How To Write An Effective Query Letter And Synopsis For Your Book

How To Write An Effective Query Letter And Synopsis For Your Book

how to write an effective query letter and synopsis

My editing clients often ask me how to write an effective query letter and synopsis. Thank you to the team at QueryLetter.com for offering to write this guest post which outlines the difference between a query letter and a synopsis and shares some tips for how to write each of them. I’m sure you’ll find it informative. Remember, there is a free blurb unit inside the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook Group. Once you’re a member, you can download the toolkit, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb. Your blurb will become an important part of your query letter.

What’s The Difference Between A Query Letter And A Synopsis?

The publishing world is difficult. Your work isn’t over once you finish your manuscript. In fact, finishing your book is just the first step to populating bookshelves with your masterpiece! You’ll need to decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing, but if you want to see book stores stocked with physical copies of your book, traditional publishing is your best option.

In most cases, to pursue traditional publishing, you need to work with a literary agent, who will represent your manuscript and pitch it to publishers. Landing a literary agent can be a challenge, however. When doing research on pitching your manuscript to agents, you’ll come across terms such as “query letter” and “synopsis,” which may be unfamiliar to those new to publishing.

In this post, we’ll take you through the key differences between query letters and synopses and offer some tips on writing both.

What Is A Query Letter?

When you pitch your manuscript to a prospective literary agent, the most important element is your query letter. Your query letter is your chance to introduce yourself and your manuscript to the literary agent and explain why she should be interested in representing your book. The key purpose of a query letter is to intrigue the literary agent into requesting more info about your manuscript, and your query letter thus represents your first step in the publishing process.

Query letters are short, no longer than one page, and provide only a brief overview of your manuscript and your author bio. Since your space is extremely limited, you’ll need to make every word count. Essentially, you have only a few sentences to sell your book to a prospective literary agent.

What Is A Synopsis?

Whereas the query letter focuses on the whole picture, meaning you, the agent, and your manuscript, the synopsis is concerned with your manuscript alone. In essence, a synopsis is a one-to two-page description of the entire plot of your book, including the ending. It gives a prospective literary agent an in-depth glimpse into your plot and helps her determine whether your manuscript may be worth a full read.

Sometimes, literary agents ask prospective clients to submit a synopsis along with a query letter, but in most cases, the synopsis is the second step in the publishing process. In general, if you manage to pique a literary agent’s interest with your query letter, she’ll follow up by requesting a synopsis, and if she likes your synopsis, she’ll request your full manuscript.

How To Write A Query Letter

Typically, a query letter consists of two main parts: the hook and the pitch. In the hook, your job is to draw the agent’s attention with an interesting opening sentence that captures the essence of your manuscript. The pitch elaborates on the hook, providing an overview of your manuscript in two to three paragraphs that may include mentions of comparable books on the market. Finally, your query letter may include a brief author bio describing your experience and reputation—for example, if you have previous publications.

The main purpose of your query letter is to succinctly sell your manuscript. Condensing your 80,000-word manuscript into a few sentences can be difficult, so it’s better to start small and build up. Start by summarizing your plot in one or two sentences and build off that, adding only the most relevant and intriguing information. Take some time to consider the main themes and questions your manuscript deals with to help you best summarize your work.

Use others’ query letters to inspire you, as well. With a quick Google search, you can find thousands of query letter examples, so do some research into what kinds of query letters have successfully landed literary agents for other authors in your genre. This will give you a better idea of how best to structure your query letter for success.

Finally, always personalize your query letter. You can find out more about the agent you’re pitching to by browsing her social media or website, which will likely reveal her interests and the books she has represented previously. If it’s relevant, include this information in your query letter while explaining why you think this particular agent is a good fit for your manuscript.

How To Write A Synopsis

As with a query letter, your primary goal with your synopsis is to succinctly summarize your manuscript in a way that intrigues literary agents. A synopsis gives you more room than a query letter: Typically, a synopsis should be 500 words, or around two pages, unless the literary agent specifies another length. This affords you enough words to explain the main points of your plot and give the agent a solid overview of your story.

Think of a synopsis as an abridged version of your manuscript. It tells the same story, but all the details are cut out. It simply moves through all the key plot points. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, just like your manuscript. A good way to build a solid synopsis is to start by condensing each chapter into one or two sentences. From that, build a comprehensive synopsis with a clear narrative arc that explains the major plot points.

Your writing style matters in your synopsis, too. Keep things clear and concise—no flowery prose or wordiness. At the same time, don’t just mechanically explain each event. Use your personal style and make the literary agent feel something. Your synopsis should be a mini version of your manuscript, not an emotionless description.

The Importance Of Feedback

Aside from helping to proofread your query letter and synopsis to eliminate typos, a trusted writing colleague, beta reader, or friend can be instrumental in providing feedback that helps you detect issues with clarity or style. A polished query letter and synopsis will maximize your chances of success, so seek out and incorporate as much feedback as you can, finding ways to improve your query letter and increase the intrigue.

