A very fine editor/publisher, and a very fine friend, sent me an e‑mail: “I have a huge favor to ask—huge not because of the labor involved, but because I know how you feel about blurbing.”
She was asking me if I would write a blurb for one of her forthcoming books, and she knows I dislike blurbs.
What is a blurb? The word, according to the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary, “is said to have been originated in 1907 by Gelett Burgess in a comic book jacket embellished with a drawing of a pulchritudinous young lady whom he facetiously dubbed Miss Blinda Blurb.” The OED goes on to define a blurb as “A flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial. 2. Fulsome praise; a sound like a publisher… On the ‘jacket’ of the ‘latest’ fiction, we find the blurb; abounding in agile adjectives and adverbs, attesting that this book is the ‘sensation of the year’.”
Blurbing is a very common practice in publishing. Pick up a new book and, sometimes on the front, more often on the back, are comments from a variety of sources. They may be excerpts from reviews. But they are often “fulsome praise,” from an individual. They may well be sincere, but I always discount such personal comments, insofar as I think they are the writer’s friends. But, as in my current case, that’s not so. I know nothing about the writer whose book I’ve been ask to blurb.
Mostly, I don’t like to blurb good friends’ books because I fear losing the friend. After all, what if I don’t like the book? Or the “fulsome praise,” is not forthcoming? So I don’t ask for them, and don’t like to do them. In short, they make me nervous.
That said, I have blurbed books on a few occasions, mostly because I was asked by people (writer friends) whom I felt I could not refuse. Happily, in those few cases, I really liked the books.
As for the current request, I said yes. In return, my publisher friend said, “You are a rose.” To which I replied, “Ah, just remember, roses have thorns.”