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gjdevlin
05-30-2017, 08:23 PM
Well, that's not to say I'm not preparing one - I am. I think it's important to have one regardless of your querying process but while I'm researching agents to query, I've seen some places where agents just want a query and the first ten pages etc.

Have you ever landed an agent without sending a single synopsis?

Are some agents loath to read the synopsis?

eqb
05-30-2017, 08:42 PM
A few of the agents I queried wanted to see a synopsis, but that was usually when they requested a partial.

Myrealana
05-30-2017, 08:48 PM
If they ask for one, then yes, you need it.

If they don't, then don't.

I have 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 page synopses ready to use. Yes, I've had agents, contests or editors ask for all these different lengths.

2gregory
05-30-2017, 09:18 PM
You should definitely have one ready. Even if an agent doesn't ask for one with the query, they may well ask if they request pages.

gjdevlin
05-31-2017, 12:26 AM
Great responses- thanks!

gbhike
11-17-2017, 03:07 AM
I know this is old but I was just searching for the topic and came across this. I've heard and have figured that having a synopsis handy is always a great idea, even if you never end up needing it. Better to write it out thoughtfully and not end up using it than to have one requested from you and have to scramble around at the last second.

ancon
11-17-2017, 03:22 AM
i don't send them when asked. i state a simple truth--i would make JAWS boring in a synopsis. i just try to expose the bones/spine of what i've written, in a very brief paragraph or two without giving the twists and turns away. i want them to read the story, not the synopsis.

Aggy B.
11-17-2017, 04:00 AM
i don't send them when asked. i state a simple truth--i would make JAWS boring in a synopsis. i just try to expose the bones/spine of what i've written, in a very brief paragraph or two without giving the twists and turns away. i want them to read the story, not the synopsis.

The point of the synopsis is to let the agent (or editor) see in quick fashion what the main beats and structure of the story are. It's not meant to be particularly interesting, it's meant to show exactly how the main plot unfolds.

Refusing to write one or send one, especially when *asked*, especially if you are actually telling folks "I don't do that." is very likely to get you a "Hard to work with" checkmark by your name.

Synopses are a pain to write, incredibly dull (even when they are exactly how they need to be), and a vital tool in your writers tool kit. (Any time you pitch a series? You'll probably need a synopsis for each sequel. Not always long, but a single paragraph/expanded logline may not
be enough. Especially if you are still early in your career/haven't proved you can write a series. Especially if the project you're pitching is complex.)

Fruitbat
11-17-2017, 04:05 AM
@ancon- I agree with Aggy. I would always send what they ask for because not following their instructions is not a good first impression. But you can always request help with it in SYW (after you get 50 posts).

ancon
11-17-2017, 04:20 AM
i guess i like to be cantankerous at times! ha. i want them to read my novel, not a summary of it. they're trying to go down easy street scanning a synopsis. nah. don't like that. either read the story or don't. btw, a little bit of 'hard to work with' i believe is already checked by my name. i'm okay with it.:)

Fruitbat
11-17-2017, 04:23 AM
i guess i like to be a bit cantankerous! ha. i want them to read my novel, not a summary of it. they're trying to go down easy street scanning a synopsis. nah. don't like that. either read the story or don't.

Well, you know how it goes though. He who has the gold makes the rules, right?

ancon
11-17-2017, 04:32 AM
you don't have to obey the rules, though, with submitting, etc. you can if you want to. lots of paths to the top of the mountain, as the old saying goes!

mccardey
11-17-2017, 04:59 AM
you don't have to obey the rules, though, with submitting, etc. you can if you want to. lots of paths to the top of the mountain, as the old saying goes!Um - okay. But what if you want to be trade published? Which I'm assuming you kind of do because why would you write yourself a synopsis of your own self-published book?

ETA: I'm assuming you're not already a very successful novelist with a reputation for being worth dealing with despite the - yanno - Thing. If you are already a very successful novelist with a reputation for being worth dealing with despite the Thing, it would be a kindness to mention it, in case new writers read this and think your advice applies accross the board. Which it doesn't. Obvsly.

mpack
11-17-2017, 05:02 AM
i guess i like to be cantankerous at times! ha. i want them to read my novel, not a summary of it. they're trying to go down easy street scanning a synopsis. nah. don't like that. either read the story or don't. btw, a little bit of 'hard to work with' i believe is already checked by my name. i'm okay with it.:)

Agents often ask for a synopsis along with sample chapters. The excerpt gives an indication of the quality and style of your writing, while the synopsis demonstrates a complete narrative arc. Even if you're not subbing to agents, synopsis-writing is a skill to master as it can help you review the structure of your own work during revisions as well as planning future work.

Aggy B.
11-17-2017, 05:07 AM
you don't have to obey the rules, though, with submitting, etc. you can if you want to. lots of paths to the top of the mountain, as the old saying goes!

Um, no. If an agent asks for something and you either don't give it to them or give them something completely different (especially if it's obvious you are doing so deliberately) guess where the MS goes?

If your goal is self-publication, then sure. You can, in a certain sense, do whatever you want. If you are searching for an agent, a person you will be entering into a business partnership with, then it is in everyone's best interest to supply them with the material they ask for. (A lot of agents don't ask for a synopsis because they don't like reading them any more than we like writing them. But if they ask, they have a reason for doing so. Part of which consists of, "Can I work with this person? Will they provide what I need in order to effectively pitch their work?")

Just like, if you asked an agent for a copy of their agency agreement and they said "No, I don't do those because all that legal language is boring. But it's mostly like what you'd expect," you would not consider them to be a reliable business partner.

Davy The First
11-17-2017, 05:14 AM
The underlying issue, is that most authors find a synopsis difficult.

It is.

