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5 Tips for Better Book Cover Typography

Contributed by Reedsy.

A book’s cover is a key marketing tool, reflecting the contents of the book. As you might guess, the typeface of your book title and other cover text (the style and appearance on the page) are just as important.

First impressions count. Even if you’re not likely to pay a lot of attention to fonts on book covers, they make the difference between a book that will be picked up and a book that looks unprofessional, cheap, or simply misleading.

This post will dive into this crucial component of a book cover. Read on to find out how to handle book cover typography — and how to make yours stand out and sell your book.

1. Match the genre

All things considered, you want the appearance of your text to convey the message you are trying to get across. Whether that’s signaling that the book is a romance, a thriller, or an informative non-fiction book, the typography is going to be a crucial element of tying it all together.

For example, for Tara Westover’s non-fiction memoir Educated, a simple serif font is used for the title, and the subtitle (‘a memoir’) and author name are sans-serif (have noembellishments at the end of letters). Many say that serif fonts look more ‘trustworthy,’ and feel modern. This is because they are simple and matter-of-fact: all moods that a non-fiction book will want to elicit.

Readers of certain genres will, consciously or unconsciously, be expecting certain things from your book cover. Fantasy book covers are often home to sweeping calligraphy-style fonts, for example. Ilana C. Myer’s Fire Dance does this subtly — the embellishments on the ‘R’ and ‘N’ signal the genre, but it is still reasonably simple and easy to read.

2. No Papyrus, no Comic Sans

A general rule of thumb: don’t use a font that comes pre-installed on MS Word. Typefaces like Comic Sans and Papyrus are instantly recognizable and will make the cover look ‘handmade.’

If there’s one that’s very close to what you’re looking for, you can build up and edit fonts with programs like InDesign to alter spacings and the length of existing letterings, or even just remove the very edge of letters.

You can find ideas and free fonts to use on sites like myfont.com and dafont.com. There are also plenty of other websites to search for where you will be able to access a variety of fonts without plagiarising (and also without spending dozens of dollars).

Free Webinar: What Every Author Should Know About Book Cover Design

3. Less is more

An effective approach can be to make typography the focus of your cover, or the only visual element. Playing with minimalism, space, and letter spacing is often an interesting way to make the absence of image or text just as effective as filling the cover. Dolly Alderton’s cover design is literally just the title, but it playfully hints at the narrative voice you’ll find within.

Particularly, conjunctions like ‘and,’ ‘the,’ or, ‘of the,’ can interact inventively with your background image or illustration, like in this novel by Tsh Oxenreider. The ‘less important’ words are made significantly smaller, which foregrounds the confusing pairing of ‘home’ and ‘world’ — central to the book’s idea of finding a home and belonging while travelling all over the globe.

Remember that you don’t have to use the same font for everything. However, don’t use more than, say, two or three, depending on if you have a subtitle, or reviews, etc — it will look messy and confusing.

And if you think you might have a potential series on your hands, aim for a simpler design. They are more transferable, and easier to be manipulated further down the line.

Having said all that, your title does need to be big! There are debates as to whether it should be legible in thumbnail form, but it certainly needs to be the focus of the cover.

 

4. Words are pictures, too

When your creativity is completely set free, your typography may end up looking like an image in and of itself.

Thinking of your imagery and typography as overlapping working parts can give you space for visual puns (like the small bombs on Karan Mahajan’s cover), hint at the characters or plot of the book, or even just allow you to exercise some creative license.

If your lettering is large and simple, it also adds character and room for some fun ideas. David Nicholls’ Us, similar to the design of some of his earlier novels, plays with this idea by having figures hang from and walk along the lettering of the title itself.

5. Consider the visual hierarchy

An awareness of the visual hierarchy of your text will make your book cover look professional and easy to navigate. Readers will assume what is important by the weight and size of the lettering, and you can direct their gazes accordingly.

The title, the author name, and (if applicable) your subtitle should be easily identifiable. Lisa Manterfield’s book cover strikes a balance between title and author name. It also follows the golden rule: if in doubt, keep it simple.

Natural contrast (light text on a dark background, for example) is a seamless way to highlight and make clear the information that you want your reader to receive.

What you’re seeking is balance: a delicate chemistry between image, text, and other information. Simply put, if your image is super busy, keep the type simple. But if you’ve got a large chunk of text that needs to go on the front cover, keep the imagery pared back.

The crux of typography on book covers is the potential to maximize the impact of your book title, and your book cover as a whole. When done well, it is an effective tool to utilize in order to give your book the best chance on the shelves, and hopefully you now have the tools to do just that.


This content was contributed by Reedsy and includes one or more affiliate links for their products and/or services. Writer’s Digest participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products and services purchased through our links to retailer and partner sites.


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Writing Exercise: How to Start Loving Your Characters

As you probably are aware by now, story is what drives a reader to the end of a book, but characters are what readers fall in love with. The Greeks referred to this tension with the terms Thanos and Eros. Thanos, which refers to death, is the drive of the plot that forces a reader to keep going until the end of the book. Eros, love, is a relationship that the reader develops with the character; something that keeps readers in the book and not wanting it to ever end.

So, how can you make your characters—flaws and all—people that your readers can’t forget?

As Mark Twain said, “Don’t tell us that the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” To paraphrase, readers get to know characters through their actions—not through their thoughts or words. Here is an exercise that you can work on while you think about how to make your characters the best they can be:

Take a character you’ve been working on. Put him or her in an entirely unfamiliar situation (a priest at a Grateful Dead concert; an Olympic swimmer in a dessert). Write a scene of what that character DOES in that situation—using words only if you absolutely must. How does this character’s action reveal his or her personality?

How a Strong Character Arc Can Make Readers Love Your Protagonist

In this situation, you might find that it is your character’s flaws rather than your character’s strengths that most grab your readers. Forcing someone out of his or her element bypasses the stock, stereotypical responses that you might be tempted to use when writing that character in a familiar situation.

Show your characters some love and stretch the heck out of them! Then, you will figure out who they really are.

Learn more in the online workshop Character Development: Creating Memorable Characters:

When you take this online writing course, you will learn how to create believable fiction characters and construct scenes with emotional depth and range. Learn more and register.

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