EDITING 101: 39 – Writing Your Synopsis and Back Cover Blurbs…

Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.

Courtesy of Adirondack Editing

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.

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!

Next week we’ll discuss ‘Editing Myths’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE

NOTE:

This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.

I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.

If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.

Susan

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28 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 39 – Writing Your Synopsis and Back Cover Blurbs…

  1. Synopsis and blurbs. Auch!!!!
    I’ve tried many methods, but I haven’t found one that works rightaway yet. I always have to write and rewrite and rewrite my synopsis and especially my blurbs so many times.
    In fact, I’ve just done that for my new blurb… I feel bruised.

    For the synopsis, working on revers as it’s suggest here works better for me. I prefer to write a very short pinch (maybe even the blurb) and then expand on that rather than try to take away from whatever I have, being that an outline or a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. For some reason, I find taking away more tricky than adding.

    Thanks for these great suggestions 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Susan,
    How timely for this post. I just got back my manuscript from my editor and I am working on a draft for the synopsis. I have to send a rewrite of one chapter, I’ll ask him if he will look at my synopsis. Thanks for the advice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brilliant, Susan! You’ve written a synopsis on how to write a synopsis! You even tossed in the blurb and elevator pitch! Can you tell how thrilled I am?!! Before I published my last novel, I read 100 articles, if I read one, on how to write a synopsis and blurb; and none were as clear and succinct as this. I’m overwhelmed with appreciation and can’t thank you and Chris enough for this fabulous series. Tons of hugs to both you 💖💖💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

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