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December 28, 2011

            Okay, folks, it’s time to honor Andy Rooney and do a bitch. My bitch is on something that has been bugging me for a long time. It’s called the book synopsis. How many of you know how they are created? Do you think some marketing wiz at the publisher dreams them up, or the editor, or maybe the head publisher? Maybe back in the day that might have happened for some books, but in this modern day and age, more than likely, the author is stuck with that job. Yes, you will be responsible for coming up with your own synopsis.

            For those of you new to this publishing game, what in the world is a book synopsis? The synopsis is a summary of the book that you will find either on the back cover or on the inside of the jacket (if it’s a hardback). It is supposed to give you an idea of what the book is about. It’s a quick-and-dirty marketing took designed to draw the reader, into buying your book.

            The synopsis can be one of the most difficult things to write. It’s usually one to two paragraphs, yet it can be absolute torture for the author. After writing a 100,000 word novel, editing forever, rewriting, editing some more, condensing the story down to 80,000 words, rewriting again, expanding… one would think a measly two paragraphs would be a piece of cake. However, those one or two paragraphs, if not done right, could make or break the rest of your effort, no matter how good it is.

            Now that I’ve thoroughly discouraged you, let me switch to those that have succeeded in bringing their books to the masses. The bookstore (I have to make that singular now, unfortunately) is full of novels, most with a synopsis. They were likely all written by the author unless they’re older reprints. Each of these synopses were probably gone over with a fine-toothed comb by their editor and maybe even a marketing manager, but the gist of them left intact. The marketing manager may have wanted to spice them up a bit to make the story sound more sexy (the editor might be guilty of this too). What these editors and marketing people never did though, was actually read the book. A different set of editors would do that, depending on the size of the publisher. That brings me to my big complaint, truth in advertising.

            There is nothing I hate worse that reading a synopsis, getting a completely wrong impression of what the book is about, then being pissed off at the end of the story. Unfortunately, it happens more often than it should. The blurb says one thing, but the story turns out to be something else entirely. For example, the book I’m reading now is about a natural disaster. It seemed to be a thriller from the synopsis and title, but I am already halfway through it and there is almost no thriller or natural disaster. It is a soap opera about this cop and his disjointed family. That is not what I paid big bucks for a hardback to read! I really hate when authors mislead their readers that way.

            Part of this problem may be the editing and marketing people at big publishers. If your book is big enough, you may have little control over it, even though you wrote the original text. However, most of you will most likely start out at smaller publishers and will have the final say of your own synopsis. The publisher should guide you, but not to the point of rewriting it or changing it into something it’s not. My plea to you is that I know writing a synopsis is going to be one of the hardest things you will have to do. Please make it about the book! Don’t mislead your readers to try and sell more books. Keep a bit of integrity and make your synopsis plain so your readers know exactly where you are coming from. In the long run you’ll be better for it.

            Truth in advertising!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann Marquez permalink
    December 30, 2011 4:12 am

    Writing a synopsis and bio are incredibly difficult. I’ve never been happy with either of mine, especially my book synopsis because my book is so different. I don’t think I’ve mislead anyone (at least I hope I haven’t) but on the flip side, I don’t think I’ve done my book justice. Oh well, maybe next book, next time. 😉

    • December 31, 2011 4:31 am


      Thanks! You’re the first one to actually read my post this week! Yeah, writing that synopsis is killer! It can make or break the book too. I’m sure you did just fine on it but you will always look at it and want to change it, no matter how good it might be.


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