A Pitch vs. A Synopsis: The Difference and Definitions (and 'What is a Good Synopsis Length?')

Q. In a query, should the synopsis tell the whole story in a short form or should it leave mystery to the story like on the back of the book? A. Queries and synopses are different things. You would never find a synopsis in a query. A query is a one-page letter that explains what you've written, who you are, and why the agent should represent you. In a query letter will be a pitch, which is a explanation of your story in 3-8 sentences. It's like the text you see on the back of a DVD box. It's designed to pique your interest. A pitch, like the back of a book or DVD, will not spill the beans regarding the ending. A synopsis is a front-to-back telling of what happens in your story. It's like sitting down with a 12-year-old and explaining your entire story in about five minutes.
Author:
Publish date:

Q. In a query, should the synopsis tell the whole story in a short form or should it leave mystery to the story like on the back of the book? A. Queries and synopses are different things. You would never find a synopsis in a query.
A query is a one-page letter that explains what you've written, who you are, and why the agent should represent you. In a query letter will be a pitch, which is a explanation of your story in 3-8 sentences. It's like the text you see on the back of a DVD box. It's designed to pique your interest. A pitch, like the back of a book or DVD, will not spill the beans regarding the ending.

A synopsis a front-to-back telling of what happens in your story. It's like sitting down with a 12-year-old and explaining your entire story in about five minutes. You explain who the characters are, what the conflict is, the three acts, and finally, what happens at the end (e.g., the villain dies). So, in a synopsis, you do indeed give away the ending. You would not do so in a pitch, and a pitch is what appears in a query.FOLLOW-UP QUESTION FROM ANN:Q. What length is a good synopsis? I recently sent out a query & synopsis. I managed to reduce the synopsis to one page, but now I'm wondering if it was too short for a multi-voiced novel.

A. I recommend having TWO versions of your synopsis - a "long synopsis" and a "short synopsis." Let me explain.

In past years, there used to be a fairly universal system regarding synopses. For every 35 or so pages of text you had, you would have one page of synopsis explanation. So if your book was 245 pages, double-spaced, your synopsis would be seven pages approximately. This was fairly standard, and allowed writers a decent amount of space to explain their story. I recommend doing this first. This will be your "long synopsis."
The problem is: Sometime in the past few years, agents started to get really busy and they want to hear your story now now now. They started asking for synopses of no more than two pages.

Many agents today request specifically just that - two pages max. Some may even say one page, but two pages is generally acceptable. You have to draft a new, more concise synopsis - the "short synopsis."
So which one do you submit? Good question. If you think your short synopsis (1-2 pages) is tight and effective, always use that. However, if you think the long synopsis is much more effective, then you will sometimes submit one and sometimes submit the other. If an agent requests two pages max, send the short one (because, naturally, you've been instructed to). If they just say "Send a synopsis," and you feel your longer synopsis is far superior, and your long synopsis isn't more than eight pages, I say just submit the long one.
Long answer. Hope it helps.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.

Wrobel_1:20

Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.

who_are_the_inaugural_poets_for_united_states_presidents_robert_lee_brewer

Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.

precedent_vs_president_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.