If your publishing path is the traditional route, you must attempt to get an agent. It’s a rare thing for an author to get a book published traditionally without an agent. Agents want to sell your book, and they love to read. So you must first sell the book to an agent, and to do that, you must know how to write a synopsis.
The synopsis is not a blurb.
It is a short description of your book, hitting the high points and it does give away the ending.
The synopsis should only be one page long, written in third person, present tense. Many agents say three to five paragraphs will do it. So how do you fit a novel onto one page?
You give the agent the bare bones of the book.
Things they want to see detailed in those paragraphs:
- Protagonist and major characters
- What the conflict/major goals are
- Character arc (how the characters grow/devolve throughout the book)
Things you should leave out at this point? Don’t wax poetic on specific descriptions of
- side characters,
- sub plots, and
- specific, highly detailed descriptions of plot points and the resolution.
You start with a statement that describes the books premise: A young man abandoned by his wife and left with a terminally ill child must find the one healer who can cure his son.
Introduce the protagonist and his/her problem:
Janse, a young water-mage, has been tapped to be his clan’s shaman. His wife who is not of the clan doesn’t understand the demands that responsibility places on him, and deserts him, leaving him to care for an infant with a terminal heart condition. His clan’s healer is young and untrained, but Janse’s grandfather tells him of a healer in a citadel far to the south, a journey of many months.
The next paragraphs should detail the bulk of the story. What does the protagonist do in reaction to the inciting incident? What obstacles does he/she face, and who helps or hinders them along the way?
Janse and his cousins, one of whom, Landry, is the clan’s healer, set out, taking the baby on the perilous journey. Many times on the journey, Janse must use his magic or his wiles to extricate them from trouble. They must pass through dark forests and travel through high mountain passes. Along the way, they are robbed. When they seek shelter at the first village on their route, they are turned away. No one will sell them supplies. Desperate to make it to a friendly village, they keep going but make a wrong turn and enter the lair of the Griphon. Using guile and magic, they escape from the beast. Just when it seems they will make it, the baby has a crisis. Landry is able to get the baby through the crisis, but now they know time is short. When they arrive at the citadel, they are at first turned away. Then they are directed down dangerous streets to an obscure address in the worst part of town.
Give the resolution in a nutshell. Detail isn’t important.
The elderly woman who opens the door welcomes them. She immediately takes the baby to her daughter, Ethella, who is the healer they have been seeking. Using her magic, Ethella is able to heal the baby, teaching Landry the skills he needs.
Janse and his cousins make ready to return to the clan, feeling confident. Janse has grown as both a mage and a shaman and now feels able to take his grandfather’s place and lead his clan with wisdom. Landry has grown in his abilities and is able to be the healer his clan needs.
The synopsis is only difficult because we have the urge to put all the details into it.
Being able to put your book into four paragraphs is a trick all authors need to know, whether we go the traditional route or not. People always ask you what the book is about, and wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell them?