Finding Free Fonts for Your Self-Published Book

by | Nov 28, 2012

You’ve been working on your book, getting it ready for publication.

Maybe you’ve hired a designer to create an eye-catching and sophisticated cover, and that’s usually a good idea. But let’s say you’ve decided to do the interior layout by yourself. After all, there are lots of places you can get information about how to create a good-looking book interior. It doesn’t seem quite as difficult to most people, although that might depend on exactly what kind of book you’re publishing.

First Things First

Inevitably, the first decision you’ll make about laying out your book is what size it will be. Vendors like CreateSpace and Lightning Source offer a great selection of sizes for almost any kind of book you might imagine.

For instance, if I was designing a novel for print on-demand, I’d probably pick either 5.5″ x 8.5″ or 5.25″ x 8″, both standard sizes that are easy to hold and feel good in the hand.

The next decision you’ll have to make is what font to use for the main body text of your book. Now, most people have long lists of fonts on their computers, since many programs come with fonts and they often get installed along with the programs. You might be able to find something in these free fonts that will work for you, but many of these fonts won’t be appropriate for lots of kinds of books.

But you – as a wily internet user – know that there are lots of free fonts available online. Why not just surf over to one of those sites and download a font for your book?

Font Warnings

But not all fonts are created equal, and not every font you find online will work for your book. What should you be aware of when you’re searching for free fonts? Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Fonts that won’t embed—When it comes time to upload your book files, you’ll need to create a PDF with the fonts embedded in the file. The problem is that some of the fonts you download from free font sites simply won’t embed due to technical or legal restrictions. You don’t want to get to the end of your layout process with hundreds of pages that are now perfect just to find out you’re going to have to replace the main font and potentially re-paginate the whole book.

    How can you tell whether the font you just downloaded will work? The only real way to tell is to set a chapter or a few pages with the font and then try to create the a PDF file for just those pages. You can easily find out if the fonts are embedded by opening the file in Adobe Acrobat and checking under the File/Properties on the Fonts tab. Every font in the list needs to show “Embedded” or “Embedded Subset” for your file to work when it gets to your printer.

    If the font didn’t embed, stop now and save yourself the work of redoing your whole book.

  • Fonts that are illegal—I know, it’s amazing that people post links to property that they don’t actually own, isn’t it? But hey, it’s the internet, and these things happen all the time. If you’re downloading a font from a third-party site, you need to know this. For instance, if you can download a font created by Adobe that you found at “Freddy’s Free Fonts,” you should question whether Freddy bothered to get the rights to distribute it.

    Font foundries often offer free fonts, so you can always go to the foundry’s own website to see what they have available. That way you’ll know the font you have is totally legal, since it came from the manufacturer. You’ll find my recommendation about free font sites at the end of this article.

  • Low-quality fonts—Some fonts are enticing when you see them as a sample on a font site, but they might cause you trouble when you try to use them. What kinds of trouble? You might run into fonts that are:
    • Incomplete. Fonts that were created for a specific function, like a headline in an advertising campaign, are frequently incomplete. They might not have all the glyphs and symbols standard fonts have, or they might lack an italic version to go along with the roman. You don’t want that.
    • Badly drawn. A sample might look good, but what’s going to happen when you pour your 100,000-word manuscript file into your layout and have thousands of lines of type? Book pages will show off any eccentricity in the typeface, often with nasty consequences. A cute-looking flourish on a lower case “g” for instance, can make your page look “blotchy” or like it has little “flags” popping up everywhere.
    • Misaligned. In a sample, you might not notice that the font doesn’t sit properly on the baseline, but in your book this will show up right away. Same for “set width” errors, where the amount of space each letter takes up has not been calculated properly, causing some letter combinations to have too much or too little space to typeset properly.

A Solution for Free Fonts

Because I’ve been typesetting books for many years, I’m pretty careful about the fonts I use. I have no hesitation about downloading free fonts from foundries like the ones in the resource section at the end of this post, and you should be confident about fonts you acquire this way.

The best site I’ve found for third-party free fonts is This site aggregates fonts from lots of sources and guarantees the fonts are free for commercial use. also links to foundries and to, the huge site that sells fonts from most font foundries, in case you decide to buy a font instead.

So go out and explore, now that you know what to look for. There’s a whole world of free, high-quality fonts to discover for your next book project.


Free Font Collections:
Font Shop’s Free Fonts
Smashing Magazine’s free fonts
Creative Bloq’s 50 Best Free Fonts for Designers

Foundries with free fonts:
Exljbris Foundry
The League of Movable Type
Chank Fonts
Cape Arcona Type Foundry

Roundup of 30 of the best font foundries

Paid Fonts:

If you’ve got a favorite free font resource I’ve missed, let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post.

Originally published by CreateSpace.

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