How to Choose Fonts for Book Covers

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I am still learning the art of typography myself, I’m an illustrator first and designer second, but I want to share with you some of the tricks I’ve gathered to help you make your book cover look more professional.  Nearly all the rules I’m going to lay out have been successfully broken.  By people better at typography than me.  Not by design rookies.  Okay?  Okay.

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First, what’s a font?

Ha, I bet you think that’s a trick question!  I have been using the term font for years but have recently been informed that I usually mean to say typeface.  Apparently, the lettering style is the typeface and the exact size and whatnot is the font.  So..Arial is a typeface and Arial 12 pt bold is the font.  You can read a great article about it here.  I’m going to keep calling them all fonts in this article because…that’s what we’re used to.  Still, feel free to impress your designer friends with your new knowledge.

Other good terms to know are:

Typography:  Arranging type to make a beautiful (and hopefully readable) design

Lettering:  The art of writing words on something

So, if you are using pre-made typefaces, what you are creating is typography.  If you are making the letters yourself, it is lettering.

I enjoy doing both, by the way.

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How Many Fonts Should I use on my Book Cover?

Two or three.  Not one, not four.

Never just one.  It screams amateur and is visually uninteresting.  If you use one font in one size in one colour, your brain doesn’t know which line of text is more important (by the way, the title is more important, unless you are Steven King).

You should have two main fonts .  One for the author, one for the title.  Or, like I did in the Farm Fresh Romance series, you can use the same font for the author and title, in different colours, if you use a second font for the subtitle.

I would only use a third font if you need something very simple to add in some extra text, like a short blurb or endorsement.  I really recommend having something on the cover besides the title and author name.  If you don’t have a series name on the cover, aim to have a tagline or endorsement, it’s a little detail that makes your cover look more authentic.

Don’t use more than three fonts, it will get too busy.   If you are tempted, maybe you need less text on your cover.  Custom lettering counts as one of your three fonts.

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5 Tips to help you choose a font for your Book Cover

1) For your two main fonts, I would not recommend using anything that came with your computer.  Go out and find something more distinctive.  If you find a free font you like, make sure it is free for commercial use.  A lot of fonts are free for personal use but you need to buy a licence if you want to use them for your cover.  I like checking FontSquirrel for free fonts as they curate their site to only include great quality fonts that are free for commercial use.

2) Consider buying a font.  There are a lot of great paid fonts out there, and the benefit of using a font that you have to buy is that it will be used a lot less and may help your cover stand out.  I have found some great fonts at Creative Market and Behance.

3) Have a look at the best-sellers list of your genre to get a good feel for the types of fonts most people use (and how they combine them).  It’s important that readers be able to glance at your cover and know right away what the genre is, and your font choice plays a big part in that.

4) Just because a font is pretty (or interesting), it doesn’t mean it will work well for your cover.  Make sure that all the letters are easy to read (this can be especially tricky with script fonts) and that the upper case letters are very clear.  With script or calligraphy style fonts, I find that sometimes they can look very confusing if all you have a lot of loopy bits (l’s and f’s especially), depending on the font’s spacing.  It is more important that the font be easy to read than pretty, but you don’t need to settle, look for one that is both.

5) For a title font, I also aim for a fairly thick line-weight, this makes is more readable, especially against a varied background.

That’s all for today, but I apparently have a lot of opinions on fonts, so watch for part two coming soon!

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