It's the one thing that takes a lot of practice. Re the 'boring, bones' element. Once you've done it for a number of times, you should be able to also enter the emotional arc of the story, which I feel, it vital for a synopsis to carry impact.

ancon
11-17-2017, 05:16 AM
i'll just stick with my statement that i am not a good synopsis writer or fly fisherman, and unfortunately i make a poor skillet of cabbage, salt pork and potatoes. i try to use my query letter, etc, to get a read. i try to stay away from submitting summaries, etc. if my query has a good hook and the novel has a good first page, they'll keep reading as long as the story stays interesting and true. gotta be true. i want a reader to read and feel the first page of the novel and not the first page of a synopsis. mine always read like wintertime in February. the taste of a bad first date. etc.

also, aggy, one time q few years ago i would not sign an agency agreement. didn't suit me.

mccardey
11-17-2017, 05:17 AM
gotta be true.
Yeah. It's not, though. But let us know how it works out for you.

Aggy B.
11-17-2017, 05:29 AM
also, aggy, one time q few years ago i would not sign an agency agreement. didn't suit me.

And this has what to do with you not writing a synopsis? This actually underscores the point of having certain things in writing. They showed you the terms rather than expecting you would just be excited enough by the idea to jump all the way in. (Which is frequently why agents want a synopsis along with the sample pages. It gives them an idea if they want to spend the time reading the whole MS.)

First chapters are frequently more polished than any other part of the book. And a lot of books fall apart plot-wise - something that is frequently obvious in the synopsis. A good opening is good, but it may not be enough to convince an agent to spend three hours reading your MS when they have plenty of folks giving them good first chapters *and* an overview of how the book unfolds.

ancon
11-17-2017, 05:38 AM
it has to do with us, as writers, not having to follow all the writing rules.

agree about your point, i think. :) my stuff can get a bit crumbly after about page 200. sometimes after page 2. i've been lucky to sell a couple of novels and i'm trying to sell a couple more (good grief it is a tough market), and know i'm getting boring, but i don't write summaries of my stories. i will write a paragraph or two (like what would be on a book jacket). i simply want them to start reading the mss (with a sense from my query of what sort of story it is, where it is heading, etc, stakes)

mccardey
11-17-2017, 05:43 AM
Have you ever landed an agent without sending a single synopsis?

I have, but it was in the 1990s. It's different now. I just sent my latest off to my agent and she asked if I'd mind sending a synop as well because many publishers do like them. She was quite apologetic, but it took maybe 40 minutes and then maybe 30 more of polish. It wasn't difficult. Don't let it scare you :)

mpack
11-17-2017, 05:47 AM
i'll just stick with my statement that i am not a good synopsis writer

Who is? Not me. But you can get better. It's a craft. It can be learned and practiced.

mccardey
11-17-2017, 05:57 AM
Who is? Not me. But you can get better. It's a craft. It can be learned and practiced.I wonder - because I'm seeing a lot of people whose views I respect saying that it's hard - whether it falls somewhere along the pantser/plotter line. I find plotting almost impossible and terrifying and all the hard words - it's way beyond me. But once the thing's written, a synop is pretty easy. I just kind of write down what happened from the mc's point of view.

Query letters, though - they do seem like a special kind of hell.

lizmonster
11-17-2017, 06:00 AM
it has to do with us, as writers, not having to follow all the writing rules.

Assuming you actually want representation, why on Earth would you make it harder for yourself?

ancon
11-17-2017, 06:05 AM
i want them to read the real deal. the STORY. and they can choose to read it or not. up to them, of course.
,

ancon
11-17-2017, 06:16 AM
in response--i'm not making anything...more difficult.

lizmonster
11-17-2017, 06:38 AM
in response--i'm not making anything...more difficult.

Well, you're not making it more difficult for them.

be frank
11-17-2017, 06:38 AM
in response--i'm not making anything...more difficult.

Well ... you are. But only for yourself. :)

Your argument of "They should read the book, not the summary!" is lovely in theory, but it isn't the reality.

By your own admission, your stories sometimes fall apart before the end. That's what the synopsis is for -- it stops an agent wasting their time on something that doesn't hold together. It doesn't spoil the entire story (there's no way 1-2 pages can contain more than a fraction of a book's plot-lines). It's simply there to show an agent that your book is coherent; that the problems/goals raised at the start are resolved at the end.

Are they fun to write? IME, no. Are they a necessary evil? Yep.

Old Hack
11-17-2017, 11:49 AM
i don't send them when asked. i state a simple truth--i would make JAWS boring in a synopsis. i just try to expose the bones/spine of what i've written, in a very brief paragraph or two without giving the twists and turns away. i want them to read the story, not the synopsis.

All synopses are boring. They're not meant to be exciting, they're meant to be functional.

If you don't send a synopsis when asked for one, you might just as well not bother submitting.


i guess i like to be cantankerous at times! ha. i want them to read my novel, not a summary of it. they're trying to go down easy street scanning a synopsis. nah. don't like that. either read the story or don't. btw, a little bit of 'hard to work with' i believe is already checked by my name. i'm okay with it.:)

Using a synopsis isn't "go[ing] down easy street", and suggesting that editors and agents use them in order to avoid reading submissions is not only showing that you're clueless in this instance, it's being very disrespectful towards them, too.

We read synopses to ensure the plot hangs together before committing hours to reading the full ms. Synopses aren't read instead of novels, they're read as part of the decision-making process.


you don't have to obey the rules, though, with submitting, etc. you can if you want to. lots of paths to the top of the mountain, as the old saying goes!

Of course you don't have to obey the rules! But if you want representation by a good agent, or publication by a good publisher, you need to respect their needs and provide what they ask for.

