fonts typography guide

Writing a book requires lots of particulars. Not only do you have to think about cover photos, indexes, and copyrights, but you will also have to face some of the most foundational elements of writing: fonts and typography!

What does this have to do with your writing? Everything! The way you choose to express yourself (and present yourself to others) is extremely important. If this is your first-ever self-published book, you will want to make a stellar first impression. If this is your second or third big debut, you will want readers to continue to love and read your work. While having a nice cover page and well-formatted index is important, the true foundation of every self-published book is its font and typeface.

Before we get started learning about all the different aspects of book fonts and typography (specifically for self-published novels), we need to have a good understanding of the basics. We are going to be covering:

  • What it means to say ‘fonts & typography’
  • What Kindle requires for fonts & typography
  • Important font & typography index
  • What fonts self-publishers should use
  • Helpful font & typography FAQ

What Are Fonts & Typography?

If you can read this, you are seeing fonts and typography! In our modern world, we use both of these terms interchangeably to mean the same thing. Both fonts and typography refer to the text you read on a page, particularly within the pages of a book. However, there are some important differences to keep in mind.

Typefaces are a design of characters, symbols, or other letters. We call them by all sorts of names, from Times New Roman to Arial to everything in between. In contrast, a font is simply the unique appearance of one kind of typeface.

For example, Times New Roman 12 point is a type of font. Times New Roman 12 point in bold with italics is considered to be a totally separate type of font. The difference lies in the way the typeface is presented.

The art of typography, then, is knowing how to style your typeface and fonts together to make a coherent, beautiful, and easy-to-read book. As you might imagine, this is a lot harder to do in practice than it is in theory.

Font & Typography Requirements For Kindle Books

Amazon’s Kindle is well known for having some stricter rules for ebooks. But self-publisher never fear! They aren’t quite as bad as you think.

The Kindle interface offers twelve unique font choices:

  • Arial
  • Baskerville
  • Bookerly
  • Caecilia
  • Courier
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Lucida Sans Unicode
  • Palatino
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Verdana

There are some additional fonts that can be used depending on unique situations. For example, the Futura font can be used for books published through Kindle Paperwhite. On the iPad Kindle app, fonts like Baskerville, Caecilia, Georgia, Helvetica, and Palatino become available. Of course, unless you plan on using either one of those Kindle functions, these fonts are totally unavailable to you.

Font & Typography Terms To Know

There’s a lot to learn about fonts and typography, but thankfully, you don’t have to know it all! Here are just a few of the most popular terms and definitions to keep in mind while writing the next great American novel:

  • Font: The physical embodiment of a string of symbols and text. Fonts come in a wide variety of styles, and usually tend to fall into one of two categories: serif or sans serif.
  • Serif: Translated from Latin, ‘serif’ simply means ‘line.’ These are fonts that have fancy ‘strokes’ leading out from the letters.
  • Sans Serif: As you might expect, ‘sans serif’ means ‘without line’ when translated from Latin. These fonts lack the fancy ‘strokes’ on the letters, numbers, and other characters. San serifs are typically considered easier to read on digital formats, including ebooks.
  • Glyph: A symbol or set of symbols designed by a typeface. These can be put into different fonts by using pixel sizes, bolds, italics, or other modifications.

The Best Typography Choices For Self-Publishers

Here’s some good news: you don’t have to be a typography wizard to write your own book! All you need to know are the bare bones of the technique to craft some engaging, beautiful work!

Here are five of the most important points about self-publishing typography choices:

  1. Balance: Use your fonts to create a page that does not appear to ‘light or heavy’ on either side. Is there too much text clumped near the bottom of the page? Your page is unbalanced! Is that white space around the chapter header distracting? Your page is still unbalanced! Look for a happy medium between text and no text.
  2. Hierarchy: Determine an organized way to present your book. If you are recording chapters in Roman numerals, you will need to continue to do so for the entire book. Use numbers, letters, and header styles to show organization and hierarchy throughout the book. Your readers will be glad for it!
  3. Alignment: Group images and paragraphs together in the same basic way. All of your text should be flush left (unless there are portions where centered text would be appropriate). Aligning your paragraphs to the right is not recommended for self-published authors.
  4. Consistency: Everything about your book should be included for a purpose. Don’t add random images or formatting just to impress people, or to make your book ‘stand out.’ It’s better for everyone to just stick to the script, especially with digital book publishing.
  5. Contrast: While it’s important that your book follow some straightforward typography rules, there are some instances where switching things up is appropriate. If you are adding new character dialogue, a mysterious riddle, or some other form of rule-breaking element to the story, consider contrasting it against your other typography. This can be done by using center-aligned fonts, bold or italic type, or some other formatting element.

Font & Typography Q&A

You asked, and we listened! Answer your most complicated questions about fonts or typography with our helpful FAQ below.

Q: Should I use different fonts for ebooks over print books?

A: Yes! While the industry standard changes according to publisher preferences (think Penguin House vs. Harper Collins), you want your work to be easy to read. Some fonts (like Baskerville) look great in either print or online publication. However, you may want to consider making your font larger for digital readers, or relying on a sans serif font that is easier to read.

Q: Should I use more than one font in my book?

A: This depends on your publishing medium. Some published books tend to use multiple fonts to indicate different speakers, accents, or points of view. This can be done in a virtual format as well, but bear in mind that you should never place serif fonts together with sans serifs. It just doesn’t look good, and it makes your book that much harder to read.

Q: What are the most popular fonts for ebook printing?

A: Three fonts are used more than any other on the Kindle app. Baskerville is the most popular choice for printed work, but it still looks stylish on a digital page. Times New Roman is the classic and eye-catching font choice for more professional ebooks. Finally, Georgia is a font that is quickly catching on in the self-publishing community. It provides a unique yet non-distracting look for any genre.

Q: How big should my typography font be? Does it matter?

A: Yes and no. Your font size should help readers do one of three things: make the book easier to read, easier to understand, or easier to get engaged with the story. Body copy is usually best at no less than 12 point font. You can increase this size to 14 or 16 depending on your target audience. Remember that some people may need larger fonts to properly read your work! As for headers or chapter titles, go no higher than 24 point size.

Your self-published book has been a labor of love since the very beginning. Giving it all the tools to succeed, including proper fonts and typography, will give your book a great foundation to stand out. And you won’t be alone. There are hundreds of online resources just like this that can help you present your book as professionally as possible. With a little patience and typography work, you can debut your piece of art for the whole world to see.

Good luck, happy writing, and here’s to your typographical success!