What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?

As authors, we spend a lot of time on our manuscripts – whether they are novels, novellas, short stories, poems, or other genres. We want to get the most out of our marketing, and one of the best marketing tools for our published content is the synopsis of our work.

A well-written synopsis can really help sell your book.

In my opinion, the key to a good synopsis is to give a clear, concise description of your story. You’ll want to include your elevator pitch, why the plot or main conflict is important, and how the story ends.

A synopsis can be cold, almost clinical in its writing, and somewhat boring. That is okay. You’re not using the synopsis to hook your reader – in fact, the book blurb (which I will write about next month) is what will hook your reader. If they like the blurb, they may read an exerpt, or even your first few chapters to see if they like it. A synopsis will not be published with its book. It’s a selling point for a publisher.

There are several different ways to write a book synopsis, and in this article, I discuss the method that has worked the best for me. I have seen publishers ask from as little as 500 words to a synopsis that spans 5+ pages. Each publisher is different. It’s good to know how to write a one page synopsis, which is what I will be focusing on.

The purpose of a synopsis is to summarize the book. A well-written synopsis gives a summary of the plot, and details what is unique about the book, what will help it to sell. It should be between 500-750 words, and it should read similarly to an abstract in a research paper. The language should be neutral and as clear and succinct as possible. Writing the synopsis can be harder than writing the book itself. Having a good synopsis is only one key to marketing strategically for a published work, but it can mean the difference between a publisher accepting a manuscript, or moving on to see what someone else has to offer.

Writing synopses is tricky business. Here are the main things to include when writing a successful and enticing book synopsis:

  • The main character or characters
  • A brief description of the main characters, such as prominent traits that are germane to the story
  • Establish the main setting
  • An elevator pitch (see the link above, by Staci Troilo, about writing an elevator pitch)
  • The rising action, and why it is important – without saying it’s important
  • A sentence describing the type of journey the main characters are going to undertake
  • The ending of the book

Because a synopsis is a summary, it’s a good idea not to go heavily into detail when writing one. Here is a list of things that should not be included in a book synopsis:

  • Excessive character detail
  • Excessive setting details
  • Subplots of the story
  • Background characters
  • Plot twists

To write a good synopsis, I follow a certain formula.

1) I make sure I’ve written my elevator pitch – I always like to include it in my synopsis as a great way to introduce my main characters and the setting.

2) I ensure that all of the character names are in ALL CAPS or emboldened the first time they are mentioned. This helps for the reader to find the character(s) quickly within the synopsis.

3) I use the elevator pitch to introduce the synopsis, and elaborate slightly on my main character by giving a few of his or her traits.

4) If it’s not already in the elevator pitch, I mention the setting in as little detail as possible.

5) I explain why the character is in their current conflict, giving some depth to why the conflict should matter. Pulling from the first Harry Potter book, for example:

Harry winds up in the wizarding world, where everything is completely new to him, including his own fame. Having been raised without magic, he struggles to fit in, and slowly starts to discover how his history fits into the history of this world. Something isn’t right, though, at his new school, and Harry finds himself being drawn in to the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone. As he delves deeper into his search with his two friends, Ron and Hermione, he learns that the staff at Hogwarts is guarding the sorcerer’s stone and what makes it valuable. What he didn’t bargain for was that his own fame is inextricably linked to the man who he suspects might need the stone to stay alive. 

This description of the rising action describes Harry’s journey and gives him a reason to want to investigate the sorcerer’s stone. It tells us why his journey is important and tells us what the rising action is.

6) I re-read what I’ve summarized so far, ensuring that I’ve explained the book’s conflict and highlighted what is unique about my book. In the case of Harry Potter, what is unique would be the introduction into an entirely new world, something that would be described before the rising action.

7) I summarize the ending.

8) I ensure the formatting is correct. The margins are 1″ on all sides, the font is 12 pt – I use Times New Roman – and the spacing is no more than 1.5 between each line. I like to use 1.15, I think it looks better. All paragraphs are indented by 0.5″. My name, address, phone number, and email are in the top left corner. In the top right corner is the genre of my book and the word count. I hit return five times, then add in my title. My title is centered, in all caps, and beneath my title is the word “Synopsis”, also centered. Here are two documents you can view as examples. Synopsis Template .docx Synopsis Template PDF


This is my go to strategy for writing a solid book synopsis. What about you? Do you have a good formula for writing a book synopsis? Comment below – share your ideas.

7 Replies to “What Does A Good Book Synopsis Look Like?”

  1. Synopses are hard. So are blurbs, elevator pitches, and tag lines.

    My best advice for writing a synopsis is to read the publisher requirements FIRST. There’s no point in crafting your three-page synopsis if the publisher wants one page. Or five. Also follow their formatting guidelines. They’re looking for reasons to weed you out; no reason to let margins or line spacing or any number of other things be the criterion that cost you a contract.

    Great post, E. J.

    1. Thank you! I feel like this post might merit a follow on post later down the line, discussing the best way to approach preparation for submitting a manuscript. Information like this and what you shared in your comments would be invaluable when getting a packet together.

  2. Fabulous post. In my opinion, the synopsis is the hardest part of a novel to produce. I struggle each and every time I’m required to write one. Even when a book is accepted by a publisher without a synopsis, the synopsis is needed later for marketing, so there is no escaping the task. I appreciate the information and the template you shared!

    1. Thanks, Mae! I actually did a lot of research on this before I posted, because the method I originally learned for writing synopses was kind of out dated and very narrow-minded. It turns out there are a lot of different ways to write them, and this was the method I ended up liking the best. I am glad you found it useful!

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