5 Font Facts for Authors
Whether you’re designing a cover for your book or just want to create an attractive interior, the font question is one you’re likely to face. How should your words sit on the page? What difference does the genre make, and how fancy can you go before you lose your readers’ interest?
Before we get any further in our talk of font discussions, let’s recap what we mean by font and what the difference is between a font and a typeface.
1. Font vs. Typeface
The typeface I’m using to type this article is the same throughout the article except for headers. But the font can change.
This is the same typeface, but a different, bolder font.
This is also the same typeface, but now with an also different, italicized font.
(Making any sense yet?)
They're not the same thing. Typeface refers to the default shapes of the characters on the page or screen and makes for a broader selection. A font is a particular branch or variation of a typeface. Or at least, that's the case historically.
Ever since home computers started including the “font” option to refer to typeface selections, the two have become harder to distinguish and are often used interchangeably or even swapped. For the sake of simplicity and readability of this post, I’ll refer to our subject matter as “font” choice since that is the more familiar term for at-home publishers, even though professionally I am talking more about typeface selection.
2. Fonts can stand alone.
When it comes to designing covers, a good font might be the magic touch. Book cover awards often go to the books with the most appealing font layouts instead of simply the prettiest pictures. Effective layout is a sign of confidence, visual skill, and a quality book.
Not convinced? Check out these covers to see how well it can work when your typography is brilliantly laid out.
These might not be your garden variety font options, but if you remain conscious to how much your letters can contribute to your look, you'll find an array of new opportunities.
3. Matching fonts to your genre.
Your best font choice will vary depending on your genre, and sometimes it won’t be what you think. For example, epic fantasy novels tend to rely on simple and readable fonts, while literary novellas and collections of personal essays prefer bolder more experimental designs. The best way to know where your book should fit is to evaluate similar books and see what fonts they use on the cover.
Most books will use at least two complementary fonts on the cover alone--a grander display font and a simpler, more readable font, as demonstrated below.
4. Check font continuity.
A book cover is a fun place to experiment with fonts and with font pairing, but the interior remains important. One page in particular you want to review is your title page. Many customizable interior templates include a pre-formatted title page, but it’s important that this page resembles your cover as closely as possible.
Print-on-demand publishers might not have the same font you used for your title and author name on the cover, so you might need to find a backup. Still, you want this page to match your cover consistently.
You also want your fonts to correlate with each other. I paired a few fonts on my graphic above, and there are many sites that will do the same, such as Typ.io. Find fonts that will look attractive for the body of your text as well as the titles, and prepare your book for a top-notch release.
On a related note...
5. Keep it simple.
Some writers love self-publishing because of its experimental nature, and experimenting is a great way to learn about publishing--but interior fonts should stay with the tried and true. Fonts come in many different styles, categories, and intended purposes.
A display font is a font that could only work in large letters, spelling out a handful of words. These fonts include blobs, swirls, and creative elements not seen in smaller print but can attract attention easily. While display fonts often appear as ideal book cover fonts, their lack of readability renders them more of a liability than an asset.
Most fonts you’ll choose will fall into the basic categories of serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts are simple, readable fonts with subtle strokes and embellishments at the end of the letters (like serifs). These fonts are best with print and popular with book interiors. Small caps serif fonts (see the use of Cinzel, the large font in the “fantasy” part of the graphic above) make excellent simple book covers without appearing amateurish or boring.
Sans-serif fonts are simple fonts that include no embellishments, like Arial or Calibri or the font used in this blog. These fonts shine on the digital screen and can fill moderate use in a book’s interior, such as chapter titles and page headings. They also work in web novels and online publications. Despite their perceived simplicity, they can strain eyes after too much use except in the case of a backlit screen, so writers should choose something else when picking a main body font.
As a guide, you can always check out similar books to find relevant examples of what would work for you.
What are your favorite font selections? Please let me know in the comments or join my Facebook group for more information and discussion.