If you don’t know where to start in terms of writing your query letter or synopsis, reach out to the team at QueryLetter.com. As experienced industry professionals, the QueryLetter.com team knows publishing inside and out, and they work with authors to help them navigate the challenges of the publishing world and get their books out on bookshelves.

StoryOrigin An Innovative Book Marketing Tool For Authors

StoryOrigin An Innovative Book Marketing Tool For Authors

book marketing ideas

Today I wanted to highlight an innovative book marketing site called StoryOrigin, a marketing tool and community of authors that work together to build their mailing lists, increase sales, find reviewers, and stay on top of deadlines. Recently I included StoryOrigin in my blog post: 5 Recommended Resources for Authors During the Pandemic.

Those of you who follow me closely know that my goal is to make editing simple and more affordable for authors, and I do that though my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, my Facebook group, YouTube channel, and blog. StoryOrigin is doing something similar for book marketing, trying to break down a big, annoying task (book promotion) into more manageable components while also making it affordable.

You can read my review of the site in the above article, but here I wanted to delve into how this useful community came about and find out more about Evan Gow, the indie developer of StoryOrigin. Below is my interview with Evan. If you’re an active user on StoryOrigin, I’ll bet you find this behind the scenes look quite interesting. And if you haven’t checked out this book marketing site yet, keep reading!

book promotion

When did you start StoryOrigin?

StoryOrigin launched publicly in April 2018.

How did you get the idea to create it? Are you a writer yourself?

I used to write short stories back in high school, then participated in a tech entrepreneurship program in college, which sparked my desire to build a company. After working for a few years, I decided it was the right time to make the leap and combine my interests in writing and programming. I talked with a few authors about what tools they were using and realized just how much of a pain it was.

Before StoryOrigin, you’d have to use one site for finding reviewers, another one for building your mailing list, spend a few hours on Facebook looking for newsletter swaps, and the list goes on. So, I decided to simplify things and build a one-stop-shop, so authors could save time and manage everything from a single platform.

 

Why did you decide to make it free? How long do you anticipate it being free?

For the beta period, I wanted to be able to focus solely on building best-in-class features. I also knew that the feature set was going to expand immensely from when it was initially launched, and it wouldn’t have made sense to decide on a specific pricing model at the point.

StoryOrigin likely won’t be free for much longer, but the guarantee I make (and I state this publicly on the front page of StoryOrigin) is that if you join during the beta period, you will continue to get everything completely free for a period of months even after it becomes paid. The continuing free period is also there, so if you don’t like the pricing model, you can migrate to a different set of tools before you start paying. My goal with pricing is to make it affordable for authors at all stages though.

 

storyorigin book marketing site

 

What are your goals with StoryOrigin for the future?

My goals are to continue helping authors grow their audiences and their businesses. My to-do list always seems to be getting longer with lots more to incorporate into StoryOrigin, but I also like to play it close to the vest. 😉

About how many authors have registered for the site?

8,000+ authors have signed up to StoryOrigin and it’s continuing to grow rapidly.

How has the site evolved over the past several months?  

When StoryOrigin launched, it had minimal functionality. All you could do was create a reader magnet landing page and integrate it with your email service provider, so emails would automatically be added to your mailing list. Since then, I added quite a few features including:
  • Newsletter swaps
  • Group promotions
  • Review copies
  • Universal book links
  • Audiobook promo code distribution
  • A content planning calendar
My general method is to work out the main components of a major feature, release it, then iterate and improve upon it with feedback from authors, so it becomes a best-in-class feature.
The latest feature I released was a goal tracker, which you can use to track your word count and calculate daily targets to hit deadlines and stay motivated. There actually wasn’t anyone asking me for this feature, but I got a huge amount of love when I released it, because it meant one less spreadsheet to keep track of for a lot of authors. They could spend less time on managing their business and more time on writing.

Has anything been surprising to you during this journey? Is it growing the way you imagined, or has it gone in unexpected directions?

If you write a bad book, all of the advertising in the world can’t save you. Unfortunately, a great book with no advertising won’t get you anywhere either.

Oftentimes, what sets apart bestsellers isn’t necessarily the strength of their writing. It’s the strength of their marketing. A good book is a checkbox you have to mark in order to be successful, but it’s the marketing that will drive your success. Many authors simply aren’t willing to engage in that part of the business though. That’s why I’m trying to make it easier.

 

What are some creative and/or successful ways that authors have used the site?

StoryOrigin provides the underlying infrastructure to help you manage your review team, build your mailing list, and send readers to your purchasing page. However, it’s the group promos and newsletter swaps you can find on StoryOrigin that can multiply your reach to thousands of readers.

 

What are the benefits of group promotions and newsletter swaps?

The main benefit of group promotions and newsletter swaps is that they can massively expand your audience and can be used to find reviewers, build your mailing list, or increase sales. There are lots of ways you can expand your reach though, so why are newsletter swaps and group promotions are rising in popularity? Because they’re:
    • Free to set up
    • Easy to arrange
    • Targeted with other authors in your genre

Do you have any suggestions for authors interested in using the site to build reviews?

