Best Fonts for your Self-Published Book

Several examples of typefacesOne of the biggest mistakes I see in self-published print books (like those created on CreateSpace) is in the choice of typefaces. They’re either too common or too weird.

Since most wordsmiths are design-challenged, I asked one of the best art directors in New York–Ina Saltz, author of the excellent Typography Essentials–for her short-list of favorites for the books she designs. Here are her recommendations:

Good serif fonts (for the body of the book)
Hoefler Text
Sabon
Garamond (not ITC Garamond)
Century (not Century Gothic)
Minion Pro
Georgia

Good sans serif fonts (used sparingly for contrast)
Trade Gothic,
Franklin Gothic
News Gothic
Myriad
Helvetica Neue

And the worst choices?
According to Ina, “Comic Sans and Papyrus are probably the two most reviled fonts on the planet. I could go into great length about why but they should just not be used, period.”

If you want to see the array of typefaces available in the market today, check out MyFonts.  It’s a nicely designed site where you can easily purchase fonts you don’t already have on your computer.

Oh, and one more thing: if you’re working on an ebook, it doesn’t matter which font you choose because the reader has control of the fonts and font sizes in your book. So pick something vanilla and use it throughout: Times New Roman is fine–12 point for body copy and 14 point for chapter openers.

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4 comments to Best Fonts for your Self-Published Book

  • Charlie Clark

    Two more titles I would recommend – Bringhurst’s THE ELEMENTS OF TYPOGRAPHIC STYLE, and JUST MY TYPE – don’t recall the author as my copy is out on loan. The Bringhurst book is one I have used since it came out and I have all three editions of it. Very educational, but you need to be a bit of a type nerd.

    JUST MY TYPE would be a good read before getting into Bringhurst.

    I will track down your recommendation so I can share it when I give talks to NABP’s small publishers who make up the membership.

  • Great choices – Minion Pro, Georgia, Garamond for serif, and Myriad & Helvetica Neue are my favorites. Glad to see I’m in such good company!

  • Hi Holly! Thanks for this great post. I was just curious why you specifically said NOT century gothic (my personal favorite and the one I was about to use for the bulk of my text)…now you have me wondering! :)

    • Good question, Joy. It wasn’t I who said it. It was typography guru Ina Saltz. So I asked her to answer your question. Here’s what she said:

      “Ah! Upon re-reading the post, I see why Joy may have been confused. I did not mean that Century Gothic could not be used, it is a perfectly nice geometric sans serif typeface. But its name might confuse someone who is not familiar with the typeface Century, which is a serif typeface, hence its inclusion in my list of serif typefaces.

      Typographic nomenclature can be confusing on a number of levels, for example, gothic can refer to a sans serif or a blackletter style (but is not commonly used to indicate sans serif). A wider family member might be called Extended, Expanded, Wide or something else. A weight beyond Bold might be called Black, Super or Ultra. There is no governing body in typography so there are competing systems of type classification…unlike the world of science where genus, species etc. have an agreed upon structure.”

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