The hardest part of writing is done after you finish your book, right? If only. Little do most authors looking to traditionally publish know, a plethora of other activities awaits you at the end of a book. These can include queries, synopses, blurbs, and pitches. I’ll go into a little about each (but not how to do them) and how they’re different from the rest. (Please keep in mind that this is written from the US perspective–other countries have slightly different terminology.)
This is the smallest of the four. Though it’s not a requirement for anything pre-getting-an-agent, it can serve as the base for the rest of them. This is the short section that hooks a reader in. Think of it as what you see on the back of books or inside the front flap. It’s a paragraph or two, short, and does not give away the ending. It shouldn’t include all the subplots, but just the major plot and one (maybe two) subplots that directly affects or relates to the major plot.
This is what you’re sending to agents when trying to get representation. It works kind of like cold calling, but more targeted. After finding agents that want your genre and that you want to submit to, you’ll send them an email or snail mail with a query included. This is their introduction to you and your work and could be the reason an agent either requests or passes on your work. It includes information about your book (genre, word count), the blurb, and info about you. See my blog post on queries for more information.
A pitch is an in-person meeting, somewhere between 3-15 minutes, with an agent where you can sell your book. Usually, you recite your query letter aloud and then have a conversation with the agent about the book. They’ll likely have clarifying questions and you’ll get to have a dialogue with them.
This may be the hardest of all of the pieces (at least it is for me). This is a one page summary of the major points in your book. Somehow, you have to condense your entire 80,000-100,000 word book into one page. This does include the ending. Agents won’t always ask for these–I’ve only had a handful ask for a synopsis, not including the full requests, which usually do ask for them. And the thing that makes this the hardest is that there aren’t many standard rules on how to put them together. Some say one page, other say three to five. Some say double space, other say single. The biggest rule that you should follow no matter what: look at what the agent wants and follow that.
In this dizzying world of terms that are used (and sometimes used incorrectly), it’s helpful to have just a few sentences to know what’s what. I hope these help–this is what I wish I’d known while I was first starting, so maybe these can help you, too!