As an author, you may have heard the word ‘blurb’ used to describe a book summary, synopsis, or even a review. So what is a ‘blurb’ exactly? And does every author need one?
A book ‘blurb’, also known as the ‘dust jacket’, originally referred to the endorsements and praise printed on the back of a physical book. In more recent years, the word has also come to mean the enticing 200-word description of the book’s contents.
It is very easy to get confused by so many words that all mean similar things and which are often used interchangeably and incorrectly.
I want to break this topic down and make it easier to understand, so in this article, I will explore:
- What is a book blurb’s purpose?
- What is the difference between a blurb and a summary?
- What is the difference between a blurb and a synopsis?
- What is the difference between a blurb and a book description?
- What is the difference between a blurb and a book review?
- Is a pitch the same as a blurb?
- Do authors write their own blurbs?
- How do you write a book blurb?
What Is A Book Blurb’s Purpose?
The purpose of a book blurb is to grab the reader’s attention quickly. The book blurb should be a concise and engaging book teaser, which can often include editorial quotes from well-known authors.
Originally, the blurb contained short, praise-filled quotes, and many mainstream publishers still rely on this method today. However, a concise and engaging tagline, description, or even an extract can work just as well.
You can use the blurb for online retailers, the back of print books and dust jackets (literally the paper cover on some hardbacks which keeps it clean), on your website and on social media.
A book blurb is used basically, anywhere that readers might see it and want to read your book.
Why is it called a blurb?
The American humorist, Gelett Burgess, made up the word ‘blurb’ as a joke to mock the publishers who filled the dust jackets of books with praise-filled quotes.
At a dinner party in 1907, Burgess handed out fake copies of his new book with a ridiculous image of a woman shouting, which he had pulled from an advert for a dentist. He had called the woman ‘Miss Belinda Blurb’ and the image claimed she was ‘in the act of blurbing’, i.e. she was shouting praise for the book. [Source]
The joke clearly proved to be an absolute riot, as we have referred to the enticing text on a dust jacket as a ‘blurb’ ever since.
Why is a book blurb important?
A book blurb, i.e. the concise and enticing book description, is one of the most important features in publishing. Along with the title and cover image, readers rely on the blurb to decide whether to buy the book.
With only 200 or so words to work with, the author must entice the reader, give them enough information to draw them in, but maintain enough mystery for the reader to want to learn more. This concise description needs to fit genre expectations, be that fiction or non-fiction, whilst standing out in a crowded field.
The book blurb is one of the most important tools in the self-published author’s arsenal.
What Is The Difference Between A Blurb And A Summary?
A blurb differs from a summary in length and depth. The blurb is usually around 200 words and is used for marketing, while the summary can be up to 3 or 4 pages, and provides an overview of the book.
A blurb is a very simple and effective tool that may be used to engage your audience. It provides a little taste of your narrative, enough to pique their interest but leaving out key information so as not to ruin the experience for them.
Whereas a summary will give you a brief overview of the main ideas, characters, and plot, including spoilers of key events.
What Is The Difference Between A Blurb And A Synopsis?
The fundamental difference between a blurb and a synopsis is the intended audience. The blurb is short and written for customers. While the synopsis is in-depth and created for agents, editors, and publishers.
The blurb is the brief text we find in online bookstores and on the backs of books.
A synopsis is longer than a summary, often 25-30 pages long. While a summary summarises the text in 2-3 pages, a synopsis goes into much more depth. Key characters, themes, plot lines, and endings are all discussed in great detail in a synopsis.
A synopsis is used to give an overview of an often yet-to-be-finished text for those who haven’t read it, whereas a blurb is used to sell a text that has already been written.
What Is The Difference Between A Blurb And A Book Description?
The terms ‘blurb’ and ‘book description’ have become synonymous. However, there is a key difference; while both refer to the engaging teaser used for marketing, a ‘blurb’ can also refer to a quote provided by a celebrity or established author.
A book description is a concise and engaging piece of text, often found on the back of the book or on online retailers such as Amazon, and used to highlight the benefits of the book or the most exciting features of the story. This is also known as the ‘blurb’.
However, many publishers and authors still use the word ‘blurb’ in its original meaning to refer to positive quotes about the book. So, if a publisher or fellow author were to ask you for a ‘blurb’, it is unlikely they want you to write their book description. More often than not, they are asking for a brief review of only three or four words of praise.
What Is The Difference Between A Blurb And A Book Review?
The terms ‘blurb’ and ‘book review’ are often used interchangeably. However, there are key differences. A ‘review’ is an in-depth critique of a book, published in magazines or online retailers, while a ‘blurb’ is a short quote used in the book description.
A book review often has a rating, with either a retail customer or a literary journalist giving a breakdown of the good and the bad about the book, often while trying to avoid spoilers. The goal of the review is to provide an unbiased overview of the quality of the book to help potential readers make an informed decision.
A blurb, on the other hand, is a marketing tool. The goal of the blurb is not to provide an overview of the book, but rather to sell it. The blurb is usually a teaser written by the author, but in many cases, the ‘blurb’ will also refer to short quotes by celebrities or well-established authors writing in the same genre who are willing to provide a single line praising the book.
Do authors get paid for book blurbs?
As a general rule, authors who provide a quote praising a book, known as a ‘blurb’, do not get paid for their review, and services offering paid reviews should be regarded with scepticism.
Is A Pitch The Same As A Blurb?
