Do agents really read synopses? Isn’t a ten-page sample more useful?
For me, fiction synopses that detail every step of the plot are hard to read and fairly useless. The same description might yield work that’s boring, amazing, or ridiculous; it’s all in the execution. The ability to talk coherently and convincingly about your work is important, though. I like a query that communicates the book’s territory, feel, and type; your influences and credits; and, above all, a sense that you know what you’re trying to do. And then it’s on to the work itself. To that end, I ask for a query and the first page. One book I’m extremely excited about is a debut novel, Games to Play After Dark, by Sarah Gardner Borden (Vintage, May). It’s about a young marriage falling apart—a common subject, but the writing, sensibility, and quality of insight bowled me over. (First sentence: “Kate and Colin met at a party thrown by Kate and her West Twelfth Street apartment mate, Darcy, a party Colin turned up at only by happenstance, knowing neither Kate nor Darcy and tagging along with a friend of a friend.”) I look for authority—the sense that I’m in the capable hands of a real storyteller. Of course, you should follow the guidelines of the agent you’re querying.