Do I Need a Synopsis?

– by Angela Scheff

You’ve been working on your killer idea. You’ve put time into developing your chapters, your narrative arc, your proposal. By chance you run into a publisher who asks, “So what’s your book about?” You have 30 seconds to tell her. You’ve been waiting for this moment! You can do this! But your mind goes blank …

While the chances of randomly running into a publisher are slim (unless you’re headed to a writers conference), your proposal is your response as your agent submits it to interested publishers. But publishers are busy and they look at so many proposals a day and they run out of time and they’ve heard it all and even though you’ve worked so hard on an entire proposal, chances are, you have 30 seconds to pique their interest. So what do you do?

You write a killer synopsis!

To match your killer idea. The synopsis, aka the elevator pitch, is your first line in your well-crafted proposal, and your chance to introduce your book to publishers, to hook them, to inspire them to continue reading. The synopsis can be one or two sentences long or could even be the title and subtitle. Either way, it must be




If your response is, But my idea is bigger than a single sentence! It’s more complicated then that, then your proposal is not ready to be shopped yet. Fly higher and see the bigger picture.

Need some inspiration? Take a look on amazon and look at your favorite books’ descriptions—usually the first sentence draws you in. Look at how movies are marketed and described. Peruse Netflix. (And then you can rewrite them in your head as some of them are a bit ridiculous and don’t draw you in at all.)

The bottom line: while you have a great chance to describe your book idea in your overview section (which is usually a page long), your synopsis is your 30-second chance to gain publishers’ interest and inspire them to read more.