Writing a synopsis can be incredibly scary. You have just finished your manuscript – the editor went through your writing with a big red pen, and now agents and publishers ask you to condense 70.000 words into two or three pages.

How will you be able to catch all the nuances and explain the intricate connections between characters – the relationship between the hero and the villain? Even though it is very tempting to include every little detail in your synopsis – giving away too much will actually put off agents and publishers. Here are 10 tips on how to condense your novel into a synopsis AND catch the attention of the agent of publisher reading it.

The Format

Even though you want to stand out – get yourself out there and make sure you will be noticed, keep the format of your text simple. Even more so: use the same format you use in your manuscript. You should use black lettering on white paper, double space your lines, make sure you use one-inch margins around the whole text, and stagger your lines on the right-hand side.

As for fonts: keep it simple. Use fonts such as Courier, Times New Roman, or Serif fonts. Why? Because they allocate the same amount of space for the letter i as for the letter m. Steer clear of doing anything fancy as it will make your synopsis harder to read or might put off the agent or publisher from reading the synopsis in the first place.

Make sure you include a header on every page. Put the book title in the upper left corner, your name and page number on the right.

You will need a great hook!

We all know how important the first line of your book is. You probably changed it a dozen times before you were completely happy with the sentence. Now you need to do the same for your synopsis. The rest of the synopsis needs to be very tightly written so you will need to use your first line as a hook.

Remember that every publisher or agent needs to go through hundreds of submissions every week. Make sure you catch their attention and keep it throughout the synopsis.

Open with a bold and evocative statement or sentence. A line that will force the reader to continue!

Only focus on the key plot points.

When you found your perfect hook, the greatest challenge is conveying the major plot points of the book without going into too much detail – without making your book sound boring.

You should focus on the major plot points and cut out subplots, minor characters, and events, and make sure to cut out minor scenes.

For instance: when you have written a 12-page fight scene – one sentence will suffice to convey the fight scene. In fact – going into too much detail will make your book seem boring.

Know your market.

One of the most important pieces of information you need to research is your intended audience. The more precise you can be – the better. You will not only need to pinpoint your intended audience for marketing purposes, it will also help you to pitch agents and publishers successfully.

You will also need to research the publishing houses and agents you are applying to. For instance: if you are submitting your historical romance book to a romance publisher, you will need to amp up the romance in your synopsis while tuning down the historical parts.

You need to research your audience and the priorities of the publisher or agent. This way you can write your synopsis accordingly which makes it more likely your manuscript gets accepted.


The synopsis of a book tells the publisher or agent what is happening – not how it happens. You will need to cut out secondary characters and subplots and focus on the important plot and structure of the story. Keep your focus on the primary plot and characters.

Show, don’t tell.

I have read through a lot of synopsizes that open with “The New Stephen King.” Or “This will be your new best-seller”. It always strikes me as arrogant – especially when the synopsis is dull and boring.

Instead of telling the agent or publisher that you are going to be a bestseller, show them you are worth their time by writing a stellar synopsis.

Cut out the empty questions.

Another big no-no is ending your synopsis with empty questions such as “Will Harry save Hogwarts?” or “Will Claire get back to the singing stones?”

These questions will pull the publisher out of the synopsis and come off as cheap and cheeky (in a bad way)

Also keep in mind that your synopsis is a tool to explain your story from beginning to end. Every question you ask also needs to be answered.

Write in present time.

Always write your synopsis in present tense – regardless of the tense you have chosen to write your manuscript in. Writing in present tense will give your outline a sense of urgency and reminds the publisher or agent that they are reading a condensed version.


Proofread, maybe even pay an editor to go over your synopsis. There is nothing worse than sending a synopsis full of typos. Also try to delete all redundancies, weak verbs and clumsy descriptions.

Send it to a critique group.

Send your synopsis to a critique group and ask whether they would be interested in reading this book. Their answers will help you to hone and rework your synopsis in order to leave an impression on the publisher.


Writing a synopsis can be scary and overwhelming, but with these 10 tips, you will be able to write a synopsis that will leave a mark. If you have any questions about writing a synopsis, please contact me at lieze@thebookmarketingexpert.com

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