What to Consider When Deciding on the Length of Your Book Synopsis
What’s the downside of getting what you’ve always wanted? For an aspiring writer, a definite top of the wishlist is landing an agent, but reaching out can be terrifying! An agent is one of your chief gatekeepers to a professionally published novel, and while it’s possible to get published without one, many major publishers refuse to work with authors who aren’t represented by a literary agent.
To land an agent, you’ll have to reach out with a query letter. The submission guidelines vary from agent to agent—some want a synopsis along with your query, while others will request a synopsis if they’re sufficiently impressed with your query letter. Your synopsis shows an agent that your book has intriguing ideas, plotlines, and characters. When you send it, you’re shoving your baby bird out of the nest to see if it can fly.
One question authors fret over is how long their synopsis should be. Your agent’s website might not specify, and Google is likely to give you various answers. However, determining the right length is only part of what makes writing a synopsis a challenge. To save yourself some stress, consider hiring a specialist to write it for you. If you decide to go it alone, you should start by determining why it needs to be a particular length.
Tell (and sell) your story
You can cram a synopsis into 500 words or soliloquize across five pages. Chances are you’ll find experts online advocating many different page counts. The ideal length depends partially on your story, but more importantly, it depends on the preferences of your prospective agent.
In general, if you’ve done your research and still don’t know what your agent prefers, a common ballpark figure is 500 to 1,000 words. However, meeting a word requirement doesn’t make your synopsis a home run—its content matters most.
Think of the end game
You likely hit a few stumbling blocks as you wrote your book, perhaps a plot detail you couldn’t square away or a character motivation you couldn’t crack. Often, a writer’s remedy is to press on and keep the end goal in mind. Likewise, your end game with a synopsis is making the agent excited and enticing them to request your entire manuscript.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What characters stand out as most important?
- What plot points are critical for reaching the end of your story?
- What aspects of your book make you think it’s a standout?
When you can answer those questions and present them as a cohesive summary, you will have a solid idea of what should be in your synopsis. Then, you can work on making it answer these questions in the most succinctly complete way possible. While your synopsis is meant to provide a clear, comprehensive overview of the most critical aspects of your story, its true intention is to sell the agent on your book.
The right length sells your synopsis
Your story will help dictate the length of your synopsis, and getting this aspect right is key to winning over an agent. It’s crucial to not leave out any information that significantly contributes to the development of your plot, but at the same time, the agent won’t be impressed if you ramble on about relatively unimportant details. Think of those lightbulb moments when a solution to a plot hole presents itself—when it works, there’s a congruity that feels just right.
If you’re an author pitching your work, here are a few key things to remember.
You don’t need the kitchen sink. You can showcase your talent perfectly well in a single page of text. When you can eloquently introduce your characters, plot, and key ideas, your overall prowess is more important than any flourishes. Keep your synopsis focused on the story. Besides, if you can summarize your plot effectively, you demonstrate your strong communication skills—something any agent can appreciate.
Show the best, not the most. Maybe people praise your writing for its lyrical beauty or masterful turns of phrase. A great writer, however, can adapt their writing to a specific situation. You need to take the best elements of your story and put them on display. An editor can even tell you where your story shines the most. It’s also a good idea to hire an editor to look over your synopsis before you submit it—they can check for embarrassing typos or grammatical errors while also giving you feedback on how well it flows.
Don’t be afraid to spin a thrilling tale. Agents sell books for a living—they know the importance of a query letter and a synopsis! You’ll do well to remember that you have a vital selling tool, so make sure your synopsis is compelling, not a write-by-numbers. You’re showing what makes your book a page-turner, so craft an engaging synopsis—don’t just flatly explain the events in your story.
Ultimately, the synopsis is one more crucial step on the road to publishing your book. The process is definitely no walk in the park, and even though a synopsis is short, it can make all the difference in landing a literary agent. If this step feels overwhelming, ask an expert to write a synopsis that compels an agent to read your story!