1. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Query vs Synopsis Content

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Gottagocit, Sep 18, 2011.

    How should a well written synopsis differ in content (or length, structure...etc) from a query?

    Thanks,
    Chris
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    A synopsis recounts, concisely, the entirety of the plot including sub-plots and resolutions. Don't leave anything out, and be thorough.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A query contains a synopsis, but not every synopsis is for a query. A synopsis for a query, in fact the entire query, should fit on a single page, signle spaced., unless the publisher specifies otherwise. A query synopsis, as Banzai pointed out, should encompass the entire story. That includes the resolution of the story. Other types of synopses may leave out tje ending, to whet the reader's curiosity, but a submissions editor wants to see the entire picture.
     
  4. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not really sure where the above information comes from, but from most of what I've seen, queries should not really include the ending. Kirsten Nelson, a popular agent describes a query, as distilling the first 30 pages into a single paragraph. It's the inciting incident that the query showcases, very much like a blurb on a book cover. In fact she says a popular mistake that many writers make is trying to explain the whole plot with the ending in a query. A query is a hook, nothing more. So the difference between a synopsis and query is vast.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    most agents want/need to know how a novel ends, to determine if it's worth their time to request the ms... they don't like to have their time wasted with being teased... so, to err on the side of caution, one should include the ending in the query summary... it can't hurt, even if some agents who get it prefer otherwise... but if you do what one such as nelson likes, you'll find that most other agents won't find that adequate, so it can hurt...
     
  6. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are many examples on the net of successful queries, and I've never seen any that included the ending. Check out query shark as well. The way I see it, the submission process goes like this. A query introduces the concept, the main characters and the tone of your novel. It's also a fair indication of your technical skills. Writing queries aren't easy. If the agent likes all of the above, she requests a partial and the synopsis. At this point the ending becomes relevant. The final step is the request for the full manuscript. What's the point of revealing the ending if you can't explain how you got there. A query is simply too short to explain the ending. Including the ending CAN hurt. What's the primary purpose of a query? To get the agent's interest. You need to write something that intrigues them. Distilling the first thirty pages into an intriguing paragraph is hard enough. Trying to distill the whole plot with the ending into a paragraph while still keeping the tone and voice of your book is pretty much near impossible. If you have examples of how this is done please post it.
     
  7. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I agree the query shouldn't contain much more than a hook to the story. Several agencies request a one-page synopsis with the query that details everything; that's where you put the beginning, middle, and end of your story. The query is to be little more than an eyeopener to the agent, something to make them interested enough to look at the synopsis and later the ms.
     
  8. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Re: Query vs Synopsis

    It's widely know that the query should be of limited length and no more than a single page but what about the synopsis? I've not seen any of the agents specify or even suggest how long it should be.
     
  9. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    One page usually, sometimes two. I've never had more than a two-page synopsis be requested, but I guess there could be exceptions.
     
  10. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    A synopsis is the bare bones of the story, forget the subplots. They (agents, editors, publishers) are as interested in your ability to get the entire story into a succinct block as they are what the story is about. One page is the industry standard for a synopsis because if you can't hook them with one page five isn't going to make it better. Also an important thing to remember about a synopsis is that it is written in present tense, unlike most stories. And never withhold how the book ends.

    A couple general guidelines about a synopsis (not rules but can make the synopsis easier to write and possibly read)
    -Stick to the MAIN characters, one or two main characters and the antagonist, that's it. If you must refer to a secondary character don't use their name, use a general discription.
    -The first time you mention a character in the synopsis put their name in capital letters. You should have no more than five names in captials - ever.

    A query letter typically includes
    -contact information
    -a first line that will grab the agents attention - Think sales pitch
    -a very short synopsis - one or two paragraphs or better yet one or two senteces, think jacket cover. This is where it's okay to make the agent drool with anticipation by skillfully leaving out the ending but adding the ending also okay
    -information about you and any special background you might have that makes you the best person to have wirtten the book/piece but don't clutter up the paper with useless credentials, it's okay if you haven't been published and don't have much or anything to add here.
    -information about the book, what audience you think the book targets/ genre, approximate word count (meaning round to the nearest thousand), whether the book is complete (you should always be able to say, this is a finished work.)

    Typically when you send a submission it includes both the query letter and a synopsis (and often the first few pages).
     
  11. Toxic Black
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    Toxic Black Member

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    Wow, it all sounds really daunting. Im currently half way through my first book and im dreading coming to all this!!
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that would only apply to the short [1-2 page] synopsis, though major subplots can and should be alluded to... medium/long [3-10 page] ones will include some/all subplot details...

    as for what to include with a query, you must consult each addressee's submission guidelines for what they want and don't want...
     
  13. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Most submissions request a short synopsis (the one page range). Agents can tell within a few paragraph (often in a few sentences) if they want to know more.

    You are right, a query should be tweaked to fit each submission but there are some standard things that should almost always be included.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wasn't referring to what goes IN a query, only what goes WITH one, as i said...
     
  15. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Guess I read a little to fast for my brain to keep up. :)
     
  16. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    Thanks everyone for the help with information about the contents of a good synopsis. It does seem they have a lot in common with a query only more details and the ending.

    Amy, I visited your website and blog. Good luck with Embrace! Mine is presently entitled "From Here To Gatlinburg". Perhaps one or both of us will find an agent soon and be on our way to making the dream of having our first novel published a reality. I suppose I'm a lot like every other first timer in that I honestly believe I have a great story to tell if I can get it in front of an agent and publisher who have the time to consider it. But I know they hear that a lot and are swamped with requests.

    Chris
     
  17. jimr
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    jimr Member

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    Profanity Warning IS THIS A GOOD TYPE OF QUERY?

    You want to get slapped in the brain with a fuck book?! For the Kiss of an Angel will most definitely not fit that bill. This charming story featuring lovable Michael Angel as he’s pursued by Satan’s crafty daughter Lucinda will warm your heart. From their first spat when they meet in Heaven to a delightful ending culminating in marital bliss, there’s never a dull moment with these two. His angelic naiveté and her relentless scheming to snitch kisses, pinches, and whatever else she can get her hands on presents an irresistible combination that readers of all ages will adore.

    At only eight hundred and ninety-two Lucinda feels she’s just too young to get married, but Michael’s prudishness won’t allow him to even consider moving in together. And when she drags him unwittingly into a scheme to smuggle a billion souls to Hell the relationship is nearly strained to the breaking point. But Mrs. Satan comes to the rescue, protecting the innocent angel from her daughter’s very devious perfidy, as Michael calls Lucinda’s nefarious ways.

    For the Kiss of an Angel is a standalone 110,000-word romantic fantasy filled with strong comedic elements, though sequels could be developed if desired. With underpinnings exemplifying Christian values and a denouement emphasizing the importance of respect in relationships, this book will attract to a wide variety of readers. It should appeal to fans of Jennifer Crusie, as well as YA readers. Thank you for your time.
     
  18. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    No.
    A query letter is a business letter and should be treated as such. Profanity is rarely (my opinion is never) a good idea but it's especially bad to start off a business letter with something that many consider offensive and certainly does not denote professionalism.

    Try Queryshark.com for examples of good query letters and bad ones that include why they are bad.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    another major no-no is touting your own work and telling the agents what they're going to feel/think!
     

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