The Importance of Titles and Fonts

Everyone stresses how important it is to spend time and get a good quality book cover.  It’s true!  You know the saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.  Yet we’re all guilty of that.  I know that if I am looking at books by indie authors and I see a horrible cover (or no cover at all!) I’m less likely to buy it.  If the author couldn’t take the time to make the cover look nice, then how do I know they took the time to edit and proofread?  I look at it as a matter of pride as well.  I’m proud of what I wrote.  Why would I slap a cover on it that looks awful?

But enough on covers.  We’ve all heard that and there are plenty of people out there talking about the importance of a good cover.  What I rarely see mentioned is the font on the cover.  I feel that font is just as important as the picture.  All too often I see a great looking cover and then the title is in Comic Sans MS or Tahoma.  I’m no font expert, but if I can tell the name of the font you used, you need a different one.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with Times New Roman or Papyrus.  In fact, there’s nothing wrong with any of the standard fonts.  That said, there are tons of fonts that come standard.  Some of them, like Comic Sans, are overused.  They’ve become so popular that everyone knows what Comic Sans looks like.  If you spent time on the image of your cover, take a few extra minutes to consider the font you put with it.

Then you’ve got Maiandra GD, Segoe UI, and Gungsuh.  They’re standard fonts.  But, there’s a bit more to them than to Arial or Tempus Sans.  Your font doesn’t have to be some exotic, crazy font that nobody has heard of, but it should be uncommon.  If you can jump onto Smashwords, scroll down the page of new books, and spot your font on someone else’s cover, then you need a new one.

It’s also important to choose a font that fits your book.  If your book is set in medieval times, then you don’t want something like Bradley Hand, you want to go use that magical internet and find a gothic looking font.  If your book is about an elementary school kid, then Bradley Hand might be exactly what you’re looking for.  Don’t forget, those are just standard fonts!  There are countless websites that offer free fonts (just make sure that the font is licensed for commercial re-use!).  There are even programs that let you make your own font!  And there’s no reason you can’t mix and match!  Love the capital letters of one font, but hate the lower case?  There’s no reason you can’t use both!

Last: placement.  You can’t just pick the perfect font and slap it onto the cover.  You need to choose the right size and location and color.  You worked hard on your cover, right?  Don’t cover up something if you can move the title under it!  Your title shouldn’t be so large that it overpowers the cover, but it also shouldn’t be so small that people have to squint.  You also need to consider the color.  If your cover is black, then dark purple might not be the best color for the title.

Let’s see what’s happening right now!  I’m looking at the 10 most recently published books on Smashwords.

Book 1: A solid purple cover.  The font is in the Times New Roman family and done all in caps.  The author’s name is slightly smaller.  Zero effort.

Book 2: A pretty picture of a lake.  The font is just your standard Arial or Times New Roman.  It’s not centered, so one of the words in the title is on a different line, when it clearly shouldn’t be.  There’s plenty of room to have fit it all on one line, even without changing the size.  Also, one of the words on the cover is different from the advertised title of the book.  A prettier font and a better title placement would have gone a long way!  The author’s name isn’t on the cover.  And, please please, make sure there are no typos on your cover!

Book 3: Hey!  There’s a neat picture on the cover!  In fact, the more I look at it, the more details I spot!  The title has a box, that ties in perfectly with the rest of the cover.  The font is unique and eye catching!  There’s a subtitle underneath that adds to, without taking away, from the title.  The authors name is also placed well.  I can also tell what the book might be about, based on the cover!  I’d take the time to read the summary and maybe purchase this!

Book 4: Another well done cover.  Not as good as Number 3, but I like it.  It’s a bloody knife with the font over top.  The font is a basic Sans, but (there are exceptions to the rules!) happens to fit the title.  An effort was also made to alter some of the letters to match the blood spatters.  I’d do more than glance at this cover!

Book 5: It’s a picture of an animal!  That said, it’s just a picture.  No editing, no framing.  Just a picture slapped on with a very, very tiny title!  The font is good and the effort to not cover up the picture was made.  However, the title is so small, I had to enlarge the picture to read it.  There is room to make the font bigger without covering it up!  No author name.  I’d probably pass this by.

Book 6: Another picture of an animal.  This one has a border, which adds some interest.  The font is in the Sans family, probably Tempus Sans.  Hey, I just noticed that this, Book 5, and Book 2 are all by the same author!  This, like Book 2, has no thought to the placement of the title.  The words are off-center, and not on purpose.  Once again, words dropped to the previous line.  I only noticed that it was by the same author because the titles are similar.  This one has no author name either.  The font color on this blends in too much with the background, making it harder to read.

