Best Fonts for Book Covers

Pentecost, by Joanna Penn uses League Gothic font

Pentecost, by Joanna Penn uses League Gothic font

I’m working with an author on a book cover for a nonfiction book with strong commercial potential.

Since the cover is among the top 3 reasons why readers buy a book, we’re working closely with our designer to choose the exact right fonts for the cover.

In doing research, I came across an excellent article by Joel Friedlander, the Book Designer, on the 5 best fonts for book covers. His picks:
5 best cover fonts
I tend to prefer chunkier fonts because they read better when reduced to the postage-stamp size image displayed on Amazon pages. But that Trajan, which is used for many movie posters, is an excellent choice when you’re going for a more elegant look.

You can’t go wrong with any of these choices. But if you want more, check out the huge collection of commercially available fonts on MyFonts or the free fonts available on Font Squirrel.


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
Garamond (not ITC Garamond)
Century (not Century Gothic)
Minion Pro

Good sans serif fonts (used sparingly for contrast)
Trade Gothic,
Franklin Gothic
News Gothic
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.

Choosing Typefaces

One of the most common questions that indie authors ask: which fonts should I use in my book?

The typefaces you use matter. They set the tone for your book. They affect readability. And they hint at your level of professionalism.

But if you haven’t paid much attention to typefaces, you probably don’t have a particularly sophisticated eye. If you haven’t played with glyphs, serifs, kerning, leading, ligatures, m-boxes, x-heights, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to choosing fonts for your book.

Wikibooks has a nice intro to choosing book fonts, which includes a number of excellent “rules,” including:

  • Avoid using too many fonts; three is probably enough for most books
  • Use unusual fonts only in short bursts—on covers, title pages, chapter headings
  • Spend some time in a bookstore looking at the typefaces of well-designed books. (Typefaces are often noted on the jacket or in the back matter of a book.)

But following rules too closely (Wikibooks recommends using 11 pt Palatino for text and 14 pt Helvetica for section headers) can result in a book with a cookie-cutter look.

The FontFeed offers an excellent article on Ten Typefaces Used by Book Design Winners—with examples of each font in both body copy and cover size. It’s well worth a look – and could help sharpen your eye as you consider typefaces for your book.

Book Design Faux Pas: Five Ways to Signal You’re a Rank Amateur

Recently I asked several self-publishing companies to send me samples of books they’d produced. I told them I wanted to check the production values of those books–paper quality, binding, cover stock and so forth–before deciding whether to go with their services

This request is clearly not something they’re used to. One company, after expressing minor outrage, sent me a title with a note pointedly asking for its return. Okay.

But the real lesson was how many of these books were poorly designed. And a poorly designed book screams “amateur.”

Here are five faux pas of interior book design–all of which were clearly evident in the collection of books I received. Avoid them!


Page from Typography Essentials by Ina Saltz

Typography Essentials by Ina Saltz

• Choose a “really cool” font. Make it italic, even.
You’d be surprised how many ways there are to screw up fonts. If you’re not a pro, stick with simple fonts for both body copy and headers. Helvetica. Times New Roman, Gill Sans. These are your friends.

If you’d like to eavesdrop on designers talking about fonts, check out the excellent book Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type, by Ina Saltz.

• Skimp on page margins.
What is it? Are authors trying to save money? A real tip-off of a book published by an amateur is the size of its page margins. If you need to save money that much, reduce the size of your font, or tighten your leading, or choose a more condensed font–but don’t run those lines out to the edge of each page.

• Start a chapter on a left-hand page.
If the previous chapter ends on a right-hand page, make sure the following left-hand page is a blank. Do not be afraid of white space!

• Run headers throughout.
A header doesn’t belong on a page with a chapter opening. Nor on a page that’s otherwise blank. And it may not be appropriate on a table of contents, acknowledgment page, or about the author page. Pay attention.

• Keep your table of contents simple.
Ah, here’s where you don’t want to be simple. Just listing your chapter titles with a page number is often not the best way to go. Your Table of Contents is your book’s roadmap. If you have subheadings in your chapters, you’ll want to list them here (but a page number for each subheading is unnecessary).

Because book design is so crucial to the acceptability of the book in the marketplace, it’s worth spending time to it. You may even want to forgo those mediocre templates offered by self-publishing companies and hire a professional designer.