Fondant. Bear with me here, I'm of Irish blood so my stories can sometime wind their way slowly to a point. I was once at an engagement party and there was Rockabilly pin-up girl cake made with vanilla fondant. The parents of the bride cut it, and everyone but me started eating it, fondant and all.

I could only stare. See, chocolate fondant is edible. Vanilla is not. It's a pretty coat you put on a cake to sell it, but you can't eat it.This isn't about old idioms, it's about the art of the sell. Imagine the balls (or ovaries) it took the first baker to do this to sell people a gorgeous cake with inedible frosting. 

Sometimes it's better to have your cake and NOT eat it

So what the hell does this mean for you? Picture yourself on a golf course, blindfolded, Chevy Chase is next to you chanting "Be the fondant, na na na na na na na na na na, be the fondant."

It's time to learn how to sell your soul book in a nice pretty package. It's time to polish the ever loving hell out of your summary and synopsis. Why? Here are the reasons every author, Indie or not, needs a polished summary and synopsis:

1) Agents and publishers will read the summary and synopsis first and use that to decide if the book is worth reading
2) Reviewers will do the same
3) No matter how you publish, the truth is marketing is on your head. These materials make it easy to give a quick or thorough description in marketing
4) Indie authors will use their synopsis to create the blurb (the description on the "back" of a book designed to sell it to a reader)

So the process is going to be the same for both of you though the purposes vary. Let's start with the summary. By now, if you followed my direction, it looks like stage directions for an Elton john show. Fell free to keep the original copy with conflict and just copy and paste it into a new document.

Now, while editing, make it double spaced, set a uniform text color, and spell check it. You should have been editing this as you went along, but read through it now. Does the summary capture everything that happens? Every conversation should be noted, just not every word said. Every scene should be surmised so the reader will get the gist of the story with high accuracy.

If you forgot to change any scenes in the summary that were edited/added/removed during editing your manuscript do it now. And if it's not written in present-tense (Sharrie sits down to listen to the lecture rather than Sharrie sat down for the lecture.) may god have mercy on your soul. If you didn't make it present tense, open the old outline, open a new document, and retype that fucker present tense.

If you feel this way and want to smack me, I already know. Read on and you'll discover why that works fine for me.

Now, we need to edit it to make it sharp, tight, and in interesting. How do we do that? well, for one thing, short IS sweet. Let's get it as tight (short but descriptive) as possible.


1) Pull out any dialog. NOTHING SHOULD BE IN QUOTES. If the character has vital information impart it should read Sharrie tells John she may be pregnant not "I think I'm pregnant," Sharrie tells John.

2) The middle lags. Fact of life. So in the middle try to keep it to CONFLICT STATEMENTS but perhaps expand them. For example your old summary might read this way (BOLD represents internal conflict, UNDERLINE shows external):

Sharrie discovers she is pregnant, to her dismay. She tells John who is shocked and unable to handle this and so after arguing he leaves. Seeing she is alone, the stalker slips into her house.

To shorten it, you can write it as: Sharrie tells John she is pregnant. They argue, he leaves, and the killer takes advantage and enters the house.

You're not going to shorten it much, just make it tighter, as above.

3) Summaries often begin before the story. Perhaps when you were writing it was handy to have at the top the backstory that Sharrie and John were lovers in college now reunited fifteen years later. You may also have the stalker is a serial killer, so at the top you have a list of his previous crimes and victims. Scrap EVERYTHING that is not directly related to the MAIN CONFLICT of the story (a serial killer is stalking Sharrie in this case). Even then, keep it short. A note such as this is ideal:

Sommerset is being terrorized by a serial killer who has victimized three women. His next victim Sharrie is shopping when she meets John...

4) The end should be bam! Bam! BAM! solving all conflict. Our main conflict will be: Can Sharrie survive the killer? Will the killer be caught? Will John help save Sharrie? Will John and Sharrie fall in love and have the child?

It should read fast-paced, as thus:

Sharrie manages to knock over a candle and notify John. He comes up the stairs, fights with the stalker, and shoots him. He rescues a grateful Sharrie and they confess their love. After the police arrive and sort things out John asks Sharrie to marry him and she says yes.

