Synopsis Format

Question: Hello! Thank you for answering my question about how many characters to add in a synopsis! I should have included this question with my last submission. Could you please discuss how to format a synopsis? I've been researching formatting and find conflicting directions. Two reputable sites—at least I think they are reputable—suggest two different things. Writer's Digest says the synopsis must be double-spaced. Master Class says single-spacing is a must. One says include a title page to include contact information; the other says use headers. Any advice on formatting would be greatly appreciated! And thanks again!

Answer: The first place you should always go for questions about submissions is the website of the agent or editor you are submitting to. Follow the submission requirements exactly. It makes agents and editors' jobs easier when all the submissions they receive are in their preferred format.

However, agents and editors don't all prefer the same format, which is why you will find conflicting advice. For this reason, you sometimes have to adjust the format for each agent or editor you are submitting to.

Also, not every agent or editor is as fussy about synopsis format. Many of them don't post strict guidelines for you to follow. Or they might have guidelines regarding manuscripts but not synopses.

So for those situations where you are uncertain, the best thing is to use a fairly neutral format that is unlikely to annoy an agent or editor. This
will be the "default" format you will use unless the editor or agent doesn't states requirements to the contrary.

By default, the most important thing is that your synopsis should be easy to read. This matters because editors and agents usually spend many hours each day reading. They tend to find any document that is hard to read annoying, and you don't want to annoy them.

With that in mind, use a standard 12pt. font like Times New Roman or perhaps Courier. As with a manuscript, don't play with the typography. Don't use bolded text. Don't use all-caps. And don't use any colours. Just use black text on a white background.

If the synopsis is short enough to fit on a one page single-spaced, then you can single-space it. Put an extra return between paragraphs. I would also indent the first line of each paragraph five spaces.

If the synopsis is longer (again, check the person's guidelines regarding their preferred length), then you would format it more like a manuscript -- double-spaced with no extra return between paragraphs. Put the page number in the upper right hand corner and a short version of the book title and your name to the left of that. One-inch margins are fairly standard.

I would also title the synopsis "Synopsis for" followed by the book title just to be clear what it is.

And, of course, proofread the synopsis carefully. You don't want typos to undermine your credibility.

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