A blurb is a short promotional piece accompanying a piece of creative work. It may be written by the author or publisher or quote praise from others. Blurbs were originally printed on the back or rear dust-jacket of a book, and are now found on home video cases, web portals, and news websites. A blurb may introduce a newspaper or magazine feature story.

The original blurb


Gelett Burgess
Gelett Burgess circa 1910

In the US, the history of the blurb is said to begin with Walt Whitman's collection, Leaves of Grass. In response to the publication of the first edition in 1855, Ralph Waldo Emerson had sent Whitman a congratulatory letter, including the phrase "I greet you at the beginning of a great career": the following year, Whitman had these words stamped in gold leaf on the spine of the second edition.[1]

The word blurb was coined in 1907 by American humorist Gelett Burgess (1866–1951).[2] His 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 text remained.

In Germany, the blurb is regarded to have been invented by Karl Robert Langewiesche around 1902. In German bibliographic usage, it is usually located on the second page of the book underneath the half title, or on the dust cover.


A blurb on a book 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.

In the 1980s, Spy ran a regular feature called "Logrolling in Our Time" which exposed writers who wrote blurbs for one another's books.[3]

Blurb requests

Prominent writers can receive large volumes of blurb requests from aspiring authors. This has led some writers to turn down such requests as a matter of policy. For example, Gary Shteyngart announced in The New Yorker that he would no longer write blurbs, except for certain writers with whom he had a professional or personal connection.[4] Neil Gaiman reports that "Every now and again, I stop doing blurbs.... The hiatus lasts for a year or two, and then I feel guilty or someone asks me at the right time, and I relent."[5] Jacob M. Appel reports that he received fifteen to twenty blurb requests per week and tackles "as many as I can."[6]

Parody blurbs

Many humorous books and films parody blurbs that deliver exaggerated praise by unlikely people and insults disguised as praise.

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.


Movie blurbs are part of the promotional campaign for films, and usually consist of positive, colorful extracts from published reviews.

Movie blurbs have often been faulted for taking words out of context.[7][8][9][10] The New York Times reported that "the blurbing game is also evolving as newspaper film critics disappear and studios become more comfortable quoting Internet bloggers and movie Web sites in their ads, a practice that still leaves plenty of potential for filmgoers to be bamboozled. Luckily for consumers, there is a cavalry: blurb watchdog sites have sprung up and the number of Web sites that aggregate reviews by established critics is steadily climbing. ... Helping to keep studios in line these days are watchdog sites like and The Blurbs, a Web column for Gelf magazine written by Carl Bialik of The Wall Street Journal."[11]

Slate wrote in an "Explainer" column: "How much latitude do movie studios have in writing blurbs? A fair amount. There's no official check on running a misleading movie blurb, aside from the usual laws against false advertising. Studios do have to submit advertising materials like newspaper ads and trailers to the Motion Picture Association of America for approval. But the MPAA reviews the ads for their tone and content, not for the accuracy of their citations. ... As a courtesy, studios will often run the new, condensed quote by the critic before sending it to print."[12]

Many examples exist of blurb used in marketing a film being traceable directly back to the film's marketing team.[13]

References and sources

  1. ^ Dwyer, Colin (27 September 2015). "The Curious Case Of The Book Blurb (And Why It Exists)". NPR. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  2. ^ The Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language. Ed. David Crystal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. p. 132. ISBN 0521401798
  3. ^ "Spy: The Funny Years". Variety. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Writers's Voice, Oct 2015
  7. ^ Reiner, L. (1996). "Why Movie Blurbs Avoid Newspapers." Editor & Publisher: The Fourth Estate, 129, 123.
  8. ^ Bialik, Carl (January 6, 2008). "The Best Worst Blurbs of 2007: The 10 most egregious misquotes, blurb whores, and other movie-ad sins of 2007". Gelf Magazine. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  9. ^ Sancton, Julian (March 19, 2010). "Good Blurbs from Bad Reviews: Repo Men, The Bounty Hunter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  10. ^ McGlone, Matthew S. (2005). "Contextomy: The Art of Quoting Out of Context." Media Culture, & Society, Vol. 27, No. 4, 511-522.
  11. ^ Barnes, Brooks (June 6, 2009). "Hollywood's Blurb Search Reaches the Blogosphere". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  12. ^ Beam, Chris (Nov 25, 2009). "'(Best) Film Ever!!!' How Do Movie Blurbs Work?". Slate. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  13. ^ Silver, James (3 October 2005). "How to flog a turkey". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 22 May 2010.



