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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

23 Becca Stumpf: Querying with the "Dreaded" Synopsis

Becca Stumpf is one of the nicest, most personable agents out there--but she still requires authors to send a synopsis as part of the query package. The synopsis isn't the most important part of Prospect Agency's query package, and it rarely makes-or-breaks the submission, but Becca finds it helpful--and it turns out she knows what she's talking about.

For the first half of the call, Becca gave us the skinny on what sort of submissions she's looking for, what goes into a great query letter, and what she does with those three chapters she asks for. For the second half, she treated us to an insider's view on exactly what she uses the synopsis for, what it should look like, what it should include, and why we should all stop worrying about it so much.
Some highlights:

  • For agents like Becca, a synopsis should be between 2-3 pages long. She doesn't want to read a lengthy synopsis for a query package--save the longer ones for when you're trying to sell your book on a proposal.
  • What Happens is the most important part of a synopsis--but include enough motivation so you don't lose the reader. It's usually not good if they have to stop and wonder why that happened.
  • There are good ways to sneak in sub-plot tidbits (just don't go crazy)
  • Include the ending, and don't worry about spoiling it. If she likes the book, she'll probably forget the ending while she's reading, anyway.
  • If she really likes the writing sample, she can overlook a less-than-brilliant synopsis. (Though it's probably better to be good all around.) She knows successful writers who aren't good at writing a synopsis.
Listen in below or download the MP3 here.


  1. This was a great chat with Ms. Stumpf. The audience asked few questions, but that was probably because Becca and Robin covered all the bases. I know that was true in my case anyway. I was especially interested in the breakdown of the synopsis--how the various parts fit together, which are necessary and which are fluff--but getting a hard answer on just how long one should be really shed light on the subject. I've heard a number (all pun intended) of answers for this question, so it was a relief to have a professional confirm my suspicions: the thing shouldn't rival its associated novel in length.

    Thanks to everyone involved. Keep up the good work.

    -- david j.

  2. Thanks, David! I had tons of fun talking to Becca. Not a hardship at all. ;)


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