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Sunday, 29 March 2009


Two PSs, actually, because I can never do one of a thing if two are available.

Or maybe even three, because I am, if nothing else, intemperate and unrestrained. I blame my fantasising about those chocolate martinis that Lynn Price goes on about, even though I still don't quite believe in them, Britishy person that I am. I need to see them and the whites of their eyes.

  1. Anyway, yes, as Mary says, once the book is sold to the publisher, the synopsis will never be looked at again by your editor. In other words, you don't actually need to follow it. Follow It??? What an extraordinary idea! However, do beware of this scenario, as I have mentioned before, because lurking somewhere in a cupboard in your putative publisher's place is a frighteningly young person who will READ your synopsis, and nothing else, and she (for it will be a she) will one day write a glorious Amazon blurb based on this synopsis. So, if you have not followed it and have not reminded your editor to tell the child that you did not follow it, your crap synopsis will be There For All To See. And then little old ladies in Frimpton-on-Sea will complain that you said that there was passionate activity on the moonlit beach when in fact it was only in the church hall, which will have disappointed them.
  2. Yes, as Jane says, the synopsis is not the first thing that the editor or agent will read. Nor is it the thing that will draw them in and engage them with an undeniable fervour. Indeed, it's the covering letter that hooks them, and the sample pages that make them salivate, but it is the synopsis which shows them that you do actually have a book that hangs together and doesn't just get off on a stunning beginning and a thrilling concept.
  3. I can't remember what 3 was.
  4. Oh yes - various people on various blogs today have been angsting about the transatlantic divide between blurbs and queries and covering letters and synopses. So, let's get this straightish:
  • blurb - you find it on the back of a book or on a website - it's a teaser, something short and with wow factor, that makes someone (reader/agent/editor, who cares?) drool to read the full book. (In the US a blurb sometimes means what we in the UK call a puff / quote by a respected reviewer, just to be extra confusing ...)
  • query - a letter or email which you send to an agent or publisher on its own, to ask if they'd like to see more. So, it is very blurby, brief and snappy. It entices and teases and inspires and causes unpleasant salivation. In the US this (not salivation, query letters) is common practice; in the UK and elsewhere, it's perfectly acceptable and seems to be growing. Whatever, it means you don't send more at this stage, which is a) good because you don't have to spend on postage/printing etc and you can multi-send easily but b) bad because it's the only chance you'll get with that agent/editor. Do it, but do it brilliantly.
  • covering letter - included with your synopsis + sample chapters. If this is your first approach to that pub/agent, it's your first chance to wow them so do it well, tightly, succintly, blurbily and follow my advice in this post on covering letters.
  • synopsis - much more than a blurb or covering letter, more factual, though still sparky and readable and stylishish and it DOES give the ending. It outlines the plot. Why am I going on about this when I just did a big post (below) on it earlier today?
Jane mentioned Beth Anderson's advice, so, kindly though crabbit old bat that I am, I tracked it down and you will find it here.

And now, frankly, if there's any excuse for not being able to write a brilliant synopsis, I'd like to know it.