DragonCon: Writing a Selling Synopsis

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 Notes:

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:

Screen writing

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
  • Midpoint
  • Climax
  • Epiphany

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.


I’m Ready To Query! Or Not.

Readying Query Packages:

Types of Queries and Sizes of Synopsis

This month, I’ve been getting ready for the next step, (while waiting for feedback on my new ending…). Yep, I’m back to getting ready to query. (You’ve heard this before…)

I started researching.

There are probably as many best-practices for querying as there are agents to querying.

Types of Queries

  • I’ve been mostly following Query Shark and reading 8+ years of archives. She advocates getting straight to the plot, no hook. Minimal platform and bio, let the story sell itself.
  • But there’s also Writer’s Digest. Explain why you picked the agent (flatter lightly). A few paragraphs about the book and the initial motivation for the main character. Finish off with the book details, the market description, and compare your book.
  • Finally? There’s the brief version: give a hook and the book’s stats, a paragraph about the story, and a bio: the standardized pared down version advocated at AgentQuery.

So what do I do?

Multiple queries. Then, read the agency recommendations for the agents whose profiles include interests in my genre and category of writing, and hope I picked the right one.

I THOUGHT I was ready. I have my 3 queries.

And then I read their query directions.

Types of Query Packages That Were Requested:

  • Query letter alone
  • Query letter and pages/chapters*
  • Query letter and synopsis
  • Query letter, synopsis, and pages/chapters

Since they’re typically requested to be pasted into the email, the next question is:

What order?

Luckily, Janet “The Query Shark” Reid’s blog addressed that today.

Always put pages before synopsis. Your novel should be your strongest point. Your opening needs to be grabbing. If your opening pages aren’t more interesting and engaging than your synopsis, you’re probably not ready to query.

Thus, I had to write a synopsis. Condensing my full-length novel into HOW many pages?





Agents all have different preferences!

Read their profiles and find out! Here are the different lengths they asked for:

Synopsis Page Length:

  • Yes
  • Brief
  • 1-2 pages
  • 1-3 pages

What’s a writing-gal to do?

Create a Brief Synopsis:

  1. Write a 3-page synopsis
  2. Edit it down to 2 pages
  3. Edit it down to 1 page
  4. Edit it down to half a page.

And BAM! You have all the versions you need.**

The best thing about a synopsis?

  • You can see all the weak parts within your story.
  • You can see the scenes that don’t necessarily support the plot.


You can either edit them to fit better or delete them.

* (Specified between 3 and 50 pages, or 1 to 3 chapters)

** (Like it’s that easy. If I could have told my story in 3 pages, I wouldn’t have written the other 347!)