A reader recently asked me to explain a few term that can be confusing. Knowing the difference might help you, as a reader, better discern whether a book is right for you.
Blurb, Review and Back Cover Copy
* In the book business, a "blurb" is a comment made by one author regarding the merits of a book by another author. These are always positive, and usually you try to match the blurber's audience to your intended audience. "Reviews" are written by reviewers, who may or may not be authors themselves, but who are disinterested parties who are weighing in. These are either negative or positive, although certainly you wouldn't share a negative comment on your book itself. "Back cover copy" is a teaser, a bit of a synopsis that will (we hope!) entice readers. Often the back cover copy is written by marketing interns at a publishing house. Several times, sad to say, I've had mine written by young folks who haven't even read the book in question. (Hard to believe, but true.) The purpose of the back cover copy is to give potential readers enough information so they can decide if the premise of the book sounds interesting, but not so much as to give away the whole plot. It's tricky.
How Do You Get Them?
* I once overheard a bookseller telling a customer that authors pay for blurbs. That is not true! In fact, some blurbs are requested on behalf of a book by the publisher, who goes to another author in their "stable" of authors and asks for a blurb. Other times, we humble ourselves and ask friends if they'd blurb our books. This is tricky, since a refusal can mean the loss of a friendship.
*There are those in the industry known as "blurb sluts," people who will blurb any book by anyone to get their name in front of the public.
* Books are submitted for reviews, and of course, readers are now encouraged to submit reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and other sites. There are now services that will review a book for money, and then leave it to the author/publisher whether to share that review. Amazing, huh?
* Also when writing a review, versus a blurb, the reviewer will often structure their reviews so that portions can be excerpted. The professionals are particularly good at this. I use the term "professional" to divide those who review regularly and have training from those who are simply reacting to a book they've read. But please note, I am NOT disparaging of the reader who shares his/her opinion. I appreciate it! The fact that someone would take time to share means the world to me.
My friend said, "I must admit to being a little puzzled by the back cover copy (of your newest book)."
* The cover copy is supposed to be a bit puzzling so that I encourage you to pick up the book.This is tricky business. I aim to tease you, but be transparent about the mood of the book. Therefore, I need to simplify the concept, and give you enough so you can make an informed decision, but not so much that you don't feel the urge to buy the book.
* Certain genres have certain "conventions" when it comes to back cover copy. For example, cozies are full of puns. Thrillers are ripe with hyperbole. It's a way of signaling to the reader, "You've come to the right place."
I hope this helps you make better decisions about which books you want to read. Of course, you can judge a book by its cover--and its back cover, but I must admit, these are tricky sources of information. Now you know why!