Get Published

Book Proposals: The Fiction Synopsis

Attention all novelists! Every fiction book proposal must include a synopsis. Everyone who teaches on the book proposal says you need one. But why? Those two to three single-spaced pages of agony will never be seen by anyone else but editors and agents, so why? Why, oh why, must a novelist create a synopsis? I understand how difficult it is to write a synopsis. And yet, you need to do the work.

The Purpose of a Synopsis

The synopsis is a quick overview of your whole story. It’s more than a 100 word back-cover-copy blurb. And it is less than the entire manuscript. Since you are sending the first three chapters we must have more than that to properly evaluate the story.

Consider this scenario: I’ve read the first three chapters and you’ve got me hooked. But there isn’t a synopsis. I’m left wondering if the story can be resolved, if you have plot holes, or poor story structure, or no character arc. I know nothing beyond those first pages. Sure, I could request the full manuscript, but that is a major time commitment for something which lacks an overview.

You would be amazed how often we receive three chapters from someone and nothing else. That author has given me a reason to look no further. The writing may be brilliant in the sample chapters, but the author has not completed the picture.

It would be like applying for a job but leaving your work history blank on the application. It is incomplete.

Or like asking someone to buy a car online but only showing them a picture of the front grill and the passenger side door.

We simply need to know “the rest of the story.”


Realize that the synopsis is going to be THE worst story writing you have ever done. It will have little style or craft to it. Don’t worry. We know that. We are not looking for the perfect synopsis. We expect a stark, even sterile, skeleton of your work of art.

I’m not saying it is easy. But I am saying it isn’t a measure of your writing skill or writing style.

At the same time, put some effort into making it have some energy and vitality. Sometimes a simple word choice can bring a flash of brilliance. Don’t skimp or get lazy. As mentioned earlier, don’t give the editor or agent a reason to say “no thanks.”

How Do I Write a Good Synopsis?

Below are four articles from our blog that should help you work on the craft of your synopsis:

From Tamela Hancock Murray:
Keys to a Great Synopsis

The Synopsis Tells the Tale

From Karen Ball:
Synopsis Made Easy – I Promise

Creating a Strong Hook


[This is a slightly revised version of a post originally published in March 2017 on this blog under a different title. I’ve left the comments from the previous posting intact.]

Leave a Comment

Book Proposals: Due Date

There is an important question that needs to be answered in your book proposal in the “Manuscript Status” section. When will your manuscript be ready? This information is important whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. When Will Your Book be Done? Fiction: If you are a first time novelist, …

Read More

Real Reasons Some Books are Rejected

Most authors and aspiring authors are open to direction and crave constructive comments to help them advance their craft and career. Hopefully, you have had a chance to be part of a good critique group which provided assistance in a manner you found energizing and helpful. When a book is …

Read More

Book and Author – Traveling Companions

In publishing circles, we frequently refer to the “launch” of a new book when it is first published, but often tend to overlook the fact that it is not an unmanned rocket controlled at the publisher/mission control.  Books need a pilot. The author must travel with the book. I am …

Read More

Two Kinds of Writers in the World

I often tell developing writers at conferences that there are two kinds of writers in the world: the “hobbyist” and the “professional.” Yes, it’s an oversimplification. It’s shorthand. But I think it gets the point across. Both the hobbyist and the professional may be good writers, even great. Both may …

Read More

Four Ways to Apprentice as a Writer

One of the things that struck me as I read Stephen King’s On Writing (besides his reliance on the “S” word!) was his depiction of some of his first steps as a writer. Back then, a fiction writer could cut his teeth, so to speak, writing for pulp magazines (Weird …

Read More

When the Market Is Too Tight

Previously I posted about sending rejections saying the market is too tight as a reason for the decline. Let’s take a closer look. Subjective? “The market is too tight,” sounds objective, doesn’t it? As in, “There isn’t enough room for your book because no one is buying this type of …

Read More

Editors: Friend or Foe?

Our guest blogger today is our friend Karen Ball! She runs Karen Ball Publishing Services, LLC and is an award-winning, best-selling author; a popular podcaster/ speaker; and the co-creator with Erin Taylor Young of From the Deep, LLC. She has also been executive editor for fiction at Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and …

Read More

Fun Fridays – March 9, 2018

It is Spring Training time for Major League Baseball. Fifteen teams come to Arizona (the other 15 are in Florida) for the month of March. A lot of fans come to watch (1.9 million last year). In honor of a new baseball season we just have to watch the classic …

Read More