When trying to get picked up by a literary agent, you’ll need to have a synopsis of your book at the ready. Literary agents can receive several hundred manuscripts a day, so you need to make sure your book stands out from the rest.
Don’t be confused!
A lot of authors think the synopsis is just that little blurb on the back or inside flap of the book. This is a type of synopsis, but is not a true one. A true synopsis is designed to quickly show literary agents the main plot of the story, and how the major plot points are developed and resolved.
Describe the plot
Describe the whole plot so the agent can understand it without having to read the whole book. Make sure to include all major points – where does each character end up and does anything major happen to them on their journey throughout the book? Leave out minor, unimportant details.
Who to include
Of course, the main character(s) will make it in there, but which secondary characters do you include? A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether those characters play a significant role in the main character’s journey throughout the book. Another way is to consider whether it is confusing to leave them out.
What to include
If you’re having trouble deciding whether to include or leave out a certain point, consider how important it is to the main character’s journey, and whether the ending will make sense without it. A good indicator of whether something is important in your book is if there are repeated occurrences or repeated mentions of it, or if there is a significant portion of the book spent on it.
Demonstrate how characters are affected by the story. How do the things that happen allow them to grow and learn? Show the literary agent how you’ve woven important details, morals and lessons into your story by demonstrating the emotional, physical, and mental journey your main characters go through.
Spoil the ending
Literary agents need to know the ending so they can get a full understanding of your story. Remember, a synopsis is a pitch, not a commercial. You’re not trying to tease the literary agent into wanting to read the story, you’re trying to demonstrate why they have to read your story.
The particulars of writing the synopsis
Don’t include dialogue or quotations, and always write it in the third person, even if the book is in the first person. You must also use the active voice, and be concise with your language. Literary agents don’t want to have to search for the point. Give it to them on a silver platter.
How long to make it
Some literary agents have very particular requests as to the format and specifications of the synopsis you provide. However, if nothing is indicated, you are always safe with a synopsis of between three and five pages.
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