The Biggest Mistakes You’re Making with Fonts

It's Like Not Calling Your Mother on Her Birthday

4/27/2016

Mistakes with fonts

Which font you use for your book is vital—like having actually written a book to print and calling your mother on her birthday. The non-negotiables.

Maybe you haven't thought much about fonts and typefaces, but for those of us obsessed with design, they're one of the most essential parts of putting together any book—and they should be for you, too. That's why we've written this list of mistakes you're making with fonts for your book.

1. Saying Font When You Really Mean Typeface

Most designers don't mind if you say font when you really mean typeface—it's more of a pain point for finicky designers who enjoy correcting others' terminology (if you feel passionately about the literally vs. figuratively debate, you'll get their pain). But for technical purposes—and if you ever want to impress old school designers—a typeface is the design of the letter and the font is the subset of letters in that typeface.

Fastcodesign summed it up remarkably well with this metaphor:

The difference between a font and a typeface is the same as that between songs and an album. The former makes up the latter. Remember that and you're good to go.

2. Not Listening to Designers

Designers know what they're talking about. Unless you're a savant at design, leave it up to the pros. That's not to say working with a designer on your book means you have to give up full creative control, but if you're paying a designer for their expertise and skill, it's a good idea to listen to what they have to say.

They'll know how to take what you want or examples of work you like and turn it into something that'll really work for your book cover and interior. A little trust goes a long way.

3. Not Doing Your Research

If you choose not to work with a designer, the next best step is to research the heck out of bestsellers or books you love. Hit up your nearest Barnes and Noble or independent book store to see which books are on display or search NYT Bestsellers or Amazon for their top-selling books.

Make note of which ones catch your eye with their great design, and the ones you think missed the mark. It's equally beneficial to know what not to do as it is to know what to do.

4. Using Fonts Straight Out of Microsoft Word

There are so many sites where you can download free fonts that are 100 percent better than mostly everything you'll find in Microsoft Word. Try Font Squirrel, dafont.com, or 1001freefonts.com.

If you're willing to spend a little money, check out sites like The Hungry Jpeg for fonts you won't find plastered on every other book on the market.

5. Using Fonts That Don't Work with Your Genre

Research the types of fonts used most often in your genre. Would you trust a nonfiction geology book that had a Shakespearean, Old English type of font? Or a book about modern day politics using Papyrus or Comic Sans?

Probably not, because the font doesn't accurately communicate the visual message of the book. Same goes for your book interior. Fiction, memoirs, and (auto)biographies are great with a classic serif font that's easy to read. Nonfiction reference books and textbooks work well with a sans-serif font set in block paragraphs.

6. Mixing Two Fonts That Aren't in Complete Harmony

It's standard practice to have more than one font on your book cover—but it's a highly delicate balance best left up to professional designers. Some great cover pairings are Bebas Neue and Montserrat for a clean modern look, or Bodoni and Lora. Again, look for font pairing inspiration from books in your genre or bestsellers, and go from there.

7. Using Different Fonts on Your Website

Just like with your book, your author website should be in line with your brand, meaning the same fonts you use for your book should be used on your website. Matching the fonts in your book and on your website is a chance to solidify your brand in your readers' minds.

8. Not Knowing Acceptable Font Sizes

Let's stick with 11pt if you’re writing a book for adults. Anything bigger and your book will feel like a children's book, where larger fonts are more acceptable.

What's the worst font mistake you've seen? 

Design

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Katie Bolin

Katie is a social media & advertising strategist.

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