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Choosing the Right Font for your Book

Fonts are an important part of your book. They set the mood and can effect the readability of your text. Your book could have potential to be a bestseller but if someone has trouble reading it due to a bad font choice they might just put it down without finishing or recommending it to a friend.

Don’t make the mistake of rushing your font choices or just using your Word processor’s defaults. Take some time to read up on what fonts will or will not work and choose appropriately.

Below are some of the most common types of fonts and information on where they are suitable for use in your book.

Serif fonts:

Serif fonts are fonts that have a little line at the end of each stroke. Some examples are:

Serif fonts may be used for every part of your book such as book title, chapter titles, chapter text, table of contents, etc. Serif fonts are the easiest to read large blocks of printed text in and should be the only type of font used for the main body text of your book such as your chapters.

A word on Times New Roman:

Times New Roman was designed for use in newspaper printing presses in 1932 and is not ideal for use in a modern printed book. It is also a very common font and can make your book appear amateurish. I strongly suggest selecting another serif font for your book.

Sans-serif fonts

Sans-serif fonts are appropriate for the book title, chapter titles, headers, footers, subheadings and any short lines of text such but should NOT be used for the large blocks of text such as chapter text, preface, introduction, etc. Non-serif fonts are not easily readable in printed large blocks of text. This is different than viewing text on a computer monitor so even if you think your chapter text looks and reads fine in a sans-serif font when viewing on your computer be aware that the readability will be different when reading it in a printed book form. This has been tested and has been a long held “rule” for book formatting.

Decorative fonts:

Decorative fonts have some sort of design or artwork element to them. Some examples are:

These fonts may be used for book and chapter titles but be careful and make sure that they are easily readable and of good quality.

Caution: Beware Free (Or Almost Free) Font Sources:

Not all fonts are created equal. Be cautious when choosing a font you downloaded for free off the internet or is included in a CD with thousands of others for only a few dollars. Many of these are low quality and do not print well or have good readability. Some may also not have a full character set meaning they do not have all of the characters needed to type your book. For example they may not contain a character for the percent sign or the proper quote character. Many of the fonts you get for free (or almost free) do not come with true bold or italics so you should be cautious when using them

To be safe you should select fonts that you have purchased from a reputable source or that came installed with your word processing program or computer.

True Versus Fake Bold and Italics

When you need to apply a bold face or italics to your text be sure that the font you are using has true bold or italics. This means that the font has different font sets for bold face or italics and will show up as a different font in your font folder. If your font does not have this when you apply a bold face or italics to your text your Word processing program will apply a “fake” bold or italic by attempting to skew or darken the existing font but the end result when printed in high quality for your book will not be ideal. Some pickier printers may even reject your document if it contains fake bold or italics.

To check your font to see if it has true bold and italics open your font folder under your computer’s control panel and view the listed fonts. You should see different names for each for normal, bold and italic. For example the Arial font that comes installed with Microsoft Word lists: Arial, Arial Bold, Arial Italic and even Arial Bold Italic. If it only listed Arial then it would not be using true bold or italics in your document and could cause issues.

Author: Kimberly Martin

Comments (7)

  1. I’m looking for a very large font for a children’s book on the comical or cute side. The text will fill one whole page and the picture is opposite it. I wouldn’t know how to get into my Word program, though.

  2. I would like to make a comment on considering the welfare of the reader when it comes to a legible font. It seems on a lot of the blogs I’ve read the author is always doting on what he or she prefers for their eyes. If your a young author, (I mean under 40-50 years of age,) then certain fonts may be well to your liking, but please take a look at the other end.

    There are many obstacles for the reader that should be considered. Number one is the age of a person, then the place it is read, (not counting ebooks) such as an airplane with its constant bumps or a beach with the bright sun, or a restaurant where the lighting leaves a lot to be desired.

    Going to book sales, book stores and even garage sales I constantly see only middle to upper age group perusing the novels. If I’m out of sync here with the times, I apologize. But it seems the majority of readers are average age or older.

    All in all, I love the Georgia font. In my first book I experimented and used Cambria and it was a mistake. It was way too light. I had to resubmit my novel to CS a month later when a few honest friends gave me their opinions. My second and third books are also in good ole Georgia. My only exception is the first few pages of my novel where larger type is used, then I choose a thinner font.

    I was in the printing profession for 35 years and a lot of the fine thin fonts in serif or sans serif should only be used on matted stock, not paper back novels. Also the lead space between the lines is very important. I always use 1.25. The color of the stock is a big consideration too. I love the beige color. To me white is way to bright.

  3. That was a really helpful article. I am writing a novel currently, and you are right, a font does set the mood. I’m thinking something more towards an original font, since the time is set in the 50’s.

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