Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript – Part II

format-submit manuscriptThis week, I’ll begin a series of posts based on this resource. Even though it’s six years old, it’s still a great place to start. Since I’m a fiction writer, I’ll deal with Chapter 5: Novels. I recently re-posted from February, the first article from this resource that discussed cover letters. Today, let’s talk synopsis. A synopsis provides the main storyline of your novel. Click to Tweet #amwriting #synopsis

The publishing world has changed dramatically in the United State in the last five to ten years. As more writers are trying to get published, the competition is fierce and an agent or an editor is looking for ways to reject your work. The best way to prevent that is to make our book proposal look the way the industry would like it to.

Nowadays, two-pages are long enough (at the most) for a synopsis.


  1. The shorter the better
  2. Must be complete, with a beginning, middle, and an end (yes, tell the ending)
  3. Omit dialogue unless absolutely crucial to the understanding of your story
  4. Be concise, compelling, and complete

Synopsis tipsThe reason you must tell the ending, in others, a spoiler, is that you want this editor or this agent to sign you to a contract. If they don’t know what they’re getting, that’s a reason to reject your book proposal.

Formatting (suggestions from the book)

  1. 1-inch margins on all sides
  2. Justify left margin only
  3. Name & contact information on top left corner of the first page
  4. Genre, word count, & “Synopsis” in the top right corner of first page
  5. Don’t number the first page, but every page thereafter
  6. Center the title of your novel, in ALL CAPS, about 1/3rd the way down the page.
  7. Single-space is okay if your total synopsis is no more than two pages.
  8. Use ALL CAPS for the first time you introduce a character.
  9. Use a header on every page after Page 1. It should sort of look like this: Name/TITLE OF NOVEL/Synopsis.
  10. Page number in top right corner of header
  11. First line of text on each page under header should be three lines below.

These guidelines are six years old. If you’re submitting to an agent, check out Agency guidelines. Click to Tweet #amwriting #synopsis

This time, I’ll provide a link to Hartline Agency, because that’s who I signed with. The same is true for publishers. Here’s a link to Harper Collins Witness Imprint, an open submission page.

Next time: Synopsis Dos and Don’ts

What do you think of this resource? Leave a comment and let me know.

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