Beltempest is an original novel written by Jim Mortimore and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It features the Eighth Doctor and Sam.

Beyond the Gates of Dream

Beyond the Gates of Dream is a collection of short stories by science fiction and fantasy author Lin Carter. It was first published in paperback by Belmont Books in 1969.

The book collects seven stories by Carter, two of them collaborative, together with an introduction and afterward. One oddity in regard to the first edition of the collection is that its back cover blurb references and summarizes three stories of Carter's presumably intended for the collection but which do not actually appear in it, including a time travel story and two other stories identifiable as "The Martian El Dorado of Parker Wintley," (later published in The DAW Science Fiction Reader (1976)) and "The Gods of Neol-Shendis," (published in Amra (July 1966), later revised as "The Gods Of Niom Parma" (published in Warlocks and Warriors (1970)).

Blurb, Inc.

Blurb is an American self-publishing platform that enables their users to create, self-publish, promote, share, and sell their own print and ebooks. Blurb offers book-making tools catering to diverse digital skills.

Dead to the World

Dead to the World is the first live video album by American rock band Marilyn Manson, released on February 10, 1998 on VHS, documenting the infamous tour of the same name. It contains primarily live performances but delves into backstage and archival footage of the band.

Notable features are: extensive protests by right-wing Christian groups; spoken relations of meaning and intent by Manson himself; and the brutal, immense theatrics presented by the band in the live setting. Based from Antichrist Superstar, this video features six songs from the album as well as songs from earlier releases Portrait of an American Family and Smells Like Children. Naturally this tour reflected the album it was built upon.

Dreamstone Moon

Dreamstone Moon is an original novel written by Paul Leonard and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It features the Eighth Doctor and Sam.

Dust jacket

The dust jacket (sometimes book jacket, dust wrapper or dust cover) of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers. Often the back panel or flaps are printed with biographical information about the author, a summary of the book from the publisher (known as a blurb) or critical praise from celebrities or authorities in the book's subject area. In addition to its promotional role, the dust jacket protects the book covers from damage. However, since it is itself relatively fragile, and since dust jackets have practical, aesthetic and sometimes financial value, the jacket may in turn be wrapped in another jacket, usually transparent, especially if the book is a library volume.

Energy and Power

Energy and Power is a 1962 science book for children by L. Sprague de Camp, illustrated by Weimer Pursell and Fred Eng, published by Golden Press as part of The Golden Library of Knowledge Series. It has been translated into Portuguese and Spanish.The title blurb summarizes the content as "How man uses animals, wind, water, heat, electricity, chemistry, and atoms to perform work."

Genocide (novel)

Genocide is an original novel written by Paul Leonard and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It features the Eighth Doctor, Sam, Jo and UNIT.

High Windows

High Windows is a collection of poems by English poet Philip Larkin, and was published in 1974 by Faber and Faber Limited. The readily available paperback version was first published in Britain in 1979. The collection is the last publication of new poetry by Larkin before his death in 1985, and it contains some of his most famous poems, including the title piece, "High Windows", "Dublinesque", and "This Be The Verse". The collection contains themes presented in his earlier collections, though the tone of the poems caused critics to suggest the book is darker and more "socially engaged" than his earlier volumes.

It is currently on the AQA AS/A2 level English Literature syllabus.

Monkey selfie copyright dispute

The monkey selfie copyright dispute is a series of disputes about the copyright status of selfies taken by Celebes crested macaques using equipment belonging to the British nature photographer David Slater. The disputes involve Wikimedia Commons and the blog Techdirt, which have hosted the images following their publication in newspapers in July 2011 over Slater's objections, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who have argued that the macaque should be assigned the copyright.