PROTIP: Those endings that go on too long piss people off in books or summary. Epliogues only belong in three types of stories: coming of age, romance, and horror.

If this were a coming of age (in this case Sharrie and John are 18 year olds) and the epilogue would show them finishing college, getting married, and finally dealing with the emotional trauma of a killer.

If it were a romance, the epilogue might show them in a year or two, the house domestic, a baby present, and the passion still there.

If it were horror the epilogue would show the stalker was wounded and imprisoned, and breaks out with one name on his mad lips: Sharrie.

5) Prolgues and Epliogues are not noted in the summary. what happens in them is mentioned but it is not noted that it happens in a special section. The doings of the prologue begin the summary, then a span of time is mentioned to the next section. With epilogues the span of time is given then the events occur.

A prologue example: A serial killer slays his third victim and rides the high until his madness makes him seek another victim and he spies Sharrie Jameson. One year later...

An epilogue example: One year later Sharrie and John are married with the baby and very much in love. Across town the killer wakes from his coma and screams her name.

Let's say that your manuscript is 100,000 words, you verbose scribbler, you. Your summary is going to be about 30 pages double spaced long. Let's not go nuts, don't cut it for word count and end up with ten pages. Just make it tight so it reads fast, gets the point across.

You're doing this: making hundreds of teeny-tiny cuts to make it pop off the page


Here is where we can get a little tricky. Most novels have multiple elements. Maybe it's a mystery, but with crime and hardboiled elements, and also erotica. Or maybe it's a romance with action/adventure epic themes. Or perhaps it's a coming of age with fantasy and sci-fi elements.

So how to make it sharp? Well, first off, you did your research, and you know what sells now, right? You damn well better. Before we edit the summary, humor me: make a list of what genres your book has. Let's say it's coming of age, a ton of science-fiction, and a wee little but of romance. What sells in the YA? Coming of age, romance (particularly those love triangles) and sliiiiiiiiight sci-fi. 

So if that's what is selling, you need to organize your synopsis to highlight the romantic elements and diminish the sci-fi. Sorry, but this is how we make money, by selling our souls.

1) Take the weakest selling point of your manuscript and beef it up in the outline. Go into slightly more detail. For example, make it appear the romance is a major source of internal or external conflict.

2) Pause, and try not to commit seppuku 

3) Now take the element you have tons of (lasers! robots! space ships! More trade conversations than Frank Herbert can shake a stick at!) and minimize it. Technology, unless it relates directly to the plot, shouldn't even be mentioned.

For example, if it all takes place on a space ship and 18 year old Sharrie is being stalked by a killer with no escape, mention it in passing. Treat is mundane, and unless every robot, laser, and trade meeting actually impacts the plot leave it out.

4) Put down the razor blade and blood thinner, take a deep breath

5) Give it to a friend to read. Ask them how prominent the weaker element now seems and how prevalent the stronger undesired element seems. Keep whittling and reshaping until you have a mostly-truthful representation

6) Accept this is how you sell your soul to the devil and comfort yourself by knowing Hell will be much more crowded with family and friends than Heaven. Or explore Atheism or another religion that does not have a devil in it

7) Make sure it is still cohesive and flows.

Okay, by now you should have a tight and sharp summary. But how do we make it interesting? Well, now we go full evil.

My background is psychology and marketing. I long ago made my pact with Satan, and here is what I've learned: SEX SELLS. Everyone does it. Even Disney! Abstinence bracelets are merely a way to bring up sex without making it appear you're bringing up sex.

Because sure you need a structured leather handbag at the fucking beach

Fiction is, by and large, wish fulfillment. We don't just sell sex, we sell what's sexy. Who doesn't want to either be or fuck James Bond? Who doesn't want to be Frodo Baggins and have a grand adventure? So for the final step first you need to know what is sexy? How do people's minds work?

I'm going to deal with the average American reader. Mainly because being an American I know the culture like the back of my hand, but also because I desperately hope Brits, the French, the Chinese, and others are not as shallow as we are.

First off sex: we want to read it, watch it, have it, think about it. But ion a safe non-gross manner because this is America and we are so conflicted about boobs.

Secondly we want to be loved: fuck Maslow, the average person doesn't even really like themself so they fantasize about adulation and hero worship from the world, glory!

