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How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells


How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells
Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

“How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells” by Joan Y. Edwards

In a pitch, query, pitch summary/chapter summary, or a synopsis:

  1. Mention the genre and the number of words.
  2. Use Times New Roman, Size 12 Font.
  3. Use One Inch Margins.
  4. Single or double-spaced according to the guidelines of the publisher or agent. If there are no directions online, go with your best gut feeling or the advice of someone you trust.

 A Pitch is the shortest summary of story that captures the core emotional conflict of a story.

Best selling short pitches use only one or two sentences. They call a pitch for a movie a logline. Your pitch’s job is to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and cause him to feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, respect, favor, understanding, and/or support for the main character’s predicament along with an unstoppable curiosity to find out if and how he solves his problem. If your pitch doesn’t do that, simply it does not sell. The reader closes his mind to your story and that’s it.

A Pitch tells Who, What, When, Where, and How and Why should I care? 

In the Short Selling Pitch -Elevator Pitch – (one or two sentences – 25 words or less is BEST. Keep under 60-100. Get readers to relate to your main character.Short Selling Pitch Describe an ironic emotional situation that your main character is in that cannot be solved unless this character changes. The pitch must have the biggest conflict mentioned so that the emotional pull is there for the audience. Describe his present condition in the inciting incident at which he has no hope of winning or getting what he wants (reaching his goal). In many stories, characters don’t get what they want, however, they get what they need.

Longer Selling Pitch is also only about the Main Character and one or two others in the main problem or conflict. This longer selling pitch is used as the blurb on the back of your book in a paragraph or two. It can be used as the plot summary for Amazon or Barnes & Noble to help sell the book. This longer pitch can be 60-200 words (100-300 for a romance). Lean to the fewest words you can use and still tell the story and pull in with emotion.

Use phrases from short and long pitches in conversations with editors, agents, and prospective readers. Use them also in query letters, cover letters, proposals, and beginning of a synopsis. It is a great marketing tool to persuade people to buy your book.

The Literary Consultancy in the United Kingdom shared a short pitch and a longer pitch for Pride and Prejudice:

 Short Pitch

Pride and Prejudice is a contemporary, literary romance about a woman who falls in love with a man she thinks she hates. (22 words)

Longer Pitch (Major Problem Summary)

Pride and Prejudice, a contemporary, literary novel, tells the story of Elizabeth Bennett, a proud, intelligent woman, one of five sisters, whose mother is committed to marrying her children off as a matter of urgency. Elizabeth meets Darcy, owner of a grand estate, but considers him over proud, arrogant and undesirable. In time, she learns that he is not all that he appears to be, and revises her prejudice, before they fall deeply in love. (75 words)

Non-Fiction Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for Your Book Proposal

In addition to a table of contents, your book proposal needs what Michael Larsen calls “chapter-by-chapter summary.” The chapter-by-chapter summary outlines what each chapter covers in one paragraph each.

Your Agent or Editor wants a Synopsis.

What is a synopsis? A synopsis is an outline of the plot of a book that is 2-5 pages with from 500-1250 words. If your synopsis is 25-30 pages long, the agent or editor might lose interest after the first 5, so be succinct. You don’t want your reader to fall asleep.

When you write a Synopsis, first start with your pitch summary from the blurb on the back of your book cover. After the pitch summary, then write the full synopsis using a paragraph for each plot point and tell the ending.

Scriptlab.com gives 5 major points in a video: http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns

  1. Inciting Incident
  2. Lock In
  3. Midpoint
  4. Main Culmination
  5. Third Act Twist

My Plot Points:

  • Ordinary Day
  • Inciting incident with new goal to solve a really big problem
  • First failure
  • Second failure
  • Third failure – Aha moment when he figures it out and gets brave enough to confront
  • Fight
  • Win/Lose
  • Resolution What’s it like on the new ordinary day

Bonnie Adamson, illustrator and Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Carolinas shared Darcy Pattison’s article about Synopsis: Darcy Pattison. “Synopsis: A Google Search Example:”http://www.darcypattison.com/marketing/synopsis-a-google-example/. Darcy proposes a fun and effective writing exercise for crafting synopses, blurbs, elevator pitches, based on the conventions of Google search shown through 12 phrases.

Synopsis: A Google Example: Need better marketing copy for your story? Using only 12 phrases, this video tells a story and evokes emotion.

