Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Business of Writing: The Dreaded Font Rules for DIY Book Covers by @Liza0Connor

Einband (vorne) von:
"Biblia graeca - Novum Iesu Christi Testamentum",
Graece. Basel, N. Brylinger, 1553.
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Last week on The Maze I kicked off a 3-part series on DIY book covers by author-friend Liza O'Connor. 

If you missed part 1, you would be well advised to read this post

If you dare to learn about the Dreaded Font Rules, read on! :D

In Liza's words:

Once you’ve bought your pics and conquered whatever photo app you decided upon and have created the world’s most beautiful cover, it’s time to learn one more thing...

The dreaded font rules…

When I put my covers up for comments, my graphic designers often take issue with my fonts.

After a weird font on my first book (Ghost Lover) I was advised to have the same font for my name in the same size for all my books. That way, readers would come to recognize Liza O’Connor. Unfortunately, since I write across many genres, I couldn’t do this without breaking other font rules. So I’ve slightly different fonts for Contemporary, Sci-fi and Historical. But all are large and legible.

While there are evidently a great deal of rules about fonts, this is what I follow, or mostly follow:
  • Always leave open space between your title (or name) and the edges of the cover. Otherwise, it looks like your title or name is cramped and wants to escape. (And make sure it’s centered, unless you are intentionally doing something weird.)
    [Note: This will also avoid your being fussed at by Createspace if you are using their template for uploading your e-book cover and letting them turn it into a full wrap cover for the print edition. They require a 0.5" margin between the text elements and the edge of the cover on all sides. ~kih]
  • Make your name legible and prominent. Books change, but your name is your brand. A great deal of publishing houses break this rule, resulting in names so small you cannot read the author’s name. It sometimes looks classy, but it’s subconsciously saying the author doesn’t matter.  Do you ever see tiny names on best selling authors these days? Remember e-book covers are mostly seen an inch tall in promos and e-book stores. Your name needs to be legible.
  • Consider your genre before selecting your fonts.
    • Historical novel titles and names should have serif/old fashioned fonts. It helps the reader identify the genre.
    • Be careful using cursive fonts because many are hard to read. However, if you can read it on a thumb print size pic, then it can be used. You can also use italics for little words such as the, of, and about to help your title to stand out.
    • Contemporaries and Sci Fi look best in non-serif fonts.
    • Contemporaries can also use cursive fonts for the little words in the title, but be careful putting the whole title in italics—check readability in thumbprint size.
  • Now here’s where I get scolded. I often pick fragile, friendly fonts for contemporaries because I think they are pretty. However, my designer friends keep insisting the title should be bolder to catch the reader’s eyes. BOLDNESS OUTWEIGHS PRETTY. Since that makes sense, I’m sharing it with you, even though I don’t always follow their advice.
  • I have also read several articles that you should not use beveled edged fonts that look 3 dimensional. Personally, I think they look super cool. So I do use them on my sci-fi books, presuming that in the future, this rule will cease to exist. Still, I would NEVER use them in historical novels, and I refrain from doing so in my contemporaries unless it’s a cross-over sci-fi novel.
  • Recently several designers disliked my overlapping title letters in the Multiverse series book 4. Since I did the same overlapping in books 1-3, I didn’t change the overlapping issue in book 4 due to consistency among the series issue. However, I will try very hard not to do it again.
  • Professionals may also condemn you for using shadows to make a title or name easier to read on the cover’s background. Hey, if it comes between annoying a professional or making my title or name readable, this is a no brainer for me. You can try creating a more uniform background, or shading the bottom or top, but if in the end you need those shadows, then go for it.
  • Besides the fonts offered by most programs, there are people out in the internet who make and sell superior fonts to create fabulous titles. Since I’m impoverished, I just stick to the free, but I’ve seen some gorgeous serif fonts for historical covers that Photoshop doesn’t have.
    [Note: My favorite site for free fonts is, but do read the fine print before setting your heart on a font that the designer is expecting a fee from you for using it in a commercial application such as a book cover. ~kih]
  • There must be several hundred fonts on Photoshop and honestly, I can’t tell a lot of them apart. I really need to identify my top ten favorites and make note of what they are called, since I quickly succumb to FONT OVERLOAD. Instead, I presently go sorting about for the book that used the font I want, open the PSD file (Adobe Photoshop file ~kih), find the title and read what it is, then go replicate it on the cover I’m working on.  So I’m recommending that you and I should write down our ten favorite fonts and make them our go-to list. It will save us time in the future.
  • Also in Photoshop I can widen the space between letters, widen the letters themselves, or lengthen or shorten the letters. I’m pretty sure there are rules around what you should or should not actually do. However, I do know it is okay, even recommended, to widen the space between the letters of your name for easier reading. However, to reasonably do this you cannot have a terribly long name. So before you declare yourself Charles Irwin Warren Jefferson, IV, take a moment and try to picture what’s that going to do to your beautiful cover art and your twitter feed. You might decide Warren Jeffers makes a lovely pseudonym. Otherwise, you are going to struggle to be seen and remembered. And you are really in trouble if you are long winded on the title as well. MEMOIRS OF MY TIME WITH HITLER BY CHARLES IRWIN WARREN JEFFERSON, IV will pretty well obliterate any cover art you have.
    [My #KASIWC cover designer almost croaked when she thought she was going to have to fit KING ARTHUR'S SISTER IN WASHINGTON'S COURT BY MARK TWAIN AS CHANNELED BY KIM IVERSON HEADLEE on the front cover! It is on the title page, however, and looks great. :D ~kih]
  •  One last warning on titles. You cannot copyright a title. So don’t go facebooking people they are violating copyright laws when they have a book named the same as yours. However, before you set your heart on a title, let’s say:  HITLER, type it into Amazon and see how many books are already using that name. If it’s more than 3, try to find a slightly different name.
For example, I had originally planned to name the books of my Multiverse series: The Gods, Outbound, Terranue, and Sojourn. I put the names into Amazon and discovered those may be THE MOST POPULAR words to use in a title for Science Fiction. However, The Gods of Probabilities is unique (although long winded) and by placing Surviving before all the other titles, they became unique as well. Verifying your title is not overly used BEFORE you fall in love with it, is highly recommended.

