Did you know that using the right or wrong font is one thing that can make or break your book cover? No kidding!
I’ve been a professional book designer for the last 5 years, and I’d like to share with you the important font-choice guidelines I follow when designing a book cover.
Before we get started, let me just say something I find myself saying a lot: the primary purpose of your cover is to sell your book to the right reader.
What do I mean by that?
The cover’s purpose is to sell your book, not so much exactly depict a specific scene (although that can certainly work in some cases) or all the elements the book contains. It should be intriguing, beautiful, and readable. A potential reader will probably never read your book’s blurb if the cover doesn’t hook them first.
Be careful: the cover should appeal to the right reader. If your book takes place in space but the cover says “romance,” you may end up with a bunch of dissatisfied reviews from romance readers. They will feel blindsided by the fact that this book (while containing romance elements) was sci-fi. If your book is a serious, dark spy thriller but the cover is cartoonish and brightly-colored, well—watch out for the angry moms of middle graders!
Let’s get started! You have some artwork for your Young Adult story. It’s clean, eye-catching, and ready for some words…
1. Choose a genre-appropriate font
I hope it’s easy to see these are nope, nope, and nope. The first screams “FANTASY,” the second screams “THRILLER,” and the third screams “HISTORICAL ROMANCE.”
Now, since this cover is YA, I’ll be on the lookout for fonts that are clean and contemporary. Maybe a sans serif (meaning the letters don’t have serifs, of course—like the font used for the author name on the first cover vs. the one on the second cover. Play spot the difference!) and maybe something a little artsy-looking or handwritten.
Spend some time at a bookstore looking at the font choices for books in your genre. That is what’s selling and what readers expect… go with it!
2. Choose font colors that tie in with the cover art
Any guesses why this one’s a nope? I can’t tell you how many times I see authors default to red. Yes, it’s high-visibility. No, it doesn’t go with everything. Most design software comes with a handy little color-picking tool. Looks like an eyedropper.
Start grabbing colors from your artwork and find one that both ties into the existing colors and is high-contrast for readability. (Pro tip: you might be able to make a great color more readable by adding a subtle shadow or white glow behind the text. Keyword being subtle.)
If all else fails, go with a neutral. Black, white, brown, grey. You’re pretty safe with those!
3. Choose fonts that are easy to read
Nope. I can barely read that tagline. Especially at a small size. (Remember your cover will be seen as a thumbnail a lot on Amazon and other sites!) Even using that font for the entire title will get challenging if it’s any longer.
If you’re going to use a visually busy font, use it sparingly. Make sure it’s big enough to be clear and mix it with something plainer. I’d just nix using this script font for the tagline altogether and go with a secondary, cleaner font.
4. Limit yourself to two fonts
You might be wondering if this one is a nope. Well, it is.
Take it from a pro: fonts can become addictive. *Hi, my name is Perry and I am a font addict…*
Even if your fonts are genre-appropriate, readable, and in great colors… you can still end up with too much of a good thing.
I always recommend limiting yourself to two fonts. One decorative and one plain. (Maaaaybe you can use a third for the back cover blurb if your secondary font is an all-caps font by default and you need something with both lower- and upper-case letters for the back cover. But it better look similar!)
So, what would I do for this adorable cupcake (which happens to be a for-sale premade cover at Perry Elisabeth Design)?
- Two clean and quirky fonts that say YA.
- A teal color picked from the cupcake frosting and dark grey.
- Text large enough to be visible in thumbnail.
And that’s how fonts (and their color) can make or break your cover!
Because I like making free stuff for y’all, newsletter subscribers get access to a free PDF of genre-specific font pairings!
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Perry is a 20-something author with a lot on her plate. She’s wife to Tyler; mom to four little boys, two dogs, one cat, and 12 chickens; and author of five little books. She’s the admin of this site, as well as a freelance book designer and the creator of the WriteMind Planner for authors. She lives in the sunny southwest.
Offers: cover design and the WriteMind Planner at perryelisabethdesign.com