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2019 Novel Prize Advice and Tips: What Should My Synopsis Be?

Hello guys,

I'm sure some of you are reading that title and thinking Seriously? They're posting this now?! Well yes, we are, but it's not to make you feel bad -- just the opposite in fact.

We asked for a synopsis this year for a few reasons. Firstly, we use the synopsis for our judges to guage their suitability to effectively judge the submission they have received. Like agents and editors, our judges have specific tastes and preferences, and with such a diverse reading team, we knew that we'd always have someone perfect to judge every piece. As such, we put a 'Skip' function in place, so that if one of our judges is an expert in commerical thriller, and they get a piece of historical literary fiction land in their stack, then with the synopsis and genre right at the top of the submission, they'll be able to effectively decide whether or not they're the right judge for the job. If they aren't, then they can skip the piece and it goes over to another judge. We felt that this was the fairest way to ensure that everyone's submission was given the best possible chance.

Secondly, the synopsis gives the judge some context. Openings don't always give away everything about the story or even the style in which its written. We might read the first chapter blind, think that it's a straight laced crime thriller, when actually it's a fantasy novel. The magic just doesn't show up until chapter three! A synopsis in this case gives context to the piece and allows the judge to make a better decision regarding what they're reading and how they're reacting to it.

Thirdly, it's so that we know the authors have thought about more than just the opening chapter! While we only want the first 3,000 words, we are involved with agents and they do look to us for new and upcoming talent. Having an opening and a broad overview of the plot lets them know what to expect, as well as confirms that you've got more than just a killer first few pages. Works in progress are very welcome in our prize, but we hope that a synopsis is going to dissuade entrants from trying to write just the opening chapter and nothing more in hopes of catching someone's eye.

So where does that leave you trying to formulate one before the deadline, or thinking about the one you've already submitted?

Don't worry too much. The synopsis won't be the deciding factor. If your novel is good enough to win, it'll do so with or without a perfect synopsis.

So long as it's got the broad strokes of the plot and characters in it, then it's all good. If you've got a to-the-point blow-by-blow of the events of the book then that's fine. If you've thrown in some spice and style, then great. We're not judging the synopsis, only the opening. So don't fret, don't freak out, and don't worry.

Focus on the first chapter instead.

Just please proofread them before you send...

Any queries, just reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook, or email us at

See you soon!


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