I understand you don't like writing synopses, and think they're dull, and all of that. But you're not alone. Very few people like writing them. Very few people--agents and editors included--find them exciting or interesting. But they perform a very useful function: they show editors and agents that you can write a story that hangs together. That works. That doesn't suddenly change genre or veer into the unreal.

By all means, carry on not writing synopses. Just recognise that you're cutting off your nose to spite your face by doing so.


I wonder - because I'm seeing a lot of people whose views I respect saying that it's hard - whether it falls somewhere along the pantser/plotter line. I find plotting almost impossible and terrifying and all the hard words - it's way beyond me. But once the thing's written, a synop is pretty easy. I just kind of write down what happened from the mc's point of view.

Query letters, though - they do seem like a special kind of hell.

I don't like writing synopses or queries. It's hard to condense something you've taken 80,000 words to say into just a few paragraphs. Hateful things, they are.

I used to have to write book blurbs too. I hated that as well.

mccardey
11-17-2017, 11:56 AM
I don't like writing synopses or queries. It's hard to condense something you've taken 80,000 words to say into just a few paragraphs. Hateful things, they are. .
You made my synopsis :cry:

cornflake
11-17-2017, 12:13 PM
i want them to read the real deal. the STORY. and they can choose to read it or not. up to them, of course.
,

I want a pony.

Why do you think they, with inboxes stuffed with queries, should do what you want, if you can't bother to do what they want, exactly?

CameronJohnston
11-17-2017, 01:12 PM
Assuming you actually want representation, why on Earth would you make it harder for yourself?

This. Why set yourself up for rejection? Many agents/editors with hundreds or thousands of submissions will automatically reject an incorrect submission, thinking (probably correctly) that if the writer can't be bothered taking the time to send them what they are asking for then they won't have taken care over the novel either. Don't give them that opportunity. Usually they will read the first 3 chapters/10k words and only then glance over the synopsis to see where the story is going, and if that is for them.

Putputt
11-17-2017, 01:27 PM
in response--i'm not making anything...more difficult.

There's an easy solution for you in all this: Don't query agents who require a synopsis. Problem solved. When I queried about 3 years ago, most US agents did not ask for a synopsis. I hear now that more and more are asking for one. I'm guessing this is because they've been burned so many times by MSs that are polished in the beginning and then fall apart in the second half. Requiring a synopsis isn't the "easy way out", it's more the efficient method. While interning for an agent, I found to my frustration that I'd sometimes fall in love with an MS which starts out wonderfully, only to fall apart in the second half. Two MSs come to mind:

MS1: Adult thriller. Brilliant writing, tension is amazingly built-up, characters are complex...and then in the last 1/3 of the book, it turns out literally EVERY single female character in the book is a sex offender preying on kids (the story is set in a high school). This obviously is a problem because 1, it's just not believable that all 4 female characters turn out to individually be sexual predators, and 2, just...ugh. Yech. The agent asked for an R&R, but ultimately the author didn't want to do one, so it was a waste of time for everybody involved.

MS2: Historical MG Fantasy. Lovely writing, very atmospheric, lovable MC...last fifty pages of the book, everything fell apart. The plot unraveled, the rules of magic which so far have been followed are suddenly broken willy-nilly (the MC can suddenly fly, which isn't a thing that has happened at any time and is unexplained, the bad guys suddenly have guns when the story is set in medieval England), and the MC, who's been plucky and amazing so far, suddenly turns into a shrill, helpless victim who has to be helped out of the final fight. Again, what a waste of everybody's time. The author did not get an offer, nor an R&R, because the MS required so much work to stitch back together.

Sooo personally, based on what limited experience I've had, if I were an agent, I would ask for a synopsis. As a writer, I would highly recommend learning to write one. When my agent submitted one of my MSs, an editor rejected it, but asked if I would be interested in subbing to her new imprint. The proposal would include: 3 chapters and a synopsis. Stuff like this happens. If you're going to reject them based on "I don't do synopses", you're just stacking the odds against yourself.

mccardey
11-17-2017, 01:55 PM
If you're going to reject them based on "I don't do synopses", you're just stacking the odds against yourself. Which, of course, you are totally entitled to do and all the other submitting, synopsis-writing writers won't mind at all. :evil

Putputt
11-17-2017, 02:21 PM
Which, of course, you are totally entitled to do and all the other submitting, synopsis-writing writers won't mind at all. :evil

Well. Yes. Hur hur.

Helix
11-17-2017, 02:33 PM
I don't get it. An author spends all that time writing a 70,000--100,000-word manuscript, but a one-page synopsis is an outrageous impost.

PeteMC
11-17-2017, 03:45 PM
There's another thing you're missing here as well. Suppose you do get offered rep by the agent you didn't write a synopsis for. Suppose they manage to sell your book to a publisher without a synopsis. Big suppositions I know, but work with me here.

Suppose the publisher says "we love this and think it has potential to be a smash-hit trilogy."

It's great when that happens. You know what they'll say next?

"Send us the synopses for the other two books."

ancon
11-17-2017, 06:52 PM
i certainly don't know anything but will try to clarify. if i want someone to read my novel, i send what i hope is a compelling query letter, and then, if they are interested, i submit sample chapters or the full mss. it's a pretty simple process. i do not want to send a summary of the story, except for the brief paragraph or two about it in the query. i want them to begin to read the story, not the summary. i have had luck with sending queries where the whole thing is dear mr or ms so-and-so followed immediately by the beginning pages, and at the end writing, 'if you'd like to read more, please give me a shout.' anything that works for a writer is a good thing. if a writer wants to craft a five or ten page synopsis and thinks it will help and has helped in the past, they of course certainly should. i do not thinks it helps me and it is not out of laziness for not doing it. it is that i find it less effective than how i go about things now. i do think blasting out a summary/rough outline can be helpful sometimes with a story that seems lost or has found itself in a corner, has grown tired, makes you want to bang your head on the keyboard, etc. basically more of a writing tool than a selling tool.

