Writing Your Synopsis and Back Cover Blurbs
Congratulations on finally finishing your book! But wait a minute…you didn’t think you were done, did you? Naw! You still have to write your synopsis and the blurb for your back cover!
A synopsis is a brief summary of your book for an acquisitions editor or an agent, the key word being “brief.” If you’re a plotter, and have outlined your book before or while writing it, you have an advantage at this point over the pantser, who just let his book happen. You can use your outline and notes to help you condense your book down into a synopsis. A synopsis should be written in third person present tense, which is generally different than the book (instead of “Brian defeated his nemesis,” try “Brian defeats his nemesis”).
How long should it be? I’ve seen one page for every twenty-five pages of manuscript mentioned, but that’s quite extensive. Most agents or acquisition editors want to see one to two pages. It needs to make the agent want to read the rest of the book, and contains the whole story. Your synopsis should have a beginning, a middle, and an end—just like your book. You need to show that your plot structure is solid, your characters well-developed, and your ending satisfying. Focus on narrative, not dialogue, and be sure to introduce your main characters. And since it reveals your writing ability, polish it so it shines! (Hint: If you hired a freelance copyeditor for your book, many will edit the synopsis at no additional charge.)
One tip that might help you write your synopsis is to divide your book into three or four sections, summarizing each in a brief paragraph. Another approach is to attack the book by chapters: write a chapter-by-chapter action map of book, however long that takes. Then hone it down to 3-5 pages, then edit it to one page (synopsis), then to one paragraph (for the query letter), then to a one-sentence TV Guide pitch (also known as an elevator pitch).
If you’re going to self-publish, you probably won’t need a synopsis. Instead, you need to focus on the back cover blurb. This is different from a synopsis in that you don’t want to reveal your whole plot. This is a sales pitch that needs to build anticipation. It should only be about three paragraphs long (100-150 words), in order to fit on the back cover of the book (you’ll need to leave room for the ISBN, barcode, publisher’s name, etc.). This website is helpful as it describes different formulas to use in writing your blurb for different genres (http://marilynnbyerly.com/blurb.html).
A basic formula that works for all genres is to cover (1) the situation, (2) the problem, (3) the hopeful possibility, and (4) the mood or tone. These four elements, in this order, will make up your blurb. It needs to be dramatic and tense to catch the reader’s eye. Use words that resonate with the reader of the genre. You need to compel the viewer to buy the book! Less is more, but mention the important parts. Sound impossible? It’s not; just hard work. A self-published author will also need a one-paragraph blurb for advertising and an elevator pitch—see above.
While you can read sample synopses on the Internet, you can read many different back cover blurbs to get a feel for how it’s done. Just search Amazon.com for books in your genre and start reading!
We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!
Owner, Adirondack Editing