Blurb: A brief endorsement or favorable publicity notice, especially on a book jacket.
"Blurb," which celebrates its centennial this year, is one of relatively few coined words to become well established in the American lexicon. Invented by the writer and illustrator Gelett Burgess (1866-1951), it made its debut at the 1907 American Booksellers Association in the fictional person of "Miss Blinda Blurb," whose illustration graced the cover of Burgess's book Are You a Bromide? (Burgess had previously coined "bromide" to mean "a boring person"; the word eventually became attached to the boring pronouncements of boring people. Although he created more than 100 new words*, Burgess's only lasting successes were "bromide" and "blurb.")
Language maven Allan Metcalf writes in Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success:
Blurb was unquestionably original as well as successful. In this case, however, Burgess did not set out to coin a word. He drew a cartoon of an attractive woman, named her "Blinda Blurb," and added some hype about his book. It must have been a bookseller or publisher--or perhaps Burgess himself, later--who transferred the meaning from the woman to the words of praise.
"Blurb" today is also the name of a self-publishing company in Silicon Valley that transforms manuscripts and blogs into books. (In the latter case, the product is called a "blook." A Blurb competitor, Lulu, sponsors an annual "Blooker" prize, a play on Britain's Booker Prize.) Blurb recently announced an unusual arrangement with conventional publisher Chronicle Books, in which Chronicle will refer its rejects to Blurb, which in turn will publish the manuscripts
and split the proceeds with Chronicle. (Update: see comment on this post from Joseph Ternes of Chronicle Books.) According to Newsweek:
It looks to be a win-win arrangement: Chronicle gets a "talent lab" where it can watch for new work bubbling up in popularity, Blurb gains early access to a market of spurned wordsmiths, and authors achieve a place on the radar of a hip midsize publishing company with the resources to turn a Web sensation into a national best seller. "We'd love to be the Sundance Film Festival of the book world," says Blurb CEO Eileen Gittins, referring to the annual Utah film festival known for launching small-budget films into larger markets. All one needs to enter the festival fray is (alas) a rejection letter from Chronicle and money for Blurb, which offers free design software and charges clients for each book printed at rates ranging from $12.95 for a 40-page trade paperback to $159.95 for a 360-page coffee-table hardcover.
Those figures refer to single copies, by the way.
(Thanks to Tate Linden of Thingnamer for recommending Predicting New Words.)
*A selection of Burgess's other coinages (from Predicting New Words):
agowilt: sickening terror, unnecessary fear, sudden shock
bleesh: an unpleasant picture, vulgar or obscene
edicle: one who is educated beyond his intellect, a pedant
impkin: a superhuman pet, a baby in beast form
wijjicle: a perverse household article, always out of order