Aggy B.
11-17-2017, 08:38 PM
I'm not sure I've found any agent that wanted a synopsis instead of pages. For me it was always requested along with query+sample or along with a partial/full request. No one was reading my synopsis *instead* of my MS.

The agent I signed with did not ask for a synopsis with the query or the full MS. He *did* ask for one when he spent an hour and a half on the phone going through notes for revisions. (He wanted a synopsis/outline that would show him where/how I was planning to make changes before I spend 3 months making the revisions.) Then he wanted a synopsis for each sequel in the trilogy. As he has done with every other project I've sent him that is not a strict standalone.

The small press I'm working with wanted short synopses for sequels to the first series they signed. (And when I pitched them a second series a month or so ago it consisted of sample pages and, well, synopses for each book.) This is a common tool for editor and agents to get an overview of a project. Sure, they still want pages - that's what let's them know you can write. Sure, especially with the first/second project you show them, they will want the entire MS before they make any sort of decision.

Refusing to learn how to write one, or refusing to work with anyone who might ever want to see a synopsis, seriously cuts down your potential business partners. That is your decision, but you should be aware of how big a risk you are taking here. It's akin to pasting the whole MS into the email instead of the first five pages because you want the agent to "read the story." It doesn't matter how confident you are that once they read the opening lines they'll want the whole thing, that's not what they're asking for.

Best of luck.

EMaree
11-17-2017, 08:48 PM
i certainly don't know anything but will try to clarify. if i want someone to read my novel, i send what i hope is a compelling query letter, and then, if they are interested, i submit sample chapters or the full mss. it's a pretty simple process. i do not want to send a summary of the story, except for the brief paragraph or two about it in the query. i want them to begin to read the story, not the summary. i have had luck with sending queries where the whole thing is dear mr or ms so-and-so followed immediately by the beginning pages, and at the end writing, 'if you'd like to read more, please give me a shout.' anything that works for a writer is a good thing. if a writer wants to craft a five or ten page synopsis and thinks it will help and has helped in the past, they of course certainly should. i do not thinks it helps me and it is not out of laziness for not doing it. it is that i find it less effective than how i go about things now. i do think blasting out a summary/rough outline can be helpful sometimes with a story that seems lost or has found itself in a corner, has grown tired, makes you want to bang your head on the keyboard, etc. basically more of a writing tool than a selling tool.

So, to be clear, what do you do when an agent replies to the query with 'sense me the first fifty pages and a synopsis' (or has similar in their query guidelines)? Do you just ignore them? Because that's a fairly rude way to start a relationship.

Synopses are used by agents to cut down on time spent reading stories that fall apart in the end, or end in a way that isn't their cuppa tea, and to show that the writer understands structure. By telling an agent "despite your request, I want you to read the full thing", what you are actually saying is "I value my time above yours" -- you're valuing the time it would take to learn how to make a good synopsis, and the discomfort you feel with the idea, above the time they'd be saved.

Starting off a conversation with a human by saying "I refuse to do something you've asked, that will make your life easier" is a negative way to start any social interaction. Does that make sense?

ancon
11-17-2017, 09:39 PM
thanks for the thoughtful notes and good wishes. all good stuff and well received. this synopsis business can really stir up a hornets nest i have found out. ha.

i know how to write a synopsis. but i choose instead to write a brief paragraph or two in the query describing the story, a little about me, and then put it in a bottle with sample pages or the full mss (if requested), cork it and throw it into the ocean and see where the tides take it. i have had a bit of success with the method. i started out writing (trying to write) screenplays. found out i was too long-winded. not very good at it. my screenplay efforts read like novels with slug-lines. i would describe the curtains, the pout on a face, etc. i was taught early back then if someone in hollywood-land asked for a treatment, to try instead to get your script in front of their eyes. not the treatment (summary). i believe that to be good advice.

lizmonster
11-17-2017, 10:01 PM
i have had a bit of success with the method.

I'm very glad you've had success.

It's bad general advice, though. Most of the time when an agent or publisher asks for a synopsis, it's for a very specific reason, and if you can't or won't provide it you're severely limiting your prospects.

There are times when rule-breaking can work. Most of the time, though, you increase the chances of someone viewing your work when you follow the instructions they've laid out for you.

ancon
11-17-2017, 10:14 PM
i may be being a hard-head about this, but if i have thought about a story for YEARS, tried to get a handhold on it numerous times but it always vanished, but then one day the sun shined on that thing and it was beautiful and i knew i had it but then it took MONTHS to court and woo it and finally write it all out as it finally came together and pouring out onto the page, and then spend more MONTHS reworking and honing that story...to me it is not too much to ask if someone is interested in that story, to at least read some of it, and not a summary of it. i don't care about the agent's time, etc. are they wasting time by reading my story instead of a summary...well if they think so, stop reading it. i care about the story finding the right place. like in a bar...you spot someone and you click. boom! it's there and you know it is. it is so different if your friend is describing someone you may click with.

mccardey
11-17-2017, 11:38 PM
i may be being a hard-head about this, but if i have thought about a story for YEARS, tried to get a handhold on it numerous times but it always vanished, but then one day the sun shined on that thing and it was beautiful and i knew i had it but then it took MONTHS to court and woo it and finally write it all out as it finally came together and pouring out onto the page, and then spend more MONTHS reworking and honing that story...to me it is not too much to ask if someone is interested in that story, to at least read some of it, and not a summary of it. i don't care about the agent's time, etc. are they wasting time by reading my story instead of a summary...well if they think so, stop reading it. i care about the story finding the right place. like in a bar...you spot someone and you click. boom! it's there and you know it is. it is so different if your friend is describing someone you may click with.You realise that if they've asked for a synopsis and you decide not to write one because Reasons, it's highly unlikely that you'll get read at all - even by an intern. If the package doesn't contain the requested items, an intern is unlikely to say Well, I'll just have a bit of a read anyway. They're going to say Can't follow instructions, just like the 30 other instruction-non-followers I've binned today.

