis is a more detailed summary of your story that will make an agent or a publisher want to read your manuscript. Although there are overlapping elements in query letters and synopses, the latter should be written in a narrative form and cover between one and two pages. Your agent or publisher may eventually send a revised version of your synopsis to editors and marketing teams, so make it as gripping as possible. 

Your synopsis shouldn’t include backstories or information about minor characters unless they play a pivotal role in the plot, nor should it contain any biographical information or comparative titles—those should only appear in your query letter. Your synopsis should go into more detail about your main characters and the major plot points. 

You want to make sure you reveal all the important parts of the story so that the agent has a good idea of your book’s arc. They need to be able to see that there is a good structure to your book. Subplots can be mentioned here if they are integral to the overall story. After all, your book is more than just your main character. Still, you want to make sure your synopsis doesn’t stray too far from the main plot, so be fastidious about what should and shouldn’t be included.

Writing query packages and contacting agents and publishers can be intimidating, especially for writers who are new to the publishing world, but don’t let this final step keep you from getting your manuscript published. If you’re still unsure about writing your own query letter, check out our services for authors to learn more about the query packages we offer. 

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