Hi, all! I'm Victoria Strauss, the other half of Writer Beware. I maintain the Writer Beware website, and am the Keeper of the Database.
I'm feeling very virtuous at the moment because I spent the afternoon doing Writer Beware's filing (a task I tend to avoid, because it gives me flashbacks to the horrid clerical jobs I had just out of college)--a six-inch-high stack of complaints and documentation that added four agents and three publishers to our warning list. And that's just for the past three weeks.
Right now, we have files on around 400 agents, 200 publishers, and a few dozen book doctors, publicists, and providers of dubious services. Most of the questions and complaints we receive focus on the same 30 or 40 outfits. The composition of this hit parade of bad guys changes over time, but there are a few who never drop off the charts. Our largest file contains well over 500 complaints.
(The con artist behind those complaints is currently threatening to sue us. We say, Bring it on! We'd love to have the chance to present our documentation in court. Tee hee.)
Ann asked me to comment on synopses. I don't have anything to add to her excellent advice; the procedure she advises is pretty much the same as the one I follow. My main problem with synopses written for submission (as opposed to those I write for myself as part of the world building process, as a way of exploring theme, character, and plot) is keeping them brief enough. My novels are strongly theme-driven, and for some reason it's very, very difficult for me to summarize the plot in such a way that the themes are also conveyed. I'm never sure I've done an adequate job.
Earlier this year my agent asked me to write a synopsis of my forthcoming novel, The Awakened City (sorry--book plug--I had to do it), so she'd have something to give interested overseas publishers. "Keep it brief," she said--for me, some of the scariest words in the English language. Panicking, I did some research to see how other people handled this, and found some interesting resources:
Writing a Synopsis From the Ground Up
How to Write a Synopsis
Evolution of a Synopsis (with examples)
Hope they're helpful!