Well they won't say that, because they're busy and time is pressing. They'll just bin it. But you'll get pretty much the same kind of form rejection - and parsing it for positive feels when it says "Not right for our list at this time" is not going to do you any favours either. But it's your career. I just wouldn't be throwing the Don't Follow The Rules advice around quite so freely until I had some pretty major weight behind it as a strategy. It's not good advice.

Newbie writers - follow the rules when you're submitting! Break them later, if you like, but give yourself a chance to get published before you start re-creating publishing.

ancon
11-18-2017, 12:05 AM
i haven't been giving advice, just yakking about my viewpoint and experience. if i would give advice in this thread it would be to STAND OUT. find ways to separate yourself from the herd through your writing. your words. make them count. don't be so worried you may annoy someone by bending or ignoring some 'rule' or whatever, etc. good conversation. i'll bow out of it now...i'm getting a bit repetitive.

mccardey
11-18-2017, 12:09 AM
STAND OUT.
<<snip>>
don't be so worried you may annoy someone by bending or ignoring some 'rule' or whatever, etc. .

That sounds like advice and it's really bad advice if the 'rules' you're suggesting should be ignored are the ones about suiting your submission to the agent/publishers guidelines.


you don't have to obey the rules, though, with submitting, etc. you can if you want to. lots of paths to the top of the mountain, as the old saying goes!

This also sounded like advice. Bad advice. And yes, it is getting repetitive. You will submit in the way that suits you, but I do wish you'd stop suggesting that ignoring the publishers guidelines is going to help you stand out. Do your research (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-hummel/why-agents-reject-96-of-a_b_4247045.html). More people ignore the guidelines than follow them. It's not a Brave New Thing - it's just silly and unprofessional.

Old Hack
11-18-2017, 12:25 AM
i may be being a hard-head about this, but if i have thought about a story for YEARS, tried to get a handhold on it numerous times but it always vanished, but then one day the sun shined on that thing and it was beautiful and i knew i had it but then it took MONTHS to court and woo it and finally write it all out as it finally came together and pouring out onto the page, and then spend more MONTHS reworking and honing that story...to me it is not too much to ask if someone is interested in that story, to at least read some of it, and not a summary of it. i don't care about the agent's time, etc. are they wasting time by reading my story instead of a summary...well if they think so, stop reading it. i care about the story finding the right place. like in a bar...you spot someone and you click. boom! it's there and you know it is. it is so different if your friend is describing someone you may click with.


i haven't been giving advice, just yakking about my viewpoint and experience. if i would give advice in this thread it would be to STAND OUT. find ways to separate yourself from the herd through your writing. your words. make them count. don't be so worried you may annoy someone by bending or ignoring some 'rule' or whatever, etc. good conversation. i'll bow out of it now...i'm getting a bit repetitive.

Ancon, I understand your point, I really do. We all want people to love our work because it's so good, and not because they read some little synopsis and thought that would do. We want people to understand.

Thing is, by taking this stance you're shooting yourself in the foot AND insulting publishing professionals AND insulting writers who have succeeded while writing synopses.

Yes, it's preferable for agents and editors to read the book rather than to judge it by reading a synopsis.

No, most editors and agents don't have time to read a book to find out if it hangs together properly after the first thirty pages.

No, it's not unreasonable for them to want to check that your book works before reading any further.

Yes, I can completely understand your stance.

No, I don't think it's a good way to proceed, despite that.

cornflake
11-18-2017, 12:45 AM
i certainly don't know anything but will try to clarify. if i want someone to read my novel, i send what i hope is a compelling query letter, and then, if they are interested, i submit sample chapters or the full mss. it's a pretty simple process. i do not want to send a summary of the story, except for the brief paragraph or two about it in the query. i want them to begin to read the story, not the summary. i have had luck with sending queries where the whole thing is dear mr or ms so-and-so followed immediately by the beginning pages, and at the end writing, 'if you'd like to read more, please give me a shout.' anything that works for a writer is a good thing. if a writer wants to craft a five or ten page synopsis and thinks it will help and has helped in the past, they of course certainly should. i do not thinks it helps me and it is not out of laziness for not doing it. it is that i find it less effective than how i go about things now. i do think blasting out a summary/rough outline can be helpful sometimes with a story that seems lost or has found itself in a corner, has grown tired, makes you want to bang your head on the keyboard, etc. basically more of a writing tool than a selling tool.

