How to Write a Synopsis for Your Book: A Guide for Fiction and Non-Fiction Writers.


Purpose of a Synopsis.

  • The main purpose of a synopsis is to inform a literary agent or publisher of the type of book you are writing or have written in a concise, appealing fashion, conveying that you are in command of your subject matter.
  • It can also be used to provide a shortened version of a given piece of writing (summary).
  • It provides an idea of what the text is about.
  • It shows the reader what they are going to get when they read your manuscript.
  • It is also a necessary part of an author’s submission package. An author is required to have a synopsis before submitting his or her manuscript.
  • Synopses grab the attention of potential audiences and can convince them to read, watch, or listen.
  • It helps researchers find what they are looking for and decide if a piece is relevant to their field

Elements of a Good Synopsis.

  1. A great synopsis should include the following elements:
  2. Length: a good synopsis should be about 500-1000 words or 1 to 2 pages.
  3. Language: it should be business-like, clear, to the point and neutral.
  4. Presentation: should be well-presented with no typos or spelling mistakes. Use normal fonts, normal margins, and line spacing no narrower than 1.5 and should not run for more than 2 pages unless asked otherwise.
  5. Character names: Put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them to make it easier to navigate.
  6. Character thumbnails: As well as highlighting your characters' names, you should give a swift resume of who they are, on first introduction. You can also insert age in brackets instead of writing it in full.
  7. Extra Points: If you have a compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis.
  8. Third Person Presentation: Even if your novel is written in 1st person, the synopsis should always be in the third person because it’s more professional.
  9. File name: Your file should be in the format title-synopsis.

Fiction and Nonfiction Synopsis.

Fiction refers to literature created from one’s imagination. Nonfiction refers to literature based in fact and is the broadest category of literature. Therefore, to achieve maximum efficiency, we shall look at the different ways to write both of these types of synopses. 

How to write a Fiction Synopsis.

  • Put your title at the top, even if it’s still just a working title.
  • State the genre you’re writing in: for example, if it is romance, fantasy, crime thriller, psychological suspense. If it’s a children’s book, indicate that.
  • Pitch line. This is usually the key question, dilemma or driving force of the novel – or the heart of the novel.
  • Quote from the novel: quotes can offer a glimpse of the tone of your novel as well as teasing and enticing the reader. It saves a struggling pitch line.
  • The synopsis of your novel should then go on to cover your plot in its broad strokes: Set out your story in the simplest terms.
  • Don’t forget to insert your protagonist’s name It’s good to show whose story this is.
  • Don’t mention too many characters' names. This can make your synopsis confusing and difficult to understand.
  • Readers need to know the primary setting for the novel and the time period in which it takes place.
  • If you can find a way to bring the feel, atmosphere or voice of the novel into the synopsis, it will really bring it to life
  • Do not make the mistake of praising yourself in your synopsis.
  • Do not give too much information. One page is a good, readable, concise length.
  • Talk about your story rather than the themes.
  • Don’t talk about unreliable narrators.

How to write a Nonfiction Synopsis.

Here is a simple guide to writing a Nonfiction Synopsis:

Think about your book objectively: As the writer, you should think about how the book make you feel when you read it, how you felt while you were writing it, what inspired you to write it, if it were written by another person what would you have to say about it? Look at it from different points of view. Take positive criticism from close family and friends who have already read the book and apply that into writing the synopsis. Also, it might help to think about the impact it had in your personal life.

Take a cue from the tone of your book: Your synopsis should reflect the tone used in the book whether sad, angry, nostalgic, happy, and so on. If your book is sad, the synopsis should have a sad tone, make the reader feel your sadness. If it is happy, the synopsis should make the reader smile. If it’s funny, it should make the reader laugh. Generate real emotion to attract your audience.

Start with a one paragraph description: Your introduction should capture the essence of the book. You should explain the question or problem that is addressed by your book and why the book is essential reading for your audience.

Give your summary a beginning, a middle, and an end: A great synopsis should not be mixed up. It should have an introduction, body and conclusion that captures all that is needed to give the reader a clear idea of what is in the book.

Read book reviews for inspiration: Seek inspiration from other books written by other authors in order to understand the assignment at hand.

In conclusion, whether fiction or nonfiction, a synopsis should be clear, brief and not entail the whole book but the idea of it. It should be capturing to attract a larger audience.