Sunday 21 September 2014

Writing a book. My Experience and Advice on Writing a Synopsis and Book Blurb

This is one of the hardest parts of writing, in my view. You need several versions of your synopsis and a form of a synopsis is the blurb for the back of the book. The blurb should be about 250 words in length and a synopsis about 1000, in my opinion.

In its simplest form – you definitely need a one line description of your book for many reasons and the most important reason being when someone asks you what your book is about. This is a challenge, as you need a fast response describing in one sentence what might be a book comprising 70-100,000 words in a crafted and intricate plot. I would suggest starting with this problem first.

You will then need a 250 words description of your book for various sites. Your book blurb can be a little longer and it is what you are prepared to put on the back of your book, but this needs to be short and sweet. Many sites where you will eventually put your blurb will have a word or character restriction, so be prepared!

Finally, there is the synopsis which you need for a publisher or literary agent. You may also want a synopsis for your website. One option for your website is to quote reviews. However, a useful recent tip given to me by a reviewer was that she expected to find a page in my website with a synopsis, a good resolution image of the book cover (900 kb), the ISBN and the artist’s name for the cover. (Note, you will need several different sized images for marketing purposes, in the same way that you need several synopsis, blurb etc.) Any reviews, she would ignore as she wanted a synopsis to refer to for when she wrote her review. My view is that your blurb is on the back cover of the book and your reader will expect a little more than that on your website.

Note that the synopsis for a publisher or literary agent can give away the plot, but clearly you don’t want to do that for a synopsis on your website. You can see now why this is a difficult process – my advice is to craft from the bottom up: the one liner, the 250 word blurb, the book blurb and separately the synopsis.

The One Liner. Imagine yourself talking to someone (say on the radio!) about your book. Your opening statement needs to grab them. Write several one-liners and get feedback over which is the most promising. The one-liner could then feature in your 250 word blurb. It needs to be short, sweet and dramatic. Say for example, it is Tomb Raider meets James Bond in a clash of spies versus treasure hunter. That may/may not work of course, that is why you need advice.

Your Blurb. Like your one-liner this must grab attention. Power words are very useful here and there are several articles on the Internet about Power Words.

Examples of Power Words are;

For a list of many more search the Internet for “Power Words”. Be careful not to over use these though and I think two in a paragraph is about right.

Note that blurbs and also your synopsis are written in the present tense (must overcome) and third person (Harry). Again, since this is a quick process, write several blurbs and ask advice on which works best.

The above descriptions have been useful departures from the main theme of writing a synopsis. However, like my advice on writing short stories rather than a novel, there is sense in approaching it this way. It teaches you how to write succinctly and with powerful overtones. If you have mastered this then writing a synopsis will be easier.

The Synopsis. This, in my opinion should be about 1000 words. Your synopsis should focus on the main plot and not be diverted into sub-plots. Again this is in the present tense and third person.

An important feature is to put your hook up front to engage the reader and make them want to read more. Do not start a synopsis with long winded backgrounds. Read the synopsis back to yourself, video it and watch your own performance. If it doesn’t grab you then it won’t grab anyone else. As stated earlier, the synopsis is usually for a publisher or literary agent. The first paragraph is really to tempt them into reading more. If the first paragraph is weak then a publisher/literary agent or reader, simply won’t read any further.

Try it out yourself. Read the back cover (blurb) of several books and see which engage you and which do not. Learn from this and adapt your style to the ones that work.

In summary, write:
  • A one liner about your book. 
  • A 250 word blurb 
  • A 1000 word synopsis for a literary agent/publisher, with spoilers 
  • A 1000 word synopsis for your reader, without spoilers! 
I would recommend doing this in the order given above. More than happy to hear from you if you have a different experience.
Good writing



  1. It's important not only to write on your own book, but also know how to review someone else book, how to critisize foundationally etc.
    If you find troubles writing reviews you can browse this source to find some help and tips

    1. Excellent article and thanks for adding it