When did that approach work for you? I'm just taking a flier here, but I'm going to guess it was a lot of years ago.

bigbluepencil
11-18-2017, 01:01 AM
I've been lurking for a good while now, but your thread really struck me, ancon, so I had to respond. As a writer, I totally feel your pain, would rather have a tooth pulled without novocaine than write a synop. So, when reading the slush pile as an editor, I gave writers a break. Didn't read the synop. More important to me was jumping into the book and reading as if I were a public reader. If hooked, I tried to snatch that book and author for my roster. If a plot twist or character's actions stymied me (at our pub, we had to read the entire ms unless it was just too horrible to go on), I checked the synop to see what was supposed to have happened/get a better sense of the character. If the book had captured me, the query was polite and friendly (which told me I'd enjoy working with the author), I'd keep reading 'til the end with the mental note that the wacky area would be a discussion with the writer later. We required a two or three page synop, query and entire ms for subs. Senior editors, like me, if the synop wasn't there and the blurb in the query didn't grab us, we'd ask the publisher to just push the instant reject button. We were a very small pub, but a slow day was six books in the slush pile. Minimum word count 60K. 30 authors were already on my roster. Hungry to add to their list, a junior ed might protest instant rejection if the writer were lucky. But then the publisher would request a synop from the author. Thems the rules, at least at ours.
Each point everyone has made here is exactly on target. They absolutely know what they're talking about and you should take their advice or expect a ton of rejections. They're trying to save you frustration and heartache. Moi? More than twenty rejections before I became an editor just so I could learn what editors wanted. But, think of this too: The synop is often waaaay more important once your work has been accepted. If, as at our pub, a team writes the blurb and tag line, they need it. They're not paid enough to read your entire book, and you'd want the best marketing, right? Whoever creates the cover also might want it to refer to. I managed the line editors too; often they're not given a synop, but they're the last bastion before your book goes live/hits the presses. If a plot point mystifies them, they need the synop to advise you and your ed on corrections.
Maybe two of my roster authors actually liked writing synops and were good at it. The writer me worshiped at their altar. With the others, I had a support group. JK, but not really. They'd send me their sub, I'd read it and send them a long email that was totally "this happened then this happened then this happened." They'd write the synop, and if I loved the book, I'd ask acceptance. Your beta readers might do that for you, saving you from banging your head against your keyboard. The synop, after all, is all about objectivity, whether you're a pantser or a plotter. If you have no beta readers, a good trick is to put your work on 75% on Print Preview(I use Word) or the equivalent. Objectivity gained. :-)

The Otter
11-18-2017, 01:02 AM
My agent asked for a synopsis after seeing the query and sample pages. Not all of them do, but it's a good thing to have on hand.

I understand the reluctance to send one. I'm not too good at synopsis-writing (is anyone?) and there are times in the past when I've screwed myself over by sending a bad synopsis that did a poor job of capturing what actually happened in the story, or that left out the most interesting aspects because I didn't quite know how to distill them into summary form. The idea that you might harm your own chances with a bad synopsis of a good story is frustrating. But if the agent asks for one and you refuse to send it, then chances are--unless they really really really liked your query and sample pages--they'll just hit the auto-reject button. They have plenty of other queries to wade through.

Synopsis-writing is a skill that's worth getting at least passably good at.

ancon
11-18-2017, 01:06 AM
okay...you all dragged me back in! :) it was about ten years ago. i'd been trying to build up my writer profile and credentials by writing for websites and magazines (cover story for THE WRITER magazine...that helped) and had read every 'how to get published' book out there, trying to sell my first novel, and i decided one day to just paste the first chapter of the novel into the body of a email with that last line, 'please give me a shout if you'd like to read more.' within an hour, i was getting a lot of requests for the full mss. i had been working on that story for years and just not having much luck getting someone interested in it with the usual query letter, etc and i was so stunned by the attention, i asked who i was living with then, if she had heard of another writer with my same name. a real writer. ha! i thought it had to be some big mistake. novel was published, was a Book Sense pick, received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, was a Barnes and Noble Book Club pick, etc. i guess all of that is why i am one to not always follow the rules. my query letter which started all of that broke all the rules. if my recollection is correct, i didn't even have my contact info below my name, etc. sometimes, i think the sunshine just comes through the window just right. only way to explain it. it was the same book i'd been trying to pitch for a long time with little luck. this is advice---don't give up on your stuff!

mccardey
11-18-2017, 01:12 AM
Congratulations on all that success, it's great to hear - but Don't Follow The Submission Guidelines remains terrible advice to give new authors on a writers ' board.

ancon
11-18-2017, 01:22 AM
ha. i believe you are more stubborn than i am!

mccardey
11-18-2017, 01:23 AM
Just looking out for the new kids. :evil

bigbluepencil
11-18-2017, 02:19 AM
Totally agree, mccardy. But congratulations, ancon, on your success. You're a rare one.

Helix
11-18-2017, 02:51 AM
Congrats (much belated!) for that success, ancon, but offering advice based on a single data point doesn't help new writers.

ancon
11-18-2017, 03:04 AM
i think you're wrong. i think it may help, but thanks for the good words. i think there are probably a gazillion stories like mine...authors who barely squeaked through the gates somehow when nobody was looking too hard or were going to the bathroom, etc. but tough to stay inside the big house and everything is so darn pretty once there! they will kick your butt right back out into the cold. it is a challenge, and for me, it is fun! it is the closest thing i can think of to fishing. real fishing. it's pretty much like all endeavors...difficult to find your way forward when you trip over your own shoes sometimes.

novicewriter
11-18-2017, 04:06 AM
...If you are already a very successful novelist with a reputation for being worth dealing with despite the Thing, it would be a kindness to mention it, in case new writers read this and think your advice applies accross the board. Which it doesn't. Obvsly.

:) Don't worry. Some of us new writers have researched literary agents' advice on this subject and are already aware that they advise authors to follow their submission instructions.

ancon
11-18-2017, 04:48 AM
i think my thoughts apply across the board.

JJ Litke
11-18-2017, 07:22 AM
i think my thoughts apply across the board.

Well bless your heart.

Having a synopsis can help spot structure problems while working on a manuscript. Even if someone plans to self-publish, it's a good idea.

ancon
11-18-2017, 07:46 AM
of course it can be helpful, for some. thanks for the good wishes. i've said the same thing in this thread re a synopsis can help to spot structure problems, etc. bless your heart, too. :)

amergina
11-18-2017, 08:27 AM
I actually did land an agent without sending a synopsis. But I also didn't query, either. I pitched in person, and sent two requested partials. I pitched one book, and she asked about another she'd heard me mention earlier that day. (Very small conference--I mentioned working on a m/m paranormal romance in passing to someone else.)

