Here at Carina, we’re always looking for new authors to sign, publish and build. But we recognize that putting your manuscript out on submission can be an intimidating process. How do you make your manuscript stand out, from the query letter to the last page? We’re here to demystify the submissions process by giving you some insight into what a Carina Press editor looks for when she opens up a submission for review.
Today’s post comes from Libby Murphy, who is a freelance editor for Carina Press, and gets to read synopses on a daily basis. She’s seen it all, and is going to help you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Happy New Year! I hope everybody rang in 2016 with some fresh ideas for works in progress and new story and series ideas.
Today I’m going to talk about synopses. I should probably duck and roll to safety at this point, because I know so many of you hate writing them—I know I used to, too! But give me a few minutes to show you why it’s so important, how to break it down, and how you can make yours seriously rock.
Every Carina submission requires a two- or three-page synopsis with your full manuscript. Each of us editors use the synopsis for different purposes. For example, I don’t want a book to be spoiled before I dig in, so I usually read it after I read the first few chapters of a book, especially if I’m not sure about reading the full at that point. Sometimes story issues I’m worried about in the first few chapters can be further analyzed in the synopsis, and I can decide if it’s something that I can fix in edits after the book is acquired, or with a revise and resubmit. If it’s more than I think we can work on in either of these, I will likely make the decision to reject the book, but sometimes I’ll write up a note to the author to let her know that while I loved some things, there were others that were problematic enough that I couldn’t take it further. Sometimes the synopsis will give me enough information to include helpful feedback.
You might be surprised to know how important it is to the acquisition process, too. Several of our acquisitions team members weigh in when a book is brought to acquisitions, and although most of them read the entire book, not all of them need to. They do need your synopsis, however, to help decide if a book is a good fit for the market, for example. And once a book is acquired, we do use it for several purposes. It is the gift that keeps giving.
Which leads to my next topic: what do you need to include in your synopsis? It’s easy to get carried away with telling the reader everything, but it’s important to stay focused. So I’d suggest focusing on conflict/theme, and romantic tropes.
Conflict is what drives a story, and without it, there’s not much to keep the story going. Theme is the heart of the story, or what your characters discover about themselves. Your synopsis (and of course your book!) needs both to work together. Show the hero and heroine’s internal and external conflicts and how they drive the story. For example, what’s keeping them from a HEA? What’s the adhesive that makes them stay together throughout? Show main turning points in their growth arcs, and how they’ve affected your character and the romantic relationship. One thing I see a lot is skimping on the climax, the black moment, and the HEA, and they’re the culmination of what the character has done to grow. Don’t leave those out!
Okay, now for romantic tropes. Tropes are what readers look for when they consider buying a romance, and they go hand in hand with conflict. And if you take a look at our most recent What the Editors Want post, you’ll see that it’s full to the brim with romantic tropes. These are things like marriage of convenience, best friend’s older brother, enemies to lovers, fake engagement, and so on. The tropes are a large part of what’s going to make your book marketable, and they’ll also go on your back cover copy, so you’re going to want to make sure they’re apparent in your synopsis, too! If you notice when you write your synopsis that one or two of your tropes is resolved too early, you’ll be able to fix that in your book before you send your submission.
A great resource to help nail these things is the book Save the Cat. Go to chapter four and check out the beats—those beats are pretty much what I’m looking for, and I think this book makes them wonderfully easy to identify in your own book. If you want to explore them in more depth, the entire book is definitely worth the read.
So now for the stuff I really don’t care to see. Let’s look at how to refine your synopsis a bit more by listing some of the things that don’t work.
I hope that’s enough of a starting point for you, and helps you organize the elements of your synopsis. I’ll keep an eye on the comments below for a few days and answer any questions you have, so please feel free to ask away.
Happy writing in 2016!
Thank you for reading—we hope these tips have you excited to submit your manuscript to Carina Press! Here are some quick references to help you through the submissions process:
Ready to submit? Click here to start your publishing journey with Carina Press!Looking for more information on our submissions process? We’ll have more posts coming in this series, and in the meantime, you can read about our acquisitions process here, and find out more about what an editor does here.