[No kidding, Liza! I ran into just that issue when I discovered that a USA Today bestselling author had the audacity to pick the same two-word title that I had come up with 15 years ago: Raging Sea. Yes, that was my anguished wail you heard the other day. :) ~kih]

Thus ends the second of three blogs on Do It Yourself book covers.

Thanks for sharing your expertise, Liza!

Next week on The Maze: 
Find out how much time will it really take to make your own book cover...

Liza O’Connor writes in several genres including Late Victorian, Regency, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Disaster Romance (which should be a genre), Sci-Fi and Sci-Fi Romance. Liza currently has eighteen novels, fifteen of which have covers designed by her.

The Multiverses series is a Sci-Fi soap opera fill with various sentient beings and humans galore, plus the ‘Gods’ that watch over them. Since they all wanted to be on the cover, I paid attention to the de-clutter rule. Thus, in book one all the Gods are inside their pretty ship. Book 2, all the colonists are inside their not so pretty ship traveling outside of normal space at faster than light speeds. In book three, the colonists are dropped off on their new planet and are presently hiding in a carved out mountain cave as the first of three deadly seasons arrive. The only sentient who gets to be on a cover is Blue (left bottom) the King and ruler of all that lives on Terranue. And the final book (considered the best by many) is represented by two angry fists clashing to represent the two battles occurring: One between the God Zousan and his horrible father Cronus and the other between Xenophobes and the sentients who follow the Path of Light.

While the Gods try their hardest to ensure the Path of Light will reign, in the multiverses, anything can happen, and usually does.

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King Arthur's Sister in Washington's Court!

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  1. Thank you Liza for your advice. You do a great job with your covers. I'm in awe of that skill. I can't do it!

    1. I don't accept that! If I can do it, you can do it.

    2. Amen, Liza! :)

      That said, I do choose to pay for my covers, and I have found a designer who does a great job for a very economical price, and she does other graphic design work for me too, such as my book imprint logos.

      After having taken the time to learn just enough about Adobe InDesign to do a reasonable job with my own print book layouts, I don't have any desire to tackle learning PhotoShop. :)

  2. Fabulous advice. I went back and read part 1 as I seemed to have missed when it was posted.
    Tweeted.FB shared and Google+'d.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Daryl, and for all the shares! I'm glad you have found it all very helpful. If you subscribe to my blog (there's a box embedded somewhere in the right sidebar), then you will receive email notification of new posts. Or so I'm told. :D

  3. Kim, thanks for adding your thoughts through-out. We make a great team!

  4. "So I do use them on my sci-fi books, presuming that in the future, this rule will cease to exist." -- I got a nice chuckle out of that one. I'm one of those annoying people with a type and cover design background who must constantly restrain themselves from telling people their fonts suck. Shockingly, not even my own dad wants to hear it. Shockingly, plenty of books with yucky fonts sell better than mine. Go figure. :)

    1. Ha.

      Thanks for visiting, Sandra, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend! Yucky fonts notwithstanding.


  5. Excellent article! I was so impressed, that I went back and read the first one, which is equally well written!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Kimberly! I'm glad you enjoyed them and hope you stop by for part 3, which goes live on 11/18/15. :)


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