Holly Robinson gives pointers for your synopsis:

  1. Keep your language clear and active, and focus on telling the story. As your plot unfolds, write it the way you would tell about a movie to a friend, skip the dull parts and hit the main highlights.
  2. Start the book at the first scene in the book with the main character: “From the moment she woke on that chilly February morning, Savannah Smith knew without a doubt that she would divorce her husband.”
  3. Show the beginning, middle, and end with main character conflicts and resolutions. Don’t get bogged down in details. Stick to a few main characters – perhaps the protagonist and antagonist and make their core conflicts and their emotional ups and downs, with their twists and turns.
  4. When you introduce a new character, give a quick character sketch: “Burly Jones is a 36-year-old workaholic whose biggest joys in life are horseshoes, women, and his motorcycle, not necessarily in that order.”
  5. Include perhaps one piece of dialogue between the protagonist and the antagonist to give evidence of the tone of the story.

On Internet Movie Data Base website (IMBd.com), you can check the Plot Summaries against the Synopsis. The synopsis is usually much longer. Compare the Plot Summary of Gone with the Wind with its Synopsis. The Plot Summary is approximately one page. The Synopsis goes on and on and on.Synopsis.

References:

  1. AP Watt Agent Juliet Pickering. “How to Approach a Literary Agent written by a real life AP Watt Agent:” http://bubblecow.net/how-to-approach-a-literary-agent-written-by-a-real-life-ap-watt-agent/
  2. Book Ends Literary Agency. “Synopsis:” http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/02/synopsis.html
  3. Bonnie Adamson. http://bonnieadamson.com/
  4. Cliff Daigle. “How to Pitch Your Novel:” http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/thebusinessofwriting/a/How-To-Pitch-Your-Novel.htm.
  5. Darcy Pattison. “Synopsis: A Google Search Example:”http://www.darcypattison.com/marketing/synopsis-a-google-example/
  6. Glen C. Strathy. “How to Write a Synopsis:” http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html
  7. Holly Robinson, “Synopsis Tips:” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-robinson/book-synopsis-tips_b_2426724.html
  8. Internet Movie DataBase. http://www.imdb.com
  9. Lee Allen. “How to Write a Book.now.com Plot Outline vs Synopsis:” http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline-vs-synopsis.html#sthash.eXbj8Uxa.dpuf
  10. Literary Consultancy: “Synopsis:” http://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/?s=synopsis
  11. Miss Snark. the literary agent. “Synopsis Spacing:” http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/01/synopsis-spacing.html
  12. Nathan Bransford. “How to Format a Query Letter:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/how-to-format query-letter.html
  13. Nathan Bransford. “How to Write a Synopsis:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/08/how-to-write-synopsis.html
  14. Scriptlab. “Five Plot Point Breakdowns:” http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns
  15. William Cane. “Book Proposal:” http://www.hiwrite.com/bookproposal.html

Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear your tips to make your pitch, summary, and synopsis sell! It’s not too late to enter to win a free critique on the following blog post:
Oh My Goodness! My Blog Hit 140,000 Views Today!

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

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9 Responses

  1. Joan,
    So many good pointers! Thanks so much! You packed it in here! Many will benefit from your research and sharing.

    Like

  2. Dear Linda,
    Thanks for writing. You’re welcome for the pointers. I hope they help you with your writing and marketing.

    Celebrate you all day long.
    Never Give Up
    Joan

    Like

  3. Joan, authors are always complaining that it’s hard to get reviews for their books. I think of our own e-mails as resources for blurbs (readers compliment our work there when they don’t think anyone is looking). And blurbs are sometimes even better than reviews!
    Best,
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Multi Award-Winning Author of the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers including the second editions of the Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo and The Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind )The latter is e-book only.for the time being.

    Like

    • Dear Carolyn,
      Thank you for writing. You are right. When people share about a book in their emails, these emails serve as sales blurbs for the manuscript and heighten the interest for it. I appreciate you sharing the links to my blog posts with your friends, here, there, and everywhere. You are a jewel.

      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

      • Anytime, Joan. I love to share with writers–especially when it helps keep them from falling into publishing potholes! (-:
        Best,
        Carolyn Howard-Johnson
        Multi Award-Winning Author of the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers including the second editions of the Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo and The Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind )The latter is e-book only.for the time being.

        Like

        • Dear Carolyn,
          Thank you for writing. Thank you for saving writers from the potholes of despair.

          Never Give Up
          Joan

          Like

  4. Thank you, Joan, for an excellent article. I will soon do this for a new picture book. I will use your article as my guid.

    Love,

    Janis

    Like

    • Dear Janis,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you believe the article is good enough to serve as your guide. I appreciate the compliment. Good luck with your new picture book.

      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      Like

  5. […] How to Write a Pitch, Summary, and Synopsis That Sells […]

    Like

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