Ed: This article is an excerpt from the teleseminar I recorded with Laura Cross for her Expert-Entrepreneur program. This program has a great lineup of experts Laura chose to help educate authors about the publishing process. In this excerpt, we talk about how self-publishers can choose fonts for books. See the link at the end of the article to hear the complete recording.
Laura: I’m sure our listeners would love to learn more about typography. You mentioned that earlier. How does the typography you select affect the book?
Joel: Books are typographic, they’re almost entirely made up of type and typography. The font you pick for the body of the text is going to have a big effect on how readable the book is. Some typefaces are more readable than others. I would encourage self-publishers to stay with tried and proven typefaces that we’ve been using for many years. They’re easy to find and easy to use. They will give you a much better result than a lot of fonts that might look nice for a headline, but would give you a headache if you tried to read a 300 page book typeset in it. People won’t be bothered trying to read a book that’s basically unreadable.
Laura: So how many fonts should you be using in your book? Can you use more than one or should you just stick with one?
Joel: Most books are typeset with two fonts. The reason is that we usually have some kind of display material. For instance, we have “Chapter 1” and the name of the chapter, and we use more decorative typefaces for display purposes. After all, a book is hundreds of pages of gray columns of type. It’s nice to give the reader a break once in a while, and the chapter openings or part openings are a good place to do that.
Usually we use a contrasting typeface and frequently we’ll use a san serif typeface for the display or something a little bolder for the chapter titles. It’s a lot of fun finding font combinations that work well together to create the total appearance of the book.
Laura: And that’s important to have complimentary fonts then?
Joel: I think it makes a big difference. For the larger type, like your chapter titles particularly. If you’ve got a book of old Western stories, you probably don’t want to typeset that in Helvetica (or Arial), which is a very modern Swiss-design typeface. You might be looking for something that would allude to the period or the genre that you’re writing about so that’s something to look for when thinking about what display type to use.
Laura: The fonts then should align with the content that you’re presenting?
Joel: Yes, and mostly what you’ll find is that they are allusions. You can’t get too literal, but if you have a sci-fi book you’re doing, you don’t want something that looks like it came off the Ponderosa Ranch or might be used for “Hello Kitty” ads. You want something that will allude to the subject of your book, sure.
Laura: Our listeners are entrepreneurs who are writing non-fiction books, mostly business, self-help, how-to. Do you have some favorite fonts for those types of self-publishers?
Joel: I do and I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite fonts for the text part of your book. Probably the one that I will recommend most often would be Garamond. I use the Adobe Garamond version of Garamond. It’s one of the most readable book typefaces I know. It sets beautifully and it could be used for a large variety of different kinds of books.
I also like two typefaces with similar names. One is called Adobe Jenson. It’s a model is of a very old typeface from the 15th century. The other is Janson text. They are both very usable typefaces. I also use Adobe Caslon quite a bit and it’s appropriate for a wide variety of books.
I find I’ve been using a typeface lately that some of you non-fiction authors might like. It’s a font called Chaparral, which is a little bit more modern. It comes in a variety of weights, also from Adobe. It gives a little bit more modern look to the page and some of your listeners will probably like that one quite a bit.
Laura: And you can just get these fonts from going to Adobe’s wensite and ordering them? How does that work?
Joel: Every one of these fonts is available from Adobe and you can go to the Adobe Fonts website. They have an enormous type library. There are many other fine type foundries on the web now. There’s Emigre fonts and monotype fonts and many others. Search around and you’ll find variations of some of these same fonts I’ve mentioned. Many foundries will have a version of Garamond, for instance. There are many versions of these classic typefaces, and you can compare them to see which ones you like the best. The typefaces I’ve mentioned are all available from Adobe.
If you’d like to listen to the complete one-hour teleseminar, head on over to the Design to Sell recording at Expert-Entrepreneur.
Photo by Liza Daly