Writing a Selling Synopsis
The first writing panel I attended at DragonCon was on Saturday, with Anthony Francis, Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons, David B Cole/DB Jackson, Esther Freisner, Bennet Coles, and Jennifer St. Giles/JL Saint, where they discussed the ins and outs of writing a synopsis that will sell your book.
- Ignore directions
- Use bad grammar
- Sell yourself, instead of your work
- Use back cover blurb language
- Conceal the ending
- Use bullet points, it should be written in prose
- Explain the magic system
- Write only 1 sentence for the setting
- Describe what happens in 3 pages (then cut to 1)
- Follow the directions – so editors won’t think you’ll be hard to work with
- Cover plot points, but if the character growth is important, include it!
- Go back to your novel and edit/revise if your synopsis exposes holes in your plot
Marketing is in on the buy decision (w/big press), so your synopsis must appeal to marketing AND editors. It should demonstrate the following:
- internal growth
- External growth
- the tropes it uses/subverts
2 Methods to try:
Try to follow the suggested script writing beats:
- Inciting incident
- Main Character’s intentions
- How bad will it be
- The surprise at the end
- Lessons learned/resolution
Start with 1 sentence for each and build UP with those points.
Use a sense of pacing, and make your story sound thrilling.
List out everything until you’re done:
Write what happens:
then cut to:
- 3 pages – long synopsis
- 1 page – short synopsis
- 35 words – query pitch
- 25 words – elevator pitch
- 140 characters – twitter pitch
Don’t expect to get it done in a day!
Suggested synopsis structure:
- Describe main character and emotional actions
- Describe second main character or villain and emotional actions.
- Inciting incident
- Plot point 1
- Plot point 2
How do you get your Synopsis Written?
- Remember your ABCs: Apply Butt to Chair – Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons
- “I tell myself over and over and over again, no one is going to give me money until I write it.” – David B Cole/DB Jackson
- I regard it as a big ole helping of creamed okra. I write it all disjointed and it’s horrible, but it works. Free form. Then, I clean it up.
What about mentioning series potential or how it fits into the series?
- Book 1 HAS to stand alone.
- Series potential IS attractive.
- New authors can have a trilogy, or at most, 6 books.
- If you say there are 19 in the series, you’ll scare off the publisher.