Who writes the blurbs on the backs of books?

This evening the LO drew my attention to yet another totally inappropriate blurb (you know, the thing on the back of the paperback or inside flap of the hardback that’s supposed to tell what the book is about) - in this particular one, the blurb said the main character learned forgiveness, when apparently what she really learned was how to cut the heads off people who wronged her. (I didn’t read it, but LO is a reliable source on these things.) A certain difference there, to my mind.

Many times I have noticed that the blurbs appear to be written by people only loosely familiar with the book’s content. On the other hand, I encounter the occasional blurb that seems like it must have been written by the author because the writing style and so forth is so similar.

So my question is: who really writes these things? Is it something like the author writes it, but then the editor and the marketing department work it over? (This is my current guess.) Any authors/editors/etc. out there who can answer this one?

The marketing department usually writes the blurbs. The author has nothing to do with it.

Occasionally, an editor might do it. The original cover flap introduction to Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was written by Jane Yolen (a very successful author later on) because she worked as an editorial assistant at Dahl’s publisher at the time.

Nah, most big publishers have a copy department. Generally two or three people who employ freelance writers, and route material back and forth.

The Copy Chief obtains the manuscript from the Editor, sends it on to an appropriate writer, receives the flap copy back in a couple weeks, consults with the Editor (who may consult with the Author; I usually do), makes necessary changes, then sends it to the Art Department to be designed and set and laid into the mechanical.

When I worked at a small independent publisher, I wrote the copy myself. Then I made DAMN sure to consult with the author.

Oh, and the descriptive copy on a bookflap (or paperback back panel) isn’t the “blurb.”

The “blurb” is the line reading “This Is The Best Novel I Ever Read!!!” --Stephen King thing.

In my case, there was no blurb on the back cover (sigh).

There was a blurb on the inside flaps of the dust jecket. I didn’t write it, but they did send it to me, as a courtesy, before they printed it. I’m glad they did, because it had a number of errors in it. So, at least in some cases, the author has input.

Okay, you have MY interest piqued - what is the name of this book you are reading?

And who/what is LO ( Loving Other? Leprocitic Octopus? Livid Organism?) I am not familiar with this term.

Many thanks, folks. Question answered: in the future, we will blame the publisher, even though other people might have had something to do with it. (I figure, hey, we blame the author et al for so much - let’s spread it around a bit, y’know?)

And thanks also for supplying the correct term, Ike - now I will sound at least marginally with it when speaking to those in the publishing industry. (Should that ever happen, and should the conversation be kept strictly to the stuff they print on the jackets/backs of books.) In my daily life, though, I think I’m going to have to keep calling it ‘blurb,’ because ‘flap copy’ sounds like:

  1. Term for new messaging medium. (“Joanie, can you flap copy Brent and Tad on the stuff for the new Snackers campaign?”)

  2. Something the LA Times would print way in the back of the A section about a land war in Europe. (“Land war is such a harsh term, Bob. Let’s call it, um, oh, how 'bout - a flap?” “Sounds great. Better get someone to write some flap copy, then.”)

  3. A good way to tell an editor his fly is undone. (“Psst, Jim…better check your flap copy.”)

[sub][brag]My first GQ thread! And I did it right, I think. No moderator notes, no thread moves, and only the minor mistake of using the wrong name for the thing I’m asking about! ::deepbluesea does restrained dance of joy::[/brag][/sub]

P.S. screech-owl, LO stands for Loved One. My, you know, we’ve-been-living-together-forever-and-we-act-like-we’re-married-but-we-can’t-actually-get-married person. Normally I try to make this definition clear in the context, but after a night of no sleep and a severe headache, I’m lucky to be typing basic English, never mind the subtleties.

And I’m not actually reading the book that caused me to break down and post. The LO is. It’s something from early in Laurell Hamilton’s career, before she did the highly-sucessful (and beloved of the LO) Anita Blake series, apparently. But I don’t know the title.

I hate when it’s all blurbs and no flap copy. (I love learning new publishing-insider phrases!) Dammit, I want to know what the book is about, not that it’s “A stunning work of epic scope” or “A fantastically engaging story.” And like I should trust those people anyway? Even my favorite authors have exhibited an apalling lack of taste in their blurbs.

