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What is the Difference Between a Blurb and a Synopsis?

Updated: Jun 2, 2021


Many writers think the words blurb and synopsis are interchangeable. They may seem to have a similar purpose: to give a summary of the manuscript. However, they are used for different reasons.

The main difference is they are used for entirely different audiences; the blurb is for your potential customers while the synopsis is for your agent, editor and publisher.


The blurb is what will intrigue a reader to buy the book. This is what is found in the online bookstores and on the backs of the books. When a potential customer is browsing through a bookstore, the blurb has to be written in such a way that the person should think, “Oh, this looks interesting. I would like to read it.”


On the other hand, the synopsis is what will impress a professional to buy theconcept. Literary agents, for instance, don’t have time to read hundreds of pages because they have other things to do, so they require a summary of the story from beginning to end. This is what you send along with your enquiry/cover letter.


Let us take a more detailed look into the difference between a blurb and synopsis.

Blurb:

A blurb can be likened to the trailer of a movie. The audience will know the main characters and a few events, but they can’t know the ending. To know the full story, they have to buy the book.

What do they need to know? The main characters, the plot and genre of the book.


How long should it be? Not more than 200 words. There isn’t much space on the back of the book because other elements are sometimes included, such as the author’s picture, biography, and can even include reviews/praises by other industry professionals. Writing the blurb shows the author’s ability to summarise the story in a few short paragraphs to advertise and sell it.


Below is an example of a blurb from IT by Stephen King (adapted from Stephen King’s official website):

A promise made twenty-eight years ago calls seven adults to reunite in Derry, Maine, where as teenagers they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city's children. Unsure that their Losers Club had vanquished the creature all those years ago, the seven had vowed to return to Derry if IT should ever reappear. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that summer return as they prepare to do battle with the monster lurking in Derry's sewers once more.


Synopsis:

The synopsis can be compared to the screenplay of a movie. It is a complete outline of the story, including spoilers. This is for the professionals in the writing industry such as agents and publishers. The synopsis should be written in a straight forward language so that they will be impressed enough to publish your manuscript.


What do they need to know? You have to write down all the key points in the story, including any spoiler alerts. They aren’t interested in reading for entertainment. They will want to know if you have interesting characters, a solid plot, a lot of surprises, and a satisfying wrap up of the story. They only need to know if your story is marketable or not.


How long should it be? The synopsis should be 800 – 1,000 words, or a maximum of two pages. Also, do check if the agent or publisher you are submitting to has some particular requirements. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Otherwise