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:

Stohlman_10:31

Five Reasons to Write Flash Fiction: Understanding the Literary Love Child of the Short Story and Poetry

In this article, award-winning author Nancy Stohlman breaks down the difference between flash fiction, prose poetry, and short stories and explains what keeps readers on the hook.

Amir

The “Secret Sauce” Necessary to Succeed at a 30-Day Writing Challenge

In this article, author and writing coach Nina Amir lays out her top tips to master your mindset and complete a 30-day writing challenge.

Kane2

Crashing Into New Worlds: Writing About the Unfamiliar

Award-winning crime author Stephanie Kane explains how she builds characters unlike herself and navigates their worlds to create vivid and realistic stories.

plot_twist_story_prompts_without_a_trace_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

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 spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.