It was the partials that got me the fulls that got me an agreement.

HOWEVER--I had to learn to write synopses. Because they're a tool used to pitch manuscripts to editors at publishing houses. I've sold four books by writing three chapters and synopses for other books in the series. And the book that's currently my avatar? Sold only with a synopsis (to a pub I worked with before so they knew my writing). That book got a starred review in Publishers Weekly recently, so I can't be doing too bad with my method. *shrug*

I've found synopses very useful as a writing tool for myself. My first step in plotting out a book is to figure out the character arcs. Then I write a synopsis--from which I write a loose outline--then I write the book. Yes, sometimes bits of the story shift in the writing, because I'm still a bit of a discovery writer, but it's so useful to know the main flow of the novel, the shape of the story.

I initially hated synopses, but they really are a very useful tool for me both in the writing and the selling of my novels, so I'm glad I got over myself and learned how to write them.

And really, learning that was just a matter of sitting down and doing. Kinda like how I learned to write novels!

Sage
11-18-2017, 07:34 PM
There are plenty of authors who got published by ignoring the rules and doing whatever they felt like. Their book spoke enough to the agent or publisher that they were willing to overlook the way it came to them. I remember a bestselling author speaking at a SCBWI conference about how he walked in to the publisher's office, only to find he was in their warehouse, and an employee took pity on him and introduced him to an editor, who loved his book and published it. But nobody's going to tell you to walk in to a publisher's office (much less their warehouse). Stories like that are much more interesting than "I followed the agent/publisher's submission guidelines and now my book's in stores," so they get told more and stand out when they do. It ignores the authors who were turned away at the door because it's a big no-no to visit the publisher's office with a pitch. It ignores the people who were rejected because they didn't follow the guidelines. Yes, there are agents who will say, "Oh, I love this pitch and first pages, but no synopsis... Okay, I'll ask for it with the full," but why take the risk that, instead, the agent (or the agent's slush readers) goes, "Hmm, can't follow directions. Problem client. Moving on"?

Synopses are not that scary. Really, they aren't. All you have to do is show that your book has a beginning, middle, and end and everything flows in a logical manner. Once you bite the bullet and write one, you have one to submit to every synopsis-requesting agent out there. Easy! And those agents know exactly what synopses look like. It's not groundbreaking to think that they're not as sexy as queries and the novel itself. They're not meant to be.

WeaselFire
11-19-2017, 03:45 AM
you don't have to obey the rules...

And the people who make the rules don't have to accept your work. There are a whole lot of unpublished or poorly received self-published authors who decided to buck the system. :)

Jeff

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:00 AM
good thoughts from all for sure. more wise than mine. i bucked the system a bit this evening...had a delicious buck venison tenderloin biscuit. i mean, it was delicious. but i think it can help to not think of a dang bit of trying to get an agent/get published et al as a 'system' but more of a journey, a date, or a strange meal.

out in the city, at night, you walk the sidewalk, hold the hand of your new special, you love the feel of her hand, and you eventually find a restaurant where the service is pretty terrible but you sit at a table and love every moment of where you're at and what you're doing and the way she smiles and the way they keep your water glass filled, the smell from the kitchen smells good coming out the doors of some places you walk by on a cold night, and this place smelled the best to your special one. so that's where you went with her, even thought you were scared you couldn't afford it. after looking at the menu, you may have to go to the bathroom to check your wallet if you have the loot to eat there. your hands shake counting the ones and fives and the three tens. it is all you have. there is nothing else. will it be enough...anyway, i just made that up and it;s rough and stinks but it is hard to get stuff like that in a synopsis: stephanie and joe went out to eat. they held hands walking down the sidewalk. joe looked at the menu and didn't know if he had the money to pay for the meal.

mccardey
11-19-2017, 07:02 AM
Punctuation is your friend. Unless punctuation is another thing that doesn't apply to you...

Helix
11-19-2017, 07:03 AM
good thoughts from all for sure. more wise than mine. i bucked the system a bit this evening...had a delicious buck venison tenderloin biscuit. i mean, it was delicious. but i think it can help to not think of a dang bit of trying to get an agent/get published et al as a 'system' but more of a journey, a date, or a strange meal.

out in the city, at night, you walk the sidewalk, hold the hand of your new special, you love the feel of her hand, and you eventually find a restaurant where the service is pretty terrible but you sit at a table and love every moment of where you're at and what you're doing and the way she smiles and the way they keep your water glass filled, the smell from the kitchen smells good coming out the doors of some places you walk by on a cold night, and this place smelled the best to your special one. so that's where you went with her, even thought you were scared you couldn't afford it. after looking at the menu, you may have to go to the bathroom to check your wallet if you have the loot to eat there. your hands shake counting the ones and fives and the three tens. it is all you have. there is nothing else. will it be enough...anyway, i just made that up and it;s rough and stinks but it is hard to get stuff like that in a synopsis: stephanie and joe went out to eat. they held hands walking down the sidewalk. joe looked at the menu and didn't know if he had the money to pay for the meal.

If the agent wants a synopsis, write a bloody synopsis

mccardey
11-19-2017, 07:07 AM
If the agent wants a synopsis, write a bloody synopsis

Oh. And that. (And why is venison a thing?)

Helix
11-19-2017, 07:11 AM
I'm actually writing a synopsis at the moment. It's not the most entertaining thing I've ever done, but it's a pleasant enough way to spend a too-hot-to-go-outside Sunday afternoon.

