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Advice for writers

Writing a Book Synopsis That Sells

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Creating a Standout Synopsis

In the journey from manuscript to published book, writing a book synopsis is one of the most crucial steps. This condensed summary of your novel is your ticket to capturing the attention of agents, editors, and publishers. But how do you distill the essence of your work into just a few pages? Let’s explore the art of crafting a compelling book synopsis, complete with examples, quotes, resources, and essential tips.

Understanding the Purpose of a Synopsis

Writing a book synopsis serves several important functions. Primarily, it gives agents and publishers a snapshot of your story’s plot, characters, and themes. According to a study by Writer’s Digest, 75% of literary agents consider the synopsis as vital as the manuscript itself. It’s your first chance to demonstrate your storytelling skills and show that your book has a coherent, engaging narrative.

Elements of a Strong Synopsis

Conciseness and Clarity

A book synopsis should be concise—typically one to two pages long. The goal is to provide a clear and engaging overview of your story. As Stephen King once said, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” Embrace brevity and ensure every sentence serves a purpose.

Engaging Opening

Just like your novel, your synopsis should hook the reader from the beginning. Start with a compelling opening that introduces your protagonist and the central conflict. For example: “In a dystopian future where books are banned, fireman Guy Montag begins to question his role in society when he meets a mysterious young woman who loves literature.”

Main Plot Points

Highlight the main plot points, including the inciting incident, key conflicts, and climax. Avoid getting bogged down in subplots. Your synopsis should provide a clear roadmap of your story’s arc.

Character Development

Showcase your characters’ development and motivations. Agents and editors want to see how your characters grow and change. For instance: “As Katniss Everdeen navigates the deadly Hunger Games, she evolves from a survival-focused teenager to a symbol of rebellion against the oppressive Capitol.


Don’t leave agents or editors guessing about the ending. Summarize how the main conflict is resolved, providing a satisfying conclusion to your synopsis.

Examples of Effective Synopses

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“In the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, young Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus. Atticus, a principled lawyer, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping a white woman. As the trial unfolds, Scout and Jem confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice, learning valuable lessons about empathy and morality.”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota, moves to New York in the summer of 1922 and becomes neighbors with the mysterious and wealthy Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is famous for his extravagant parties but harbors a deep longing for Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin. As Nick learns more about Gatsby’s past and his obsession with Daisy, he witnesses the unraveling of the American Dream in a world of excess and moral decay.”

Crafting Your Synopsis

Draft and Revise

Begin by drafting a longer version of your synopsis to ensure you capture all essential elements. Then, revise and condense it. Focus on clarity and coherence. Remember, less is often more.

Get Feedback

Share your synopsis with trusted critique partners or writing groups. Feedback can help you identify areas that need clarification or improvement. As Ernest Hemingway noted, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

Edit Ruthlessly

Edit your synopsis ruthlessly. Eliminate any unnecessary words or details. Aim for a polished, professional document that reflects the quality of your manuscript.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Too Much Detail: Avoid including too many subplots or minor characters. Stick to the main narrative thread.

Vagueness: Be specific about your plot points and character motivations. Vague synopses fail to engage.

Lack of Emotion: Infuse your synopsis with the same emotion and voice that characterizes your novel. Make readers care about your characters and their journey.

Resources for Writing a Book Synopsis

The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

Writer’s Digest (

Reedsy Blog (

Query Shark (

At Atmosphere Press, we understand the challenges that come with writing a book synopsis. Our team of experienced editors and publishing professionals is dedicated to helping you refine your synopsis with personalized feedback and comprehensive support. To ensure your book reaches its full potential, consider booking a Back-of-Book Strategy Meeting. This includes an in-depth video tutorial and a 45-minute one-on-one session, providing you with direct assistance in crafting a compelling elevator pitch for your book. Let us help you make your synopsis a strong selling point for your work!

Embrace the Challenge of Writing a Book Synopsis

Writing a book synopsis is a challenging but rewarding task. It forces you to distill your story’s essence, highlight its strengths, and present it compellingly. Remember, the synopsis is your first impression on agents and publishers. Make it count. By following these tips, studying successful examples, and leveraging available resources, you can craft a synopsis that captures the heart of your story and opens doors to your publishing future.

As you embark on writing a book synopsis, remember that you’re not alone. With perseverance, feedback, and a clear focus on your story’s core elements, you can create a synopsis that stands out in the crowded literary landscape. Happy writing!

EKB author photo 1

Erin K. Larson-Burnett, Production Manager at Atmosphere Press (submit your manuscript here!), is a born-and-raised Southerner currently living in Katy, Texas, with her husband and their small domestic zoo. She is an avid ink drinker who lives and breathes books—during the day, she works remotely with authors around the world, honing and perfecting books published through Atmosphere Press. By night, she crafts her own stories…or at least tries to. The Bear & the Rose is her debut novel.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.