Typography is the art of arranging text in a legible and visually pleasing fashion. It’s not to be confused with typesetting, which describes the technical process of getting text onto a page.
From the lettering on a road sign to the flourishes on a Coke bottle, we see typography at work everywhere. Books, of course, are no exception. Whether you’re looking at the content or the cover, typography makes our favorite stories both readable and memorable. That’s why every indie author should keep it in mind when thinking about book design.
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Typography encompasses far more than choosing a font — and there’s a lot more at stake, too. Done right, it’ll draw readers’ eyes and get them to click “buy” on your product page. But if you phone it in, it can make your book stand out for all the wrong reasons, resulting in a sloppy-looking volume that’s a headache to read.
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1. Clear typography lets people access your story
If you say the words “book typography,” most authors will probably think of the title emblazoned on the front of their masterpieces. But before we start judging books by their covers, let’s take a look at the most important part of any volume: the text itself.
One of the less glamorous functions of typography is making a text easier to read. Clean and consistent type allows the reader to disappear into your words. Bad typography, on the other hand, diverts attention away from your writing, to the way it’s arranged on the page.
Worst case scenario, you might use a typeface that doesn’t pass the basic test of legibility. In that case, your readers will end up squinting at the page, using all their brain-space to decipher your words instead of enjoying them. Odds are, they’ll stop reading long before the book is done.
2. Beautiful typography draws readers’ eyes
Now, let’s talk about covers, an area where bold and beautiful typography can really shine. If you’re an indie author jostling for attention in a crowded marketplace like Amazon, an eye-catching title can make a reader zero in on your book.
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Choosing the right typeface for your book cover requires you to think beyond mere beauty. In addition to visual appeal, all the text on your cover needs to be:
- appealing at thumbnail sizes
Even the most gorgeous font won’t cut it if it’s illegible, confusing at thumbnail dimensions, or suggestive of, say, high fantasy when your book is a contemporary romance.
Link to the rest at Reedsy
PG suggests that, in the online book purchasing world (yes, he’s thinking mostly of Amazon), the cover is an advertisement for the book, plain and simple.
Yes, it needs to look like a book, not a microwave, but the purpose of the cover is to catch the eye of a prospective reader.
There’s a balance going on with every cover.
If your book is a romance, something about it needs to imply romance instead of science fiction. But if your cover looks almost identical to every other romance cover, it’s not likely to catch a reader’s eye in the sea of guys with their shirts unbuttoned or women in long dresses standing in front of mansions.
Yes, you can design your own cover. However, PG (who fancies himself as more appreciative of the visual arts and possessing a more nuanced eye than your typical plumbing supply shop owner) tried his hand at designing some of Mrs. PG’s early indie covers.
The covers were artistic triumphs (well, maybe artistic participation prize recipients), but they didn’t sell many books. Mrs. PG decided cheap labor wasn’t doing her very much good, so she hired a professional designer who had other clients writing in Mrs. PG’s genre and sales picked up nicely.