For a long time, as least as far as I always knew, a blurb in publishing meant a comment of praise…a good, short review…from another author about a book. It’s used as a promotional tool on book covers. I’ve written them and requested them many times. Blurbs have always been, for me, an extra added bonus for readers to see how another author feels about a book before the reader makes the purchase. And authors take this seriously. They don’t just write blurbs for other authors in an off-handed manner. And when you see a blurb, you know the author really liked the book enough to put his or her name on the line.
But the definition of blurb doesn’t stop there. I’ve been seeing different definitions of blurbs on social networks, and a lot of people are now referring to blurbs in several different ways. With the advent of new authors entering the arena, a lot of the old terms are either changing or taking on multi-purposes because the authors aren’t familiar with the jargon. And they are all correct. So here are a few quotes from wiki about blurbs I think nail it pretty well:
A blurb is a short summary or some words of praise accompanying a creative work, without giving away any details that is usually referring to the words on the back of the book jacket but also commonly seen on DVD and video cases
The concept of a “brief statement praising a literary product” dates back to medieval literature of Egypt from the 14th century. The concept was known as taqriz in medieval Arabic literature.
The word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess‘s short 1906 book Are you a bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work and with, as Burgess’ publisher B. W. Huebsch described it,
“the picture of a damsel — languishing, heroic, or coquettish — anyhow, a damsel on the jacket of every novel”
In this case the jacket proclaimed “YES, this is a ‘BLURB’!” and the picture was of a (fictitious) young woman “Miss Belinda Blurb” shown calling out, described as “in the act of blurbing.”
The name and term stuck for any publisher’s contents on a book’s back cover, even after the picture was dropped and only the complimentary text remained.
A blurb on a book or a film can be any combination of quotes from the work, the author, the publisher, reviewers or fans, a summary of the plot, a biography of the author or simply claims about the importance of the work. Many humorous books and films parody blurbs that deliver exaggerated praise by unlikely people and insults disguised as praise.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “Makes Ben Hur look like an Epic”
1066 and All That – “We look forward keenly to the appearance of their last work”
The Harvard Lampoon satire of The Lord of the Rings, entitled Bored of the Rings, deliberately used phony blurbs by deceased authors on the inside cover. One of the blurbs stated “One of the two or three books…”, and nothing else.
In the 1980s, Spy Magazine ran a regular feature called “Logrolling in Our Time” which exposed writers who wrote blurbs for one anothers‘ books.
On the Internet a blurb is used to give a brief written description or promotion of an article or other larger work. The visual equivalent to blurbs are trailers, in particular teaser trailers.