Why do I need to cut a synopsis?
While I haven’t talked to every editor and agent on the planet, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to prefer a 2-3 page synopsis.
However, every editor is different. One editor will want a one-page synopsis, another will want an extensive chapter-by-chapter synopsis.
In my experience, it’s usually better to opt for the shorter synopsis when submitting a proposal. If they want a longer one, they usually specifically mention that they do.
Another reason to have a short synopsis handy: Writing contests often have you submit a short, 1-2 page synopsis with your entry.
Here’s a little tip: when querying a novel, it doesn’t hurt to slip a one-page synopsis in with your one-page query letter. And it doesn’t cost any more in postage.
Also, when submitting a partial manuscript or a proposal (only at the editor’s request, of course), most standard proposals consist of a 2-3 page synopsis, not a chapter-by-chapter. Sometimes you can include BOTH a 2-page synopsis and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis in with the proposal, to give the editor his/her pick of whichever length they prefer.
Are editors/agents even reading my synopsis?
Some editors and agents have admitted they don't read the synopsis when your proposal or manuscript hits their desk. So if that's the case, why even bother to invest so much time into it?
The truth is that some editors and agents do read your synopsis. And if it gets taken to editorial committee, it's likely that the VP of Sales or the VP of Marketing will read your synopsis, not your manuscript. They're looking at the marketability of the book.
The synopsis is important to let them know several things:
1) The characters are likable, with faults and flaws
2) The characters learn something on a spiritual level by the end of the book, with a solid spiritual takeaway for the reader.
3) There is definite rising tension and various obstacles in the middle of the book
4) There is an exciting climax where the reader roots for the character
5) There is a satisfying ending.
6) There is an issue or theme that would appeal to readers and which can be marketed, but which isn't preachy.
7) There is something unique and different about this book that would make it stand out from the other books in its genre on the shelves.
They also don't want a hugely long synopsis--they just don't have the time to read it. 1-2 pages, single-spaced, is a good range to aim for.
Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her Asian chick-lit novel will be released in September 2007.
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