For any writer who has stuttered, stammered or stumbled when asked what his/her book is about, this article is for you. It’s been said that brevity is the sole of wit—a sentiment that certainly applies to books, as a strong, succinct, memorable synopsis is the foundation to successful book marketing.

Before you even think of starting to pitch your book to the media, it’s important to have the right tools at your disposal. One crucial component of book marketing and PR is a good synopsis. After all, it’s hard to pitch a book to someone effectively if you can’t describe, in succinct or compelling terms, what your book is about.

In general, attention spans today are incredibly short, so you have a small window of opportunity to make a good impression. Have something ready. Understandably, the thought of trying to distil 80,000-100,000 words into a short two- to-three-sentence description is off-putting, to say the least. However, that is perhaps less off-putting than being asked to describe what your book is about—and not being able to do so quickly.

Think of your synopsis as your book’s advertisement.

When writing your synopsis, start by considering the who, what, when, where, and how of your story.

Who is your protagonist?

Where is your book set?

What happens?

When promoting the book, I recommend not giving away the ending in your synopsis.  The synopsis for the media should provide just enough material to pique someone’s curiosity—similar to the function of jacket or back cover copy. A good synopsis gives enough details to make a reader want to read the book. It may take several (many) drafts before you can get a good working draft of the synopsis. This is time well spent, as it can help you focus your message.

Most likely, you will need a 175-word synopsis, a 100-word synopsis, and a 50-word synopsis. For me, it is easiest to start with the 175-word synopsis and work my way down to the shorter synopses.  Scholars, however, differ: some people may find it easier to begin with the shorter synopsis and add to it. You’ll use these synopses again and again and again as you’re promoting the book, so make sure you are happy with them.

Once you have written synopses, work on coming up with some soundbites. Soundbites are short, punchy book teasers or descriptions.  Coming up with good, solid soundbites will take time, effort, energy, and thought.  However, this is time well spent, as this messaging will be used repeatedly in your book’s marketing and promotion.  You can use this information for everything from jacket copy, to website copy, ads to press releases to promotional materials.

As Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Invest the time to find the right words—and happy book promoting!

MARYGLENN MCCOMBS, is an independent book publicist who has worked in the book publishing industry for more than twenty years.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn serves on the board of the Nashville Humane Association.

Maryglenn is a native of South Central Kentucky. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Tim Warnock, and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles. A native of South Central Kentucky, Maryglenn currently lives in Nashville with her husband, Tim.

You can reach her via email at [email protected] or by phone (615) 297-9875. Follow her on Facebook:

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