Vicki's Book News and Articles

Craft: Trilogy Synopses

Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 28, 2010

Vicki Hinze © 2003-2011

The following question is in regards to writing a trilogy synopsis to an editor. Does the author only explain about the first book and ignore what the other books will entail?
The short answer: no.
Not if the goal is to contract the trilogy at once, which it usually is because of non-competition clauses in contracts. (If you sell Book #1 to SZY publisher, then you can’t sell a competing work (Books #2 and #3 to EEE Publisher.)
If you’re pitching a trilogy to the editor, then you’d normally handle it in one of two ways. If you’re a new writer, you’ll need to write the first book and then prepare three separate synopses–one for each book. Normally, your submission packet would look like this:
1. Cover letter
2. Book #1 in its entirety along with a synopsis.
3. Synopsis on Book #2 and the first three chapters (a proposal)
4. Synopsis on Book #3 and the first three chapters (a proposal)
An editor/agent responding positively to a query is expecting that you’ll have this much done on the project you’re trying to contract.
Can you possibly sell with less? Of course. Is it likely? It depends on the topic matter, your special qualifications for writing it, and the mastery you exhibit in what you do submit. It’s rare these days, however, for an editor to offer a three-book contract without a book and two proposals in this situation. Not impossible, but rare.
If you’re an established author in a different genre, then you’ll need to prepare the same amount of work as a new author to get the best offer on a contract. Why? Because the editor knows you can write a book. S/he doesn’t know you can write a book, much less three books, in a different genre. Odds run high you’ll have to prove it. So be prepared to do so by having invested in this much of the work before submitting. (It proves too that this isn’t a fluke move, you are invested and dedicated to it.)
If you’re an established author in the same genre, then you’d typically prepare:
1. Cover letter
2. Proposal on Book #1 (Synopsis and first three chapters)
3. Synopsis on Book #2
4. Synopsis on Book #3
Many authors will also do a one-page pitch, which gives a basic overview of the trilogy. (Example: 100,000 word contemporary, romantic suspense novels set in Washington, D.C. Three Secret Service, Special Detail Unit covert operatives protect the country from economic terrorists and find love.)
Think of a TV blurb, expanded to cover all the basic novel elements: (setting, character, plot, time-frame, theme, etc.)*


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