Choosing the right font can easily make or break a design. Whether you’re designing a movie poster, a billboard or a book cover, the right font is absolutely key. Some poor font choices are so obvious that they can make you cringe. Some mistakes, however, are considerably more subtle. Many authors don’t realize what a big impact the font of their book title and name can have on the overall presentation of your writing. This is why it is imperative that you look at all of your options for fonts and make a decision that you can be confident in.
To Serif or Not to Serif
These are the two primary categories for fonts. Serif fonts are those like Times New Roman, Garamond and Georgia. Serif fonts have little tags at the end of the lines on each character. These fonts are typically used for larger texts (such as the content of a novel or a newspaper article) or to convey formality. Sans-serif fonts, as the name suggests, do not have these little tags and are generally cleaner looking. Common examples of sans fonts are Arial, Helvetica, and the dreaded Comic Sans. Sans-serif fonts are popular for titling and web content because of their readability. Ultimately, the choice is up to you, as both types of fonts can be used elegantly and efficiently.
There are thousands upon thousands of novelty fonts out there, and very few of them will look good on the cover of your book. Novelty fonts come in a broad spectrum of styles and varying levels of silliness, from handwriting and 3-D fonts to the blood-dripping Head Injuries or the debaucherous Group Sex font that depicts stick figures in various letter-shaped sexual positions. Use these fonts sparingly, as they can be overwhelming and detract from the overall tone your cover is trying to convey. If you’ve found a novelty font that you really think suits your book, talk to your designer. They can use elements of the font that you like while keeping the rest of it fairly uniform, increasing legibility.
When choosing fonts for designs of any kind, people like to search the web. There are dozens of free font websites available that have plenty of usable content. When browsing through these fonts, you must remember that these are another artist’s creation and you have to use them respectfully. Free font websites will have a description of the license for each font. Most of these fonts are not free for commercial use even though they are free for personal use. In these cases, there is usually a way to e-mail the designer or pay a “commercial use” fee to acquire the rights to use the font you’ve chosen. If you’re working with a designer, you don’t need to worry about the licensing, as all professionals already have the licenses for fonts that they use on hand.
Most book covers have two distinct lines of text: the book’s title and the author’s name. In a lot of cases, these two lines will be in different font faces. This means that not only do you have to stress yourself out about choosing the right fonts, you have to lose sleep over whether or not those two fonts will work together. Each element in a design needs to compliment the others, and fonts are no different. This is where a professional designer’s advice comes in very handy, but a general rule of thumb is to avoid using two different serif fonts in one design. You should also choose fonts that are not too similar. If you use two fonts that are very close in appearance, they will make each other appear warped or stretched because of the subtle differences.
The thousands of font choices available can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not an impossible task to pick one (or two). Working with a professional will help to alleviate the burden. Designers have giant font libraries and an eye that is trained to select them, so they can offer you hand-picked options instead of letting you waste time browsing through thousands of fonts. When you’ve found some options you like, type out your book’s title and your name in each font so that you can see how it will work for your particular project. If all else fails, type out the name of a book you hate. If you still like the font afterwards, it’s meant to be.