Guest Post & HUGE Giveaway: Laura Cross on “How a Good Snyopsis Can Get Your Book Published”

Laura Cross

ANNOUNCING A HUGE GIVEAWAY TODAY: Author, Laura Cross is giving away a FREE ONLINE WRITING WORKSHOP to one lucky winner! Among the workshops to choose from are:


To Enter for your chance at winning, please leave a question for Laura Cross in the comment box below the post. You must leave your question for Laura before midnight, Central Time on Feb 10. Come back tomorrow to see who was randomly selected.

Guest Post by Laura Cross:

Literary agents receive tens of thousands of pitches each year and need a system to winnow out which manuscripts they will select to read. Enter the infamous synopsis, the two to eight page summary of a novel, which has the potential to land an author a book deal. Yeah, it’s that important!

An agent will read the synopsis to determine if he or she should request the full manuscript. A synopsis is used as a guide to see if an author is capable of crafting a strong plot, creating compelling characters, and constructing a solid storyline. Here’s what agents are looking for:

  • The Author’s Writing Ability
    Is the author a strong writer? Can she create fluid prose that leaps off the page and grabs the reader’s attention?
  • The Author’s Voice
    Does the author convey a clear, original, and distinctive voice that will draw readers?
  • If the Writer Understands Her Genre
    Does the author know the expectations of the genre she is writing in and can she deliver those elements in a satisfying and unique way?
  • The Main Conflict of the Story
    Is the conflict interesting and compelling enough to engage readers?
  • The Transformation of the Main Character
    Does the protagonist change and transform throughout the course of the story or does the hero remain flat and unaffected? What will entice a reader to follow the main character on his journey?

An effective synopsis should deliver an entertaining reading experience and answer all the agent’s questions. Here are a few tips to help you write your synopsis:

  1. Succinctly Summarize the Plot
    There is not enough space to include every plot point in the synopsis so you want to focus on the setup, the inciting incident, major turning points, the crisis moment, the resolution, and the obstacles and conflicts the main character faces that test her commitment and ability to achieve her goal.
  2. Include Emotional Turning Points
    An impressive synopsis engages the reader by providing emotional impact and showing how the protagonist develops and transforms.
  3. Express Your Voice and the Tone of the Story
    You want to capture your voice through the words and phrases you use, and convey the tone of your manuscript. If your story is comedic, then the synopsis should be humorous. If you have written a thriller, the reader should experience the suspense of the story.
  4. Create Compelling Sketches of the Main Characters
    It is often a story’s characters that capture a reader’s curiosity and interest. Present a captivating portrait of your main characters and devote most of your focus to your protagonist – show her quirks, personality traits, what she wants (her internal and external goals), why she wants it, and what is at stake if she fails.
  5. Provide a Conclusion
    In a synopsis you must reveal the ending. Be sure to present a conclusion, resolve all plot points, and explain why the main character made the decision that lead to the final outcome.

YOUR TURN: How do you create your synopsis? Do you write it before, during, or after you have completed your manuscript? How do you decide what to include and what to edit? Do you create both a long and short version of your synopsis? How do you successfully convey your voice and capture your protagonist’s personality in so few pages?

Laura Cross is an author, screenwriter, ghostwriter, freelance book editor, and writing coach specializing in nonfiction books and script adaptation (book-to-film projects). She writes two popular blogs, and, and teaches online writing workshops Her latest book is The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published. You can download a free chapter, view the book trailer, read the full table of contents, and purchase the eBook at



Filed under Author Interviews, books, Education, Give Aways

13 responses to “Guest Post & HUGE Giveaway: Laura Cross on “How a Good Snyopsis Can Get Your Book Published”

  1. Laura,

    Can we just call you the font of wisdom? All those classes have me salivating.

    I sort of think about my synopsis while writing the book but don’t actually commit it to paper until I’m doing final polishes on the manuscript. I find it tough to balance giving the agent a good idea of what happens in the books and giving them the feeling of wanting to read more. I’m eager for any tips!

  2. Pingback: Nonfiction Ink » Blog Archive » Writing The Novel Synopsis and Writing Workshop Giveaway

  3. Hi Laura,

    I’m looking to land an agent or a publisher for my third book. So far, I have received mixed reviews on the proposal (for non-fiction).

