I recommend having TWO versions of your synopsis – a “long synopsis” and a “short synopsis.”
In past years, there used to be a fairly universal system regarding synopses. For every 35 or so pages of text you had, you would have one page of synopsis explanation. So if your book was 245 pages, double-spaced, your synopsis would be seven pages approximately. This was fairly standard, and allowed writers a decent amount of space to explain their story. I recommend doing this first. This will be your “long synopsis.”
The problem is: Sometime in the past few years, agents started to get really busy and they want to hear your story now now now. They started asking for synopses of no more than two pages.
Many agents today request specifically just that – two pages max. Some may even say one page, but two pages is generally acceptable. You have to draft a new, more concise synopsis – the “short synopsis.”
So which one do you submit? Good question. If you think your short synopsis (1-2 pages) is tight and effective, always use that. However, if you think the long synopsis is much more effective, then you will sometimes submit one and sometimes submit the other. If an agent requests two pages max, send the short one (because, naturally, you’ve been instructed to). If they just say “Send a synopsis,” and you feel your longer synopsis is far superior, and your long synopsis isn’t more than eight pages, I say just submit the long one.
A query is a one-page letter that explains what you’ve written, who you are, and why the agent should represent you. In a query letter will be a pitch, which is a explanation of your story in 3-8 sentences. It’s like the text you see on the back of a DVD box. It’s designed to pique your interest. A pitch, like the back of a book or DVD, will not spill the beans regarding the ending.
A synopsis is a front-to-back telling of what happens in your story. It’s like sitting down with a 12-year-old and explaining your entire story in about five minutes. You explain who the characters are, what the conflict is, the three acts, and finally, what happens at the end (e.g., the villain dies). So, in a synopsis, you do indeed give away the ending. You would not do so in a pitch, and a pitch is what appears in a query.
There is no need to copyright your book (with the U.S. Copyright Office) before submitting it. Always remember that the moment your work is in tangible form—once you type it, save it, write it, or otherwise commit words to paper—it is protected under copyright law without any formal registration, even if you do not use the copyright symbol. However, registering your work with the Copyright Office (which does cost money) allows you greater power to litigate and collect damages should someone steal your work.
Any publisher who contracts with you will copyright the book in your name. A clause in most contracts between publishers and authors sets up an agreement whereby the publisher takes out the copyright in the name of the author. The publisher merely handles the paperwork on behalf of the author, and the copyright is the author’s property. (The author’s name follows the copyright symbol on the copyright page.)
So many years you’ve worked in a job
You never sought to do it did you, Ma’am?
But your Uncle married Wallis Simpson
It was then so unavoidable: so set
You would be Queen: you were: you are now
Those 60 years have passed, how fast they flew
With you upon the throne you saw the change
You see the change and yet you rise above
Consistent in a land you love, a land you serve
Duty, dignity, experience still
Few would trade you places if they could, you know
None could hope to do your job so well.