Slater has argued that he has a valid copyright claim based on the fact that he engineered the situation that resulted in the pictures, by travelling to Indonesia, befriending a group of wild macaques, and setting up his camera equipment in such a way that a "selfie" picture might come about. The Wikimedia Foundation's 2014 refusal to remove the pictures from its Wikimedia Commons image library was based on the understanding that copyright is held by the creator, that a non-human creator (not being a legal person) cannot hold copyright, and that the images are thus in the public domain. Slater stated in August 2014 that as a result of the pictures being available on Wikipedia, he had lost "£10,000 or more in income" and that it was "killing [his] business" as a wildlife photographer. In December 2014, the United States Copyright Office stated that works created by a non-human, such as a photograph taken by a monkey, are not copyrightable. A number of legal experts in the US and UK have nevertheless argued that Slater's role in the photographic process may have been sufficient to establish a valid copyright claim, though this decision would have to be made by a court.In a separate dispute, PETA tried to use the monkey selfies to establish a legal precedent that animals should be declared copyright holders. Slater had published a book containing the photographs through self-publishing company Blurb, Inc. In September 2015, PETA filed a lawsuit against Slater and Blurb, requesting that the monkey be assigned copyright and that PETA be appointed to administer proceeds from the photos for the endangered species' benefit. In dismissing PETA's case, the court ruled that a monkey cannot own copyright, under U.S. law. PETA appealed, and in September 2017, both PETA and the photographer agreed to a settlement in which Slater would donate a portion of future revenues on the photographs to wildlife organizations. However, the court of appeals declined to dismiss the appeal and declined to vacate the lower court judgment. In April 2018, the appeals court affirmed that animals can not legally hold copyrights and expressed concern that PETA's motivations had been to promote their own interests rather than to protect the legal rights of animals.

Patrick Ward (photographer)

Patrick Ward (born 1937) is a British photographer who has published collections of his own work on British and other subjects as well as working on commissions for the press.

The Chase (novel)

The Chase is a detective novel by author Clive Cussler written in November 2007. It introduces us to the main character, Isaac Bell. Bell is a tall, lean detective who works for the VanDorn Detective Agency. The villain in this story uses one of the first five 1905 Harley Davidson motorcycles ever built to escape after the robbery and triple murder at the Bisbee National bank in Bisbee, Arizona.

The Janus Conjunction

The Janus Conjunction is an original novel written by Trevor Baxendale and based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It features the Eighth Doctor and Sam.

The Pratchett Portfolio

The Pratchett Portfolio is a small collection of the artistic works of Paul Kidby, illustrating the characters of Terry Pratchett's Discworld. It includes a small blurb on each character, and a picture of said person. In addition to the art, each blurb talks about how Pratchett created the characters. The portfolio was published in 1996 and followed in 2004 by The Art of Discworld.

The portfolio includes entries for characters such as Lady Ramkin, Detritus, Mustrum Ridcully, the Death of Rats, as well as Rincewind running around in the Dungeon Dimensions.

The Taming of the Shrew (1908 film)

The Taming of the Shrew is a 1908 silent film directed by D. W. Griffith. It was based on Shakespeare's play of the same name.

The blurb for the film stated "if we could see ourselves as others see us what models we would become."

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld is an accessory book to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. It is a compilation of quotes from all the Discworld novels, amassed and prefaced by Stephen Briggs.

The book consists of the very best quotes, ideas and one-liners from all books in the Discworld series. The book is organised sequentially, beginning with quotes from The Colour of Magic and ending with Making Money, with each book being organised as a chapter. For each novel, a short synopsis (often the blurb from the novel) is provided to 'set the scene'. Many of the quotes are presented in such a way that even a relative Discworld novice could see the humour, although some require some knowledge of the Discworld universe (and the many unique characters that populate it) in order to be understood.

The introduction to the book, written by Stephen Briggs, states:

In producing this book, I have not tried to extract every single gag and witty exchange from the series. There are too many, and to do that, I might as well have tied a set of the novels up with string and added a tag: 'The Complete Wit of Pratchett'.

Stephen Briggs

The cover of the book is presented as a sort of 'faux book of magic', as borrowed from the Unseen University library, complete with mystical runes, torn edges, and coated in spiderwebs.

Two Sisters (novel)

Two Sisters is a novelistic memoir by the American writer Gore Vidal. Originally published in 1970 this fairly short novel (174 pages) contains, according to the blurb on the dust jacket of the first edition, "Gore Vidal’s singular speculations on love, sex, death, literature and politics."

Reviewing the book in the New York Times, reviewer John Leonard complained, ""Two Sisters" works neither as a novel (all the news happens off-stage) nor as a memoir (the "I" is far too coy)."

Unfinished Portrait (novel)

Unfinished Portrait is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by Collins in March 1934 and in the US by Doubleday later in the same year. The British edition retailed for seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00. It is the second of six novels Christie wrote under the pen name Mary Westmacott.

Worlds of Weber

Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories is a collection of short works by David Weber published in hardcover in September 2008 by Subterranean Press. Mass market paperback and e-book editions were released in October 2009 by Baen Books.


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