Thirdly we want revenge: the IRS, childhood bullies, ex lovers, spiteful coworkers or fellow students, we want to humiliate them with a god-like ability, and even better if a cute love interest is watching while we do it

Fourth off we want luxury: We want money, more, all of it. we want to wear couture labels, drive insane Italian sports cars, and live in mansions MTV would love to film. we want yachts to sail tropical seas and be able to jet off to Europe on a whim.

Fifth in the list we want permission to sin: We want a pill to never gain weight (gluttony), machines to do the work (sloth), and sex-starved swinging neighbors (adultery), or a way to game the system, like insider information on stocks (greed).

Sixth and last, we want to be ravished: Ravishment is forceful sex with minimal consent, where the ravished party lies there, does nothing, and gets pleasure. That's the #1 sexual fantasy of BOTH sexes. 

Now you know why Creepypastas are so successful. Link

Sad, but there you have it. Those are the absolutes we prey upon marketing. Why do premade cake mixes ask you to add an egg (go ahead, try it with oil and water, no egg, and it's fine)? Because in the 50's, if a housewife added an egg she felt she was making it from scratch and could claim she did so, earning the glory of adulation from family and friends.

Why do teenage boys love video games so much? It's a chance to humiliate your peer group and gain glory that does not require intelligence or athletic ability.

Here's a quick note: to be a successful writer you have to provide the wish fulfillment. To be a successful blogger you have to provoke wish fulfillment. In other words, a blogger should piss off people (it increases comments and traffic) but a writer has to set up the transgression and show the revenge through character's actions.

Tap into this! Particularly in the beginning, remember, the first 2 paragraphs of your summary have to grab the reader the same way your first chapter has to do the same. Pick one of the desires of humanity from above, and make sure it appears in the first 2 paragraphs.


John has had cybernetic implants and is now much more strongly built and atrarctive than Sharrie remembers.

Sharrie discovers that her dreams are accurate premonitions and offers her help to the police who welcome her eagerly.

Sharrie meets John  again when volunteering for research into a miracle pill that prevents weight gain despite constant eating.

The killer misses his chance to grab Sharrie as she goes to the lottery office to collect her millions.

Is it shallow? Yes. Is it dirty and underhanded? Yes.Does it work? Yes.

To keep it interesting, highlight a desire towards the beginning, in the first two paragraphs whenever possible. Even better if the whole plot is being allowed to sin (see every Danielle Steel novel ever written). Just get sin in there!

This should be your motto in writing, but in your personal life...not so much

Now your summary is tight, sharp, and interesting. Please, take a break, go watch a Disney film until you feel sane. Or maybe not, there is a TON of innuendo and wish fulfillment in there. Just watch puppy and kitten videos. Once you feel human, spell check the new summary, make it single spaced, put your name and the book title plus summary in the heading (ex: Nora quick The Dryad Summary) and number the pages. Save it.

Now we come to the synopsis. Just open a new document, close out the conflict summary, and keep your new unholy bible summary open. Remember this will be three pages single spaced (about 5ish double).

This should have ONLY conflict on it. Internal, external. Add a sentence here and there so it doesn't sound like a Tourette's-laden rant. 

Here is a line from the beginning of a summary:

A serial killer slays his third victim and rides the high until his madness makes him seek another victim and he spies Sharrie Jameson. One year later...

The synopsis might read: A serial killer targets Sharrie for his fourth victim.

Remember to keep the sin in, focus on conflict. Don't just copy and paste, restate. This should be very succinct. From it a reader should get major characters, the conflict, and the resolution.

Once you have it down, spell check, it, make it single spaced, add page numbers, and make your heading the same (of course change "summary" to "synopsis").

pictorial representation of summary and synopsis

You're not completely done, but trust me, you just made marketing much easier. But today we started killing your soul, you need to take a break. It's easier to just let it go, shuck it, but if you insist on retaining your humanity as something real and not a mask...this business is gonna kick you hard.

So now you know why so many writers smoke, drink, fight, and run away from home even as adults. Also why so many kill themselves. Welcome to the wonderful world of being a novelist. 

Just remember kids: it's good to know how to make fondant, but don't for one second ever, EVER eat it.