Anyway, congratulations on a fine GQ, deepbluesea.

Just yesterday I was reading about the origin of the word “blurb” and thought it might fit in nicely with the rest of this thread.

Would you believe that the inventor of the “blurb” is most famous for writing, “I never saw a purple cow…”?

The full story is at The Word Detective

I’d just like to chip in and say that the next book I find with a blurb that reads “An emotional tour de force!” – I am going to hunt down the person in charge and … well, I probably won’t do anything. But it’ll annoy me.

Well, since we’ve detoured into real blurbs - my question about those is, why do 50% of SF books have blurbs from either Anne McCaffrey or Orson Scott Card? It’s gotten to where if I see a blurb from one of those two - particularly McCaffrey - it actually makes me less likely to buy or read the book. I’m just suspicious of so much enthusiasm.

My most favorite blurb fact comes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams - we’ve all read this, right? The edition that we have in the house is a paperback, and it has no flap copy, only blurb upon blurb, with more blurbs covering the first few pages inside. Thing is, none of the outside blurbs say one word about rabbits. They talk about how wonderful the book is, what an instant classic (is this not an oxymoron, not to mention a pretty moronic thing to say?) it is, that it’s an adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat, all that, but not one of them sees fit to mention the rabbit aspect of things. Not until something like the last page of the inside blurbs does anyone actually use the r-word. This must’ve been done on purpose. But why?

And my ‘most watched for’ blurb word: poignant. This usually translates to: you’ll cry your eyes out and probably spend a sleepless night mourning the utter misery of this world, but I want you to read it or see it anyway. If a blurb uses the word poignant, but there’s no other mention of sadness - you’d be surprised how often this happens - I tend to put the thing back on the shelf. Look, if you’re going to try to make me cry, fine. It’s easy. Lesser and greater persons than you have done it, I assure you. But be honest about it, y’know?


The more traditional term is SO, for “Significant Other”. I prefer this term to the recently more common (and more specific) DW or DH…

I wrote a blurb once, and the process destroyed what little credibility blubs had for me.

The book was written by a marketing consultant who worked with the company where I was employed. He asked the president of the company to write a blurb. The president didn’t have time, of course, so asked me to write something to appear over his name. I wrote some nice things for the book (which I had not read), and about 10% of what I wrote actually appeared on the back cover.

Without impugning anybody’s character, I will just say that one of my grad school professors had a term, “blurb whore.” I’ll let you figure out what kind of person it described.

[exasperated screeching halt]

Two more terms I’ve never heard or seen. Now what do THESE mean??

screech-owl [who refers to (former)Roommate as PWWISLF (person with whom I shared laundry facilities)]

[/exasperated screeching halt]

Evidently double quotes do not work in the subject line.
That should have read: I’m gonna get a “freakin’ dictionary of abbreviations”…
Carry on. Thank you for all your information.

Years ago I read several books by an English author - Jack Trevor Storey. Later in an essay of his, he revealed that the biographical details of the author are written by the author, and that he took certain liberties with this process.

I went back and checked the short bio on the back of the books I had, and sure enough his background changed from book to book. He was born in different countries, his parents did different things, he had different careers.

Is it legal to hijack your own thread?

screech-owl, DW = Dear Wife and DH = Dear Husband. At least, that’s how I’ve always heard it.

And I avoid the term SO 'cause I can’t read it without thinking “and this makes everyone else…insignificant others?” I figure, at this point, people are going to see any two-letter abbreviation used in that kind of context (“Well, this weekend the ZD and I went up to Napa…”) as indicating “someone in whom I have some kinda romantic or sexual interest or some such.” So I might as well use whatever seems right. Though I really do try to explain it in context most of the time.

Plus, it allows people to fill in the blanks with stuff like “Lordly Octopus” and so forth. Fun for the whole family.

Perhaps I’ll start a list of “deepbluesea’s commonly used abbreviations” in my sig. That should solve the whole problem nicely.

Self-hijack ends.