“Writing the synopsis was harder than writing the book!” How often have you heard that, or said it yourself? An even greater challenge is a one-page synopsis, but there are huge benefits to tackling it whether you write fiction, non-fiction, have a publisher, or are self-published.
Having recently been through this process for a long creative non-fiction work, I decided to share it with you while the scars are fresh. Whether or not you redraft your books, I guarantee a one-page synopsis will go through multiple drafts because it’s no use cheating with small fonts and narrow margins.
The aim is to capture the heart of your book and make it beat in 300 words.
Why should you bother?
1.To improve your work: Even before you edit, constructing a one-page synopsis based on key aspects of story (discussed here), will enable you to check that they are present and clear in your manuscript. If they are not – back to the keyboard or pen.
2. Because an agent or publisher may ask for it: Several pages used to be allowed for a full synopsis for fiction, or a proposal for non-fiction, and some publishers still ask for this. But with the time pressure on fewer staff coping with more submissions, the one-page synopsis is becoming popular.
3. To generate more effective promotion: Once a manuscript has been accepted by a publisher, or you are ready to self-publish, you should start working on four short texts to form the basis of the book blurb (Amazon’s product description) and social media marketing:
Headline pitch: about 120-character statement announcing the book. Similar to a log-line, it reveals the nub of the book while attracting attention with intrigue. And write several for future use in Tweets.
Party pitch: a 30-second description of your book to someone you meet at a party that makes them say: “Wow! Where can I buy that?” (About 50-75 words).
Amazon blurb: four to five fairly short sentences, ideally split into two paragraphs. (From 100-150 words). Viewers won’t bother to press ‘more’ to read a long blurb.
Web description: a 200-250 word description to be posted on a web page dedicated to the book, or edited for a press release.
The fewer the words, the greater the challenge to writing skills and the more redrafts, but I found it quicker when working from an existing one-page synopsis. I recommend trying these for your own on-line promotion.
4. To create more appealing review requests: With hundreds of new titles released daily, seeking a reviewer is looking for a pot of gold without the rainbow, and few mainstream media are yet sufficiently ‘on the ball’ to review self-published works or even digital publications. Your email approach has to be short (two or three sentences) and instantly appealing – a good hooker. It is easier to do that if you have already been through the process of a 300-word synopsis whittled down to a 200-word description, a 100-word blurb and a 50-word instant pitch.
5. To provide ideas for a book trailer: To make a video clip you need a storyboard – a sequence of images and brief texts which, when combined into a video, may run for no more than 40 seconds. Impact must be immediate and sustained. If you have already written a one-page synopsis, you have the key words and crux of your story already focused.
6. To make self-publishing more professional: When you upload your books to retail sites you act as agent, publisher, publicist and seller, and you are competing in each of these spheres with professionals. Constructing and reviewing a one-page synopsis helps establish the discipline to step back from your work and assess it critically – like a publisher. Is it ready to publish? What are its core qualities? How should I market them?
You will find answers to these questions and many more tips and techniques in:
It contains a wealth of information for fiction writers, too. Also available as an ebook from your favourite online supplier.
Absolutely everything you need to know from initial idea to marketing your book – all in one place.
Or, as one Amazon reviewer wrote: ‘Don’t write before you read this.’
And if you love stories, you are really missing something if you have not read, A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity