How to write a synopsis of a book

A book synopsis is a summary of the plot or content. Literary agents and publishers often ask authors for a synopsis to evaluate their work. The task of fitting the contents of an entire book into a few paragraphs or pages can seem daunting, and there is no single right way to write a good synopsis.

Method 1

Writing a synopsis of a novel

  1.  Determine the baseline.  Although the synopsis is a very short summary of a larger work, you still need to take the time to define the original conditions of the novel and include any information relevant to the reader to help understand the plot.
    • Imagine someone reading the synopsis first and then the book. What information is critical? Does the reader need to know the characteristic details about the location of the novel or the world you created?
  • Remember that you are trying to interest the reader, so include a couple of interesting details to help you imagine the time and place of the events.
  1.  Underline the main conflict.  Many are puzzled over what needs to be included in the synopsis, but the ironclad rule is to identify and outline the main conflict of the plot.
    • What will the main character of the book face?
    • Perhaps you should point out any special obstacles the characters will encounter?
    • What happens if the main character does not cope with the mission entrusted to him?
  2.  Show character development.  It will not be easy for you to fit the full character development described in the novel into a short synopsis, but many literary agents insist that the synopsis should reflect the changes that occur with the main character during the events of the book.
    • Try not to describe characters one-sidedly, show their reactions to different situations. And although you are limited in the amount of synopsis, the reader should still understand the personalities of the characters and how they will change.
  3.  Outline the plot.  Since the synopsis is a summary of the book, you need to set out the plot of the novel and give an idea of ​​the direction of the events.
    • It will be difficult for you not to drown in the details, but try to start by writing a short (1-2 sentences) content for each chapter. Then try to merge those paragraphs together.
    • You will not be able to include all the plot details, so determine which ones are especially important to understanding the book. Consider whether the ending would make sense without such detail. If the answer is yes, then exclude it.
  4.  A clear idea of ​​the ending.  You may not want to spoil the unexpected moment, but the synopsis should give a clear idea of ​​the ending of the novel and the global resolution of the conflict.
    • Literary agents want to know how you will resolve the conflict and tie the chain of events.
    • Do not worry. If your work gets published, the synopsis will not be printed on the cover and will not spoil the reader’s sense of novelty.
  5.  Reread the synopsis.  It is important to re-read your synopsis yourself and get the opinion of others. The more reviews from the outside, the more logical your synopsis will be.
    • It is very helpful to read the synopsis aloud, as it makes it easier to spot grammatical errors and edit the wording. As you read aloud, your brain processes information in a different way, so you begin to notice previously inconspicuous errors and flaws.
    • Ask friends, family or colleagues who have not read the book or are not familiar with your work to read the synopsis. They will be able to provide you with a more objective perspective, as well as tell you how consistent the synopsis is and is likely to interest you in reading the book.
  6.  The synopsis should contain answers to important questions.  Before submitting your synopsis, make sure it answers the following key questions:
    • Who is the central character of the book?
    • What is he / she striving for or trying to achieve?
    • Who or what makes it difficult for the character to find, travel, life?
    • What does all this lead to?
  7.  Practice your writing.  Many authors complain that the synopsis is the most difficult text to write, as it should crystallize the content of an entire book into just a few paragraphs. Fortunately, the more often you write synopsis, the better you will get.
    • To practice, try writing synopsis of classics or recently read books. Sometimes it’s easier to start with a book that didn’t take you many hours, days, or years to prepare.

Method 2

Writing a synopsis for a non-fiction book

  1.  Follow all available recommendations.  When working with an agent or specific publisher, be sure to check with them for specific requirements. It is important to write and arrange the synopsis as your employers want it to be.
    • If in doubt, check with the agent or publisher for the size, layout and style requirements.
    • Even if this is just homework, it is important to follow all the requirements and recommendations of the teacher.
  2.  Include a summary of the book.  As with fiction, you need to provide a short description of the content.
    • Concentrate on making your case clear and explain why this book should be published. Argument the importance of your book.
  3.  Outline the structure of the work.  Even if you haven’t finished the book yet, the synopsis needs to clearly outline the structure. Provide a chapter breakdown with working titles that will help the agent or publisher get your head around you.
    • You can also include a short description (1-2 sentences) of each chapter.
  4.  Identify the differences between the book and the competition.  In the synopsis, it is necessary to explain how the book differs from existing books on this topic. Consider the uniqueness of your contribution.
    • For example, do you present a fresh perspective or way of interpreting a subject in a book?
    • List major authors and publications on the subject, then clearly explain the originality of your material.
    • Also describe why you are capable of high-quality coverage of this issue.
  5.  Discuss the place of the book on the market.  Looking at your book, the publisher will try to find its place in the market and target audience. Highlight a paragraph in the synopsis to address this issue.
    • Include information about the department of the bookstore in which you see the book. This will help the publisher assess the potential demand and ways to promote the book.
    • What groups of people, in your opinion, will show interest in the material? For example, the book could be used in training courses or at events celebrating the anniversary of a historic event. If your book is related to this event, it will be possible to build an advertising campaign on this.
  6.  Share your plans.  Many books of scientific content are approved for publication in the process of writing, but in the synopsis, you should clearly state your completion dates.
    • Indicate how much is already done, then estimate the time it takes to complete the work.
  7.  Please provide additional details.  Include other relevant details in the synopsis – the scope of the finished work and the possible need for illustrations. The more information is provided about the structure and format of the book, the easier it is for a publisher to determine whether they are willing to take on a project.
  8.  Tell us about your qualifications and achievements.  To give your synopsis some weight, include your accomplishments and experiences that have contributed to the writing of the book.
    • It is important not only to include information about your education and scientific background, but also to determine what details of your biography might interest the publisher and readers.
  9.  Find out what other people think.  As with any writing activity, feedback from others about your synopsis helps to improve the style of the text, make it more intriguing and understandable. Ask your friends, family or colleagues to read the text and give their opinion.
    • You don’t need to be an expert to understand how interesting and well written the synopsis is. Don’t worry – you don’t have to look for experts in this matter.

Method 3

Common mistakes

  1.  Don’t write the synopsis on behalf of the main character.  The synopsis is written from a third person, not from the main character. It is also preferable to use the present over the past tense.
  2.  Reduce the volume.  The synopsis should be short, while verbosity is a fairly common mistake. Perhaps you really do not want to cut out the dialogue and shorten the description, but this way the synopsis will turn out to be more harmonious and competent.
    • Think about whether all of the above details are important for the synopsis, or if you can do without some. If the reader can grasp the essence of the book without any details, then it is better to omit them.
    • As a rule, no dialogue is needed in the synopsis. If you choose to include dialogue, then keep it as short as possible and relevant to an important plot turning point.
    • Don’t try to make the text graceful or lyrical. This requires volume, and you should focus on keeping your book concise and clear. Reread the synopsis several times. Think about where you can use clearer or more accurate words.
  3.  You shouldn’t reveal too many details about the heroes and introduce minor characters.  It is possible that you spent a lot of time working out your characters and the events of their lives, but there is no place in the synopsis for all these events, as well as for minor characters.
    • Include just enough details to keep your characters interesting and not blurred. A few phrases are usually enough to give an idea of ​​the character.
  4.  There is no need to analyze and interpret the plot.  The synopsis is meant only as a short description or a quick glance at the book, so do not include literary analysis or interpretation of the plot and secret meanings. For such investigations, completely different works are written.
  5.  Avoid rhetorical and unanswered questions.  Despite the temptation, you should not try to build up tension and leave questions unanswered, as they will only distract the reader from the point.
    • For example, don’t write, “Will Tyler be able to find out who killed his mother?” In synopsis, it is better to give answers, rather than ask questions.
  6.  Don’t write a synopsis that is just a retelling of the plot.  He must attract the attention of readers, interest them in reading the book. A direct retelling of events will give the impression that the reader has a dry technical manual.
    • It is better to add emotions and details, hinting at the feelings and experiences of the characters.
    • Having caught yourself writing “this happened, then this, and finally this,” it’s time to take a break and return to work with a fresh mind. You can’t make your synopsis look like a boring retelling of a sports event.
    • Some writers advise you to imagine that you are describing a book to your friends in the same way you describe an interesting movie to them. Skip boring details and focus on the highlights.

Method 4

Text formatting

  1.  Use double spacing.  If your synopsis is more than one page, use double spacing in your document. This makes it easier to read.
  2.  Be sure to include the title of the book and your name.  In a hurry, you can easily forget to say both the title of the book and your name. Please include this information in the upper left corner of each page.
    • It is important that the literary agent knows who to contact if he liked the synopsis.
  3.  Use a standard font.  While you might want to use a more interesting font, it’s best not to deviate from standard options like Times New Roman, which are familiar and displayed on a wide variety of devices.
    • Use the same font in your synopsis as your book was printed. Perhaps, along with the synopsis, you will attach examples of some chapters, then there will be consistency in your documents.
  4.  Start paragraphs indented.  Despite the brevity of the synopsis, it should not be perceived as a stream of consciousness. To avoid this, structure your text by using indentation at the beginning of paragraphs.
  5.  Follow the recommendations for volume.  Different literary agents or publishers may have different requirements for the length of the synopsis. Be sure to comply with the stated requirements or clarify your wishes on this issue.
    • Some writers recommend that you first write about 5 pages of text, and then shrink the document to the required length.
    • Be prepared for different requirements in advance by writing different versions of the synopsis of one and three pages. Even if the requirements turn out to be slightly different, you can easily adjust the document to the required size.


  • Start by summarizing each chapter in one or two sentences. Then tie them together.
  • A good way to prepare for your synopsis is to imagine that you are retelling the plot of the book to your friends as you would retelling the plot of a movie. Focus on the main points, omitting unnecessary details and plot details.
  • Write your synopsis in a third person, not the main character of the book.
  • Always follow the requirements of the literary agent or publisher regarding the length or formatting of the text.



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