1. c0sm0kn0t

    c0sm0kn0t New Member

    Dec 3, 2018
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    Outline vs Synopsis

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by c0sm0kn0t, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:19 PM.

    Hi all,

    I'm working on compiling all the supplementary documentation needed for submissions to literary agents. I've picked a few that seem to represent authors with works similar to my own novel. Most of them ask for a query letter, synopsis, and sample of the novel; however, one asks for a "one-page outline". Is that the same things as a synopsis? Coming from an academic background in science, an outline means something very specific. It involves headings with nested bullet points showing the overall structure of your work. Am I just overthinking this? Do they really just want a one-page synopsis?

    Also, when literary agents ask for "two page" or "one page" whatever, is it understood that they prefer a certain spacing (i.e., single, 1.5, or double)? I don't want to be "that person" who sends a single-spaced one-page document when it's an unspoken rule that some other spacing is the standard. Thanks for the insights!
  2. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

    Oct 7, 2018
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    On the spacing: Most insist on no less than 1.5 (so if you go with 2 you're safe in any event). Always double space whether you are embedding in the body of the email (which is typical for American agents, or attaching a Word doc or, more rarely, PDF for the English. Bear in mind that the spacing refers to the extra materials not the query itself (i.e. single spaced regular email letter (query) + sample pages (double spaced) + synopsis (double spaced))

    You will need a minimum of three items to go on query ("submission" is typically the term use for when AGENTS submit to publishers): A query letter, sample pages, and a synopsis.

    I have sent scores of query packs out for my novel and might have see only one person who insisted on an "outline" as you say. That's pretty rare, but I have seen it. I have also seen some who play with the word "synopsis" in confusing ways. Here's what I mean by this:

    Some will refer to that little mini thing of a paragraph or two in your query letter as a "synopsis" but a true "synopsis" is just that--an encompassing synopsis of your book. Some ask for long ones, some for short. After mulling this carefully and considering a zillion different sources I personally decided that it would be most worth it to focus on generating a shorter single synopsis. Thus mine came out to be all encompassing but short enough to fit two pages with standard margin double spaced. Most, I have found, don't ask for an outline or synopsis--just a query + MS sample pages or not and, if so, at varying lengths from five pages up to three chapters.

    Now my interpretation of an "outline vs synopsis" would be an unvoiced spoonfeed of the book by chapter (outline) compared to a carefully crafted digest (synopsis). But I don't have an agent yet, so take from that what it's worth. Though I will tell you this. What I say is based on tons of books and lots of research on the topic.

    Sometimes I think you have to give the agent the closest you can without killing yourself. It's a numbers game. For example, I can't get my synopsis any shorter really and have it provide what I feel a synopsis should (it already omits very important and in my opinion essential elements) so if they ask for a 1 pager they get my two (and contrariwise, if they ask for a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis (which is really more an outline, or more specifically a chapter summary, aka chapter by chapter summary) they also get my two pager, but most are pretty flexible. I could have prepared a long chapter by chapter summary or outline for a fourth packet item, but I am telling you it's very rare that they ask for something like this.

    I have even run into agents who HATE synopses; I actually like how mine turned out but still agree with this sentiment. If I could have distilled the book to a synopsis it would have been a synopsis in the first place (and I could submit the damned thing to a magazine!)

    Good Luck out there! If you are writing anything beyond a very narrow class of books these days you'll need it.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018 at 2:51 PM
    DueNorth, Stormburn and jannert like this.
  3. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member

    Jan 4, 2017
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    San Diego
  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    In this context, I would consider "outline" and "synopsis" to be synonyms. I'd be really surprised if the agent was looking for bullet points or headings or any of that.

    And, yes, double-spaced when they mention a certain number of pages.

    Good luck!
  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Mar 21, 2012
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    I never understand how it matters. If people can't progress ten words in a sequence, and then ten, and then another ten, how is an individual over e-mail ever going to progress the dialogue? Why even try?

    Giro Conspiracy is a ten fousand word thriller at the YA market

    piss off.

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018 at 10:07 PM
    Cave Troll likes this.

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