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:13 AM
pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.

lizmonster
11-19-2017, 07:13 AM
The thing is, if I gave people advice based solely on my personal experience in publishing, an awful lot of it would be lousy advice.

mccardey
11-19-2017, 07:16 AM
pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.

:popcorn:

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:17 AM
i agree. across the board. as i said way earlier in this thread, there are lots of paths to the top of the mountain. i wouldn't tell anyone they should take mine. but i would tell them it is a path. suited me.

Helix
11-19-2017, 07:18 AM
pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.

No one's stopping your from offering your personal experience, but I think you should probably also mention the degree of success that's come from it.

lizmonster
11-19-2017, 07:18 AM
pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.

By your lights, Andy Weir's advice to writers would be "Spend 9 years researching and drafting your novel, crowdsource your betas, put it up on Amazon for a buck (because they won't let you give it away for free), and the trade pub and movie deals will be beating down your door!"*

By your own admission, you'd exhausted the ordinary query system for your novel. You had nothing whatsoever to lose. To suggest to new writers that they should start out by ignoring what the agents they're addressing are specifically asking for is irresponsible.

And my sense of humor is entirely intact, thanks.

*I may have some of the details wrong here, but AFAIK that's the gist of what Weir did, although I don't think he expected the door-beating-down bit. :)

Sage
11-19-2017, 07:22 AM
FWIW, I actually loved my last synopsis. It made someone say, "Wow!" Twice. :greenie

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:23 AM
not sure what all you're talking about, but i wasn't speaking about your sense of humor.

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:24 AM
that's great sage! good luck with it!

mccardey
11-19-2017, 07:26 AM
FWIW, I actually loved my last synopsis. It made someone say, "Wow!" Twice. :greenie
Mine, too :) Loved writing it and it hit the spot. Unlike a query letter, which would kill me - but we don't use them down here, I think.

JJ Litke
11-19-2017, 07:41 AM
pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

I'm sorry, so your posts are just jokes? I thought you were being serious.


if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.

Because you're being disingenuous. You didn't just post an anecdotal story about what worked for you. You've said things like, "they're trying to go down easy street scanning a synopsis," implying that agents are lazy. And, "you don't have to obey the rules," encouraging people new to this that submission guidelines aren't worth following.

So the other people here are concerned that you are spreading bad information and trying to correct it for the benefit of people who are new to this. You, as someone who is also not new to this, could realize that perhaps your experience is not easily reproducible, and perhaps not the best advice for newbies, so it should not be presented as such. It could be a very valuable to AW (because atypical stories have high value, too), just not part of the typical standard of how people get an agent.

ancon
11-19-2017, 07:54 AM
your posts are definitely not jokes. ha!

i am sure my experience would probably not be easily reproducible (what a tough word to type) being my experience, like probably all writers, was very difficult to produce from the beginning. and took some time and great care to grow.

this place has an edge. always something i try to find in my own writing. where is the edge. i'm not trying to give the 'best advice' about anything because i have no idea what that is. just yakking with other writers about writing, methods, etc. i know as much about writing as the next writer...not too much. it is an evolving adventure.

mccardey
11-19-2017, 08:30 AM
So just to be clear (because I worry about the newbies) we have one writer saying that not following the guidelines worked once for that writer ten years ago, but is not necessarily reproducible,


i am sure my experience would probably not be easily reproducible
and whole lot of current writers and industry professionals saying it's best in general to follow the guidelines.

If that helps.

Old Hack
11-19-2017, 12:54 PM
My advice to anyone submitting anything is to have a synopsis written and ready to go before sending anything out, and to follow submission guidelines to the letter. My friend, Nicola Morgan, has written a guide called Write A Great Synopsis, which I recommend, but other resources are available.


good thoughts from all for sure. more wise than mine. i bucked the system a bit this evening...had a delicious buck venison tenderloin biscuit. i mean, it was delicious. but i think it can help to not think of a dang bit of trying to get an agent/get published et al as a 'system' but more of a journey, a date, or a strange meal.

out in the city, at night, you walk the sidewalk, hold the hand of your new special, you love the feel of her hand, and you eventually find a restaurant where the service is pretty terrible but you sit at a table and love every moment of where you're at and what you're doing and the way she smiles and the way they keep your water glass filled, the smell from the kitchen smells good coming out the doors of some places you walk by on a cold night, and this place smelled the best to your special one. so that's where you went with her, even thought you were scared you couldn't afford it. after looking at the menu, you may have to go to the bathroom to check your wallet if you have the loot to eat there. your hands shake counting the ones and fives and the three tens. it is all you have. there is nothing else. will it be enough...anyway, i just made that up and it;s rough and stinks but it is hard to get stuff like that in a synopsis: stephanie and joe went out to eat. they held hands walking down the sidewalk. joe looked at the menu and didn't know if he had the money to pay for the meal.


pretty tough group here. sense of humor is a bit...stiff as well.

if i have had success with my method, what in the world is wrong with me telling other writers about it...

they certainly get bombarded by what you all preach.


not sure what all you're talking about, but i wasn't speaking about your sense of humor.


your posts are definitely not jokes. ha!

i am sure my experience would probably not be easily reproducible (what a tough word to type) being my experience, like probably all writers, was very difficult to produce from the beginning. and took some time and great care to grow.

this place has an edge. always something i try to find in my own writing. where is the edge. i'm not trying to give the 'best advice' about anything because i have no idea what that is. just yakking with other writers about writing, methods, etc. i know as much about writing as the next writer...not too much. it is an evolving adventure.

Ancon, I'm not sure what point you're trying to prove here because your writing is unclear and you contradict yourself (see the parts I've bolded above).

You're a writer. You should know that words count.

I think we're done here.