Author Tamela Hancock Murray

How Long Should My Summary Be for a Novel?

Writers often ask about the length of a book summary for a proposal. How long should it be? I can say:

The summary should be as long as you need it to be.

Your goal is to present your story so an editor will want to read the book and then make an offer to publish it. If you can write a compelling summary, that’s a gift you should not be shy to use.

Here are a few more tips:

Present your proposal as single-spaced, so your summary should be single-spaced.

If you have a ten-page summary, separate it into chapters to give the reader a visual break. Another way to separate it is in acts, as in a play. Or better yet, see if you can cut it to five pages. Just make sure there aren’t a lot of enormous blocks of dense text.

If your summary is one page, I recommend expanding it to at least two or three pages. If you’re struggling to make the summary more than one page, especially a double-spaced page, I recommend revisiting your plot to make sure it’s complex enough to compete in today’s market.

So, back to the wordy author with a ten-page summary. Here, I recommend including the ten-pager, along with a one- or two-pager. These can be labeled “Short Synopsis” and “Long Synopsis.” The main issue is that the reader can choose to peruse one, neither, or both. Remember to include a superb back-cover copy section early in the proposal to draw in the reader right away. Your back-cover copy might also act as part of your cover letter.

Bottom line: The longer the reader lingers with your proposal, the better.

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