Why write a synopsis?

A few weeks ago on my blog, I talked about how a personal synopsis, or breakdown, of your novel can be a useful planning tool and map to help you complete your novel. See here. Last week I explained the difference between a synopsis for publishers and agents and a book proposal. See here.

Today I am going to talk about whether agents and publishers even read the synopsis. A question that is often asked at writing meetings and events is:

Do we need a synopsis?

This is a very controversial question. Romantic novelists, Dee Williams and Iris Gower, who I met at a Writers Holiday event many years ago, told me they had never had to write a synopsis.

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Others, like Marti Leimbach, writer of contemporary fiction for adults and young adults, admitted writing a synopsis is often harder to write than the actual novel. Whereas, some very lucky people, like Lee Weatherly, claim they are easy to write. Unfortunately, I lost my notebook which had all my notes from the Lee Weatherly talk – I kept saying to myself it was bound to turn up but it never has. I may have left it on the train!

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I have been told at a couple of SCBWI conferences by agents and publishers on various panels they don’t even read the synopsis. You should have heard me groan at that news. I spend hours and hours on mine and they’re not even going to read it. I could have stood up and screamed. Even at the recent SCBWI-BI Agent’s Party, three out of the five agents on the first panel said they do not look at the synopsis. Joanna Moult prefers a cracking first page and Kate Shaw will look at the cover letter and sample first. Zoe Plant from the Bent Agency does not even ask for a synopsis in the submission package.

So is a synopsis a waste of time?

NO! I do not think so. Other editors and agents, such as Chloe Seager, have said they do read the synopsis first and prefers to be told how the book is going to end. Some other agents have said if they don’t like the synopsis they don’t bother reading the rest. This is just as scary as I have always believed the most important thing is how strong your writing is.

What should we do?

I still think, the most important thing is how good your writing is but I also think we need a synopsis to show the editor or agent how well the story hangs together and prove it has a defined beginning, middle and end. So even though Megan Carroll does not like spoilers in the synopsis, my advice is persevere with your synopsis. It might help you to clinch the deal.

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