Just like people judge a book by its cover (despite what we’ve all been taught growing up), they also judge the type of font you use—even if only subconsciously. You may think you can pick out any fun font that will fit the tone of your book…only to be left surprised when readers leave poor reviews and your book doesn’t sell.
This is even more important for those self-publishing a book.
Thanks to the poor reputation some self-published books have garnered (mostly due to irresponsible self-publishers), if your book even looks different than what people expect, they can assume it’s a poor quality book. What do they expect?
Something with a consistent standard to the quality books they’ve already read.
This makes the font you use incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be creative and use varying fonts for certain purposes.
Industry Standards for Book Fonts & When to Get Creative
Fonts have a sound.
At first, you might think that sentence is crazy, but hear me out. What happens when most of us read? We hear the words in our heads.
THAT’S WHY EVEN USING ALL CAPS MAKES IT SOUND LIKE THE TEXT IS YELLING.
Unless you’re one of the oddities who don’t have an internal narrator in your head, you will hear the words. The font used will dictate the tone of what you’re reading. This is powerful in branding, especially if you get it wrong.
Take this viral example of how much font can change the tone of the simple sentence: You’ll always be mine.
Now, you can’t necessarily write a whole book using a decorative font, but this does offer you the opportunity to strategically use fonts in creative ways to add to the tone of your story.
Before we dive into those industry standards and what to use as the main font for your book, let’s look at some examples of how you can be creative with the font type used to add elements to your stories.
Here are all the instances you can use alternative fonts with examples:
1. Diary or journal entries
This is a very common element in fiction but can also be done to reference personal journal entries in nonfiction. It gives us a closer look at the protagonist’s inner world. It brings us closer to them. But if you’re not writing an epistolary or are using a first person point of view in fiction, you need a way to differentiate the entry from the normal narrative.
This is commonly done in two ways:
- Italicizing the main font and created larger margins
- Using a handwriting font to make it look more realistic
Look at how author L.J. Smith has done it with the now-famous novels The Vampire Diaries.
2. Narrative stories within a nonfiction book
Nonfiction often gets the reputation of being boring or not creative. That’s not true. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you can easily make it entertaining and creative with the type of font you use.
In Matthew Emmorey’s The Detourist, he uses a varied font to showcase made-up stories inside his head, among other types of fonts for call-puts, scripture, and even calls-to-action (which is detailed below).
3. Quotes, pull-out quotes, tables, charts in nonfiction
Nonfiction can often get dressed up more than fiction, despite its reputation of being less than entertaining. Some authors choose to take impactful sentences or phrases from their nonfiction writing and pull it out, enlarging it and embedding it within the text.
In Chandler Bolt’s Published, you’ll see charts, examples, quotes, and even acronyms listed in a different font so they stand out from the rest.
4. Call to Actions in nonfiction
This isn’t just for nonfiction, though it’s most common here. If you want to grow your email list or platform through your nonfiction book, then you’ll want to place lead magnets (also known as reader magnets) within the book to do that.
Jenna Kutcher does this in droves in her nonfiction How Are You, Really? Here, there is a colored block with alternative text to break up chapters or sections, as seen in the example below.
5. Epistolary narratives
An epistolary book is one in which the story itself is told from journal entries or even letters to and from someone. There are many books of this nature (like Name Of The Wind) that don’t have a specific font attached to each chapter.
But there are also some that include more than one character’s epistolary style narrative in which the fonts change between them to not only represent the change in perspective, but to give more depth to each’s characterization.
Take this example from the dystopian novel Young World, where each main character has a different font type that helps shape their personalities.
6. Chapter titles and subtitles
While these details may seem unnecessary. Nobody’s going to care about the chapter titles or subtitles, will they? They might not say so, but they will definitely notice a creative addition.
In Children of Blood and Bone, author Tomi Adeyemi uses a unique font for the name of each chapter’s perspective and it fits the tone of her world, a very tribal-based culture of African inspiration. This can really help build the world with a seemingly small element readers see with each chapter.
Which Font to Use for Your Book Based on Genre
While there aren’t a lot of differences between genre and book font, it’s still helpful to know which to use depending on your type of book.
Keep in mind that these are standards set by what is published and successful consistently. Use the rules above to know when you can deviate from these fonts.
- Nonfiction book font: You have two options for a serif font and a sans serif that is growing in popularity. The traditional publishing industry still uses the serif font Baskerville with a less-common Garamond.
- Adult & Young Adult Fiction book fonts: Baskerville, Times New Roman, Garamond
- Middle Grade book fonts: Baskerville, Times New Roman, Garamond
- Children’s Books fonts: You can get far more creative with children’s books fonts and choose one that is very easy to read and matches the tone of your book. These fonts are commonly used for children’s books:
Most Common Fonts Used for a Book
When we think of industry standards for books, we think of what the traditional publishing industry has agreed is the right format to use. There’s a reason Arial isn’t the primary font used in a book.
Just take a look at this example of a side-by-side comparison of what an opening chapter looks like with four different fonts and what it does to the tone of the writing.
That said, the most common fonts used for books are as follows:
- Main book content: Baskerville, Garamond, Times New Roman
- Letters / Text exchanges: Italicized main font, courier new for texts
- Handwriting: Bradley
Font Sizes to Use in Your Book
Not only does the font type matter in your book, but so does the size. You don’t want to use too big of a font—especially for a novel—because it’ll grow your page count and make your printing costs higher (and your royalty rate lower). But you don’t want to make it so small that your readers have to squint and get a headache from reading it.
Sometimes, you can match your book font size with the print size. For example, larger novels like Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings series will be both smaller in print size and in font size, but still not too small that it’s difficult to read.
Here are some common font sizes and the print size to accompany it with.
A larger book, often used for hardcovers.
Adult & Young Adult: size 11 font
Middle Grade: size 12 or 13 font
This is an average sized book for if you have 500 pages or less.
Adult & Young Adult: size 11 font
Middle Grade: size 12 or 13 font
Adult & Young Adult:
You’ll see many epic fantasy novels in this size due to needing smaller books to accommodate the large amount of pages (500+) while maintaining a fair printing cost. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn paperbacks can be purchased in this size.
Adult & Young Adult: size 10 font
Middle Grade: it’s rare to print a middle grade this small but if you do, use size 11 or 12 font
- 7×10” – size 14 font
- 8.5×8.5” – 14 font
- 10×10” – size 16-18 font
A good rule of thumb for the font size in children’s books is the younger the audience, the larger the font size.
8 Examples of Using Fonts Creatively in Books
If you need a little inspiration and are up for the challenge of using fonts creatively in your book, there are many options to draw inspiration from.
These are some fiction books to learn which fonts work well for certain types of books:
- Legend by Marie Lu
- Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
- Unwind by Neal Shusterman
- Shades Children by Garth Nix
- Matched by Ally Condie
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Peruse these books, learn how they use font types in favor of their plots, tones, and overall style, and take a stab at it for yourself!