    What would you say are the must-have’s for a winning proposal? I hear that some of my ideas don’t have mass appeal but keep seeing books pop up on the same topic. What’s up?

    Would love to hear your insights!!


  4. I’ve read that after your query is rejected, you should never requery. Not if you redo the manuscript, write a better query letter or synopsis, nothing. That the agent will know it’s you again and reject you purely for breaking the no requery rule. I wouldn’t requery, but seriously: with thousands of queries to wade through, how would an agent recognize a requerying rebel?

  5. Thank you Laura and Mary Jo! This was a very informative post. I’m bookmarking it.

    Laura, what kind of synopsis makes you cringe…makes you stop, drop & roll….makes you say when you come home, ‘honey, I’m hoooome… and it’s not pretty….’?

  6. Laura,
    Thanks for sharing this great information. Is your synopsis class appropriate for those of us just starting down the path of fiction writing or is it designed for those who have a completed manuscript?

  7. Laura,
    I’ve heard said that in the publishing business, it is not only about how well you write, but also about how well you market yourself. Is there any truth in this?


  8. Thanks for all the great questions and comments.

    @Jodi – here’s a few tips from published author Kimberly Llewellyn, who I interviewed for the book: “You want to show the character arc, the growth of the protagonist, and the emotional journey. When it comes to the story you need to hit all the major plot points and the climax, but leave out irrelevant and unnecessary details. It’s your distinct style that will have the literary agent wanting to read more.”

    @Kristen – congratulations on pitching your third book. There are many elements that make up a “winning” book proposal, key among them are identifying a target market, creating a strong promotional plan, and establishing your platform to convey that you are THE go-to expert on the subject and are, therefore, THE best author to write the book. If you’ve received feedback that the idea lacks mass appeal and yet there are books being released on the same topic, I would suggest re-working the market section of the proposal to clearly identify the target market and also be sure to show how your book is different from the other books being released on the subject.

    @Amanda – if your query letter was rejected (in other words, you never went further than the initial pitch), it’s not a good idea to re-query the same literary agent unless it’s for a different project. However, if your manuscript is rejected and the agent provided feedback or suggested specific changes, it’s okay to re-query the agent once you’ve revised the material to see if he or she may be interested in it.

    @Kristine – based on the interviews I conducted with literary agents for the book their top peeves are: lack of a distinctive voice, the material is derivative, the synopsis includes non-essential details, and the ultimate mistake a writer makes … telling the agent she must read the full manuscript to find out what happens. The synopsis must provide a conclusion.

    @Julie – there appears to be a misprint in the listing of classes. Unfortunately, I don’t teach a synopsis writing class. All my classes are for nonfiction writers.

    @Cara – you are absolutely right. In today’s publishing world part of the author’s job includes promotion and marketing.


  9. I have had one novel published and am now working on a second. In the process of writing and promoting the first one, The Gate House, I found that I did need both long and short versions of my synopsis, because I was asked for both.
    And learning from experience, I wrote a rough synopsis of my current book before I began the actual writing. It works much better if I have some idea where I am going. But I am not worried that the synopsis is not complete. As I write, I fill in the story. The ideas come as I write.
    I pitched the idea for the current novel to an agent at a writer’s conference, and she expressed interest once I am finished. How “finished” do you think the manuscript should be before sending it to her? Second draft? Completely polished? She asked for a synopsis and the first three chapters.

  10. Kathy – that’s awesome! Connecting with a literary agent in person at a conference and receiving an invitation to send a synopsis and partial when your manuscript is complete is an impressive accomplishment. Your manuscript should be completed and polished BEFORE sending any material to a literary agent (including the initial query letter).

    What happens if she asks to see the entire manuscript and it’s not ready? It sends the message that the author is an amateur. And what are the chances she’ll wait around for a few weeks or months while the author finishes writing the book? Extremely low. When interviewing literary agents for the book, this issue was mentioned over and over again. Have your manuscript finished, polished, and ready to send upon request.


  11. Wanda

    What a great idea for a giveaway! I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

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