StoryOrigin can be used to build reviews for both your audiobooks and ebooks. When you set up a review copy landing page on StoryOrigin, any reader can apply for a review copy and mark where they will leave a review (e.g., Amazon) along with the link to their reviewer profile on that site, so you can see what other books they’ve reviewed.

StoryOrigin also gives you their reviewer stats—the percentage of review copies they’ve received through StoryOrigin and have actually left reviews for. When you receive an application for a review copy of your ebook or audiobook on StoryOrigin, you should check the reader’s stats and reviewer profile to make sure they are someone you trust will leave a review and that they actually read books in your genre.

Resources:

If you’ve read this and are wondering how to get started, check out the StoryOrigin guide to email marketing.

 

Free Workshop – How To Get Free Publicity For Your Book @Mayah_Riaz

Free Workshop – How To Get Free Publicity For Your Book @Mayah_Riaz

How to get free publicity for your book

Join us in the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook group for a live workshop on how to get free publicity for your book. The event will be held May 21 at 11:00 a.m. EST.

The presenter, Mayah Riaz, is a celebrity manager who provides PR-to-the-Stars. She is on speed dial to many household names from the world of business, TV, showbiz and even royalty.

After 14 years of helping the rich and famous become even more famous, she now helps businesses and entrepreneurs to do their own publicity. Mayah teaches entrepreneurs all over the globe how to manage their own publicity without the need of hiring a big, fancy PR agency. Having helped hundreds of business owners with their PR, she finds this much more rewarding than getting a celebrity on the front cover of Vogue!

Mayah teaches businesses all the know-how that a PR agency has, so they can keep their profits in their business. She teaches on all topics of PR from creating relationships with the press, to sharing her top tips to getting a yes from the press.

.ow to get publicity for your book

To participate in the workshop, you must be a member of the Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group. If you’re not a member, you can fill out the membership questions and request approval. If you can’t make it live, the replay will be archived with our other past guest workshops in the Units section.

More About Mayah

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

 

Unique Marketing Tool For Authors And Businesses

Unique Marketing Tool For Authors And Businesses

author giveaway ideas

Are you a business owner seeking unique promotional items to distribute at conferences and trade shows? Are you an author looking for swag to hand out at booksignings and conventions? I’ve got a neat marketing tool idea for you to consider: a USB business card from USB Memory Direct.

The company approached me about sending free flash drives printed with either my logo or a book cover in exchange for a review and blog post. I eagerly accepted this opportunity as I was scheduled to lead a self-editing workshop at a writers’ conference and wanted to offer items for the goodie bags.

Many writers give out bookmarks, postcards, and business cards at conferences and signings, but I wanted something more memorable. USB Memory Direct specializes in custom-printed flash drives, which can be an effective marketing tool due to their recognizable shape and large print area. When I described the flash drives to one of the conference organizers, she loved the idea. Paper swag tends to get thrown out, but a flash drive is a practical and useful memento.

marketing tool

How Can A Flash Drive Be A Marketing Tool?

Credit card flash drives are a great choice for artists and professionals alike. These flash drives fit into a wallet or purse, and can be printed across the entire surface of the card using the company’s high quality full color printing process. You can print it like a promotional flyer or like a business card complete with your contact information for easy reference. The company can also offer data preloading of your documents, portfolio, or media.

USB Memory Direct has several options for business card flash drives such as card-tab, round card flip, card flip, card spin, compact card flip (great for keychains),  and card twist. You can see examples of each option on the company’s website. In addition, they offer wooden USB drives in different grains and colors, including one style that resembles a book.

USB Memory Direct also offers classic compact flash drive styles, USB wristband/flash drive bracelets, leather USB flash drives, USB pens, and printed power banks. All can be customized to promote your brand.

Review

I found USB Memory Direct efficient and pleasant in their communications. They helped me select a flash drive style, asked me to send a high-resolution image, and e-mailed me digital samples so I could see how it looked. I chose to send the Shortcuts for Writers logo, but using one of my book covers would have been another option.

My flash drives were the compact card flip style which features a flip out USB drive, helping to protect the data from everyday wear.

They arrived extremely well packaged, each flash drive in its own clear plastic wrapper. I was impressed by the sleek design, and the printed logo came out great. They company was even able to put my website on the back.

author giveaway ideas

Unfortunately, the pandemic led to the cancellation of the conference where I planned to give these out. I’m eager to distribute the flash drives in the future and am certain they will be well-received. They would also be nice for giveaways; for example, an author could pre-load the flash drive with an e-book, short story, or bonus content, and there would still be plenty of room for the recipient’s own files.

In addition to distributing the flash drives at conferences, I will likely give some to my editing clients. These flash drives are definitely a unique and useful promotional product, and I recommend checking them out. For more information, visit the USB Memory Direct website. And if you like the design of the Shortcuts for Writers flash drives pictured above, here is the link to the compact card flip style.

 

Free Line Editing Class

Could your manuscript use trimming and polishing? Sign up for the FREE email class: Line Editing Made Simple - 5 Days To More Polished Pages. You'll get bite-sized lessons and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing. Sign up now!

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