Since all three were by the same author, I’m going to step aside and say that this author is trying!  I actually see the effort to choose different fonts and play around.  That said, I only see the effort because I have three covers to compare to each other.  A bit more work on color and centering, and I’d be tempted to buy one of these!

Book 7: This is a cool cover!  It’s eye-catching and obviously took some effort!  It’s in a language I don’t speak!  The author’s name is well placed.  The font is sort of basic and blocky, but it works well with the over-all geometric feel of this cover.  If I spoke the language, I might consider this book!

Book 8: Oo, ahh.  A lovely font for the title!  The capital letters are fancy, which put together with the picture, give me an idea that this may be romance.  But, the overall title is easy to read.  It’s also got a simpler font for the subtitle and author’s name.  Wait! It looks like the fancy capital letters are from a different font, while the rest of the title and author’s name are the same font!  Tricky!  Well done!  It sets apart the title, but ties it all together!  This is a very well thought out cover!  The colors are also lovely.  I would definitely read the summary for this!

Book 9: There’s a picture, but that’s all that this cover has going for it.  The font is Times New Roman.  It’s just solid black, with no effort to center it.  The title takes up three lines, none of which are centered.  All three are left-justified.  The author’s name is indented, but is the same font, size, and color as the title.  I’m not very inclined to look further at the book itself.

Book 10:  I have mixed thoughts on this cover.  The art that makes up the background is neat and eye catching.  The author’s name is easy to see.  But, the font is just a very standard Arial.  The title is all caps and left-justified.  The subtitle, also to the left, is too small to see clearly.  The fact that it’s the exact same color as most of the cover makes it even harder to read.  I like this cover, from an artistic standpoint, but the effort in the font underwhelms me.

So, there you have the newest 10 books on Smashwords.  If you recognize any of these, please don’t be offended.  I am offering (harsh) constructive criticism.

Out of the ten, only two of them were professional looking, perfect covers that would entice me to read the summaries.  Three were good enough that I’d probably click on them, but it’s not a sure thing.  Only half of the covers were worth a second look!  Out of the rest of them, four were hurt because of the font!  That, is exactly why I’m writing this post!  All four of them could have been better, simply by spending a little extra time on the font.  Then, the tenth (first on the list) had no picture and no effort whatsoever in the font.

I’ve decided to throw my cover onto the chopping block to show you what I mean.

Here’s a working cover that I had, let’s see how it looks!

On this one we have the laziest job ever.  The font isn’t unique.  It’s a boring solid black.  The e at the end of my name is hard to see.  There’s a lot wrong with this.

What to do first?  Let’s change the color a bit!

That’s a little better!  The pale blue stands out fairly well and has a nice contrast with the sunset.  But, I think there’s more I can do.  Let’s get rid of that font!

Hmm…I think it looks better than it did with the standard font.  There are still a lot of problems.  This one is so thin I had to make it huge just to see!  It still isn’t that easy to see and making it even bigger would look weird.  It’s also very fancy.  This book is narrated by a college girl on a cruise ship in 2010, not a proper lady on the Titanic.

That’s better.  But it’s kind of loud.  I feel like the cover is shouting at me.  It’s also covering up the mermaid tail!  That’s a key feature on the cover!

Well, what do we have here?  It’s a fun font.  Not too in-your-face, not too serious, not too casual.  I’m still not happy though.  It’s not quite in the right place.  I also feel like there’s too much attention being called to my name.  I’m a new indie author, people are going to buy this based on the picture and the title, not who wrote it.  Hey!  My name could be in a different font!  While I’m at it, I’m going to fiddle a bit more with the sizes.

THERE!  “More than Magic” is the name of the series.  I made it a bit smaller to showcase the title of the book, “Semester Aboard”.  I also moved the two titles to work with the image.  I place them over the darker parts to make them easier to read.  You’ll also notice that for the first time the two titles are off-set.  Before, they were both left-justified.  Now they’re both centered.  I also used a different, less unique font for my name.  It’s still a more atypical font and not easy to identify.  But, it takes the emphasis off of my name and allows the person looking at the cover to focus on the title and the picture.  The cover still needs some work, but I’m much happier over all!  Now, look at the first one and the last one side by side.  Which would you buy?

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  1. A nice blog post – the only thing I’d add it to remember your audience. Certain genres have established conventions, and some countries prefer a different look, so if you are targetting one specifically those are useful to know.

    There’s an interesting piece on British and American covers by Carol Pinchefsky at intergalacticmedicineshow – it focuses on paperbacks, but it’s just as true for ebooks.

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