A blurb and a pitch serve a similar function. Both are tools to ‘sell’ a book to potential readers. While a ‘blurb’ is a teaser for customers, a ‘pitch’ is a one or two-sentence hook to get agents or publishers interested.
Authors and publishers create book blurbs when the book is ready for publication. The book blurb is usually short, only 200 words, and contains tag lines, hooks, and quotes from established authors or professionals.
The pitch, sometimes shortened to an ‘elevator pitch’ i.e. short enough to intrigue someone within the time it takes for an elevator to move between floors, is generally only one or two sentences long, and explains everything potential publishers or agents need to know in order to be interested.
Another key difference is that a ‘pitch’ is usually for a book that is unfinished, or not yet written, while a ‘blurb’ is for a book about to be published.
If you would like examples of short and snappy book pitches, check out the hashtags #PitMad and #PitchWars on Twitter.
Do Authors Write Their Own Blurbs?
The blurb is an engaging piece of copy written to sell a book written by an author or publisher. It can include a book description, an extract, or a quote by an established author or a celebrity.
For a published author, their publisher usually writes the blurb and arranges for authors or celebrities to provide the quotes.
For self-published authors, they can write the snappy description themselves or hire a professional who will write it on their behalf. Many writers also send advanced copies to reviewers and other authors in order to collect quotes for the blurb.
It is not advisable to hire a service to create positive reviews for the blurb, nor is it sensible to make up quotes. Unless you intend the quotes to be taken as humour and make their meaning clear.
How Do You Write A Blurb?
A book blurb is a short, snappy description of a book that is used to generate interest in potential readers. It is similar to a pitch in that it is designed to sell the book, but it is generally only one or two sentences long and explains everything potential readers need to know about the book.
The first thing you need to do to write your own blurb is to study the blurbs of books in your niche. Preferably self-published books with lots of reviews that are similar to yours in content and style.
Study how the authors have formed their book descriptions, the style they have used, and the way they have hooked the reader, and think about how you can do the same. You want your book to meet your genre’s expectations while standing out.
If you’re struggling to write a blurb, start by brainstorming a list of potential hooks for your book. Once you have a selection of hooks, choose the one that you think will be most effective in selling your book.
Top Tip: Try out a few hooks on a social media platform such as Twitter, see what engages readers, and get feedback to pick the one that packs the most punch.
Next, introduce the reader to your protagonist and the main conflict they’re facing. Try to make the conflict relatable and interesting, without giving too much away.
Once you’ve done this, keep your blurb short and punchy by avoiding long descriptive passages. Stick to around 200 words or one to two paragraphs.
Finally, end your blurb with a cliffhanger or snippet from the book to leave the reader wanting more. This could be a line of dialogue, an interesting plot twist, or a revelation about a character.
Remember: a good book blurb should make the reader want to read your book. So make sure you spend some time crafting an effective one!
How long is a book blurb?
A book blurb is typically around 200 words long, or one to two paragraphs. However, there is no hard and fast rule about how long a blurb should be. The important thing is that it should be long enough to pique the reader’s interest, but not so long that it gives too much away.
What are some examples of book blurbs?
Here, I’ve composed some super short blurbs of a few famous books, so you can see just how condensed a book blurb can be:
“In a world where magic is illegal, seventeen-year-old Zélie must find a way to bring it back in order to save her people from extinction.”
– Children Of Blood And Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
“Orphaned and alone, Jane Eyre turns to governessing as a way to support herself. But when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, she finds that her new employer, Mr Rochester, has a dark secret that could destroy them both.”
– Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
“Orphaned and alone, Harry Potter has been living under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s house until he receives an invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
“In a small town in Maine, seven children known as the Losers Club come face to face with life problems, bullies and a monster that takes the shape of a clown called Pennywise.”
– It, Stephen King
As you can see from these examples, a book blurb should introduce the reader to the main conflict facing the protagonist, without giving too much away. It should also be punchy and interesting to make the reader want to find out more.
How many paragraphs should be in a blurb?
Book blurbs are short and snappy by design. There’s no set number of paragraphs, but as a rule of thumb, each paragraph should be around 4-5 lines long. This keeps the blurb easy to read and digest, while still providing enough information to pique the reader’s interest.
Can a blurb be written in the first person?
A lot of very successful book blurbs are written in the first person. This style can be effective in drawing the reader in and making them feel like they are part of the story. However, it’s not essential to write your blurb in the first person, so use whatever style you think will work best for your book.
When writing a book blurb, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:
- A book blurb should be around 200 words long, or one to two paragraphs.
- A book blurb should introduce the reader to the main conflict facing the protagonist, without giving too much away.
- A book blurb should be punchy and interesting to make the reader want to find out more.
- A book blurb can be written in the first person, but this is not essential.
A book blurb is a short, condensed sales pitch of a book that is used to pique the reader’s interest. It should introduce the main conflict facing the protagonist, without giving too much away. Blurbs are typically around 200 words long, or one to two paragraphs.
Blurbs are not to be confused with book reviews and book descriptions, as there are key differences. A book review will give the reader a detailed opinion on the merits of the book, whereas a book description will simply provide information about what the book is about.
A book synopsis is a more comprehensive summary of the plot and is typically used by publishers and literary agents to get an overview of a book. While a pitch is used to sell the book to a publisher or agent.
Now that you know all about book blurbs, it’s time to write your own!
Remember to keep things short, punchy and interesting, and introduce the reader to the main conflict facing the protagonist. With a little practice, you’ll be writing killer blurbs in no time!