We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Authors planning to self-publish should not make their own book covers. That’s what professional cover artists are for! However, even if you’re letting someone else take over the design and creation of your cover, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well-informed about the process. Understanding how book covers are designed and why certain aesthetic choices are made can only help authors make the right choices when hiring a cover artist and participating in the design process.
To help authors wade through the tricky waters of getting a book cover created, we sat down with cover artist Scarlett Rugers to pick her brain about an essential aspect of book cover design: typography.
When designing book covers, do you favour certain fonts for certain genres?
Certain genres have great pairings with fonts. For example, you wouldn’t put a flirty Chick-lit font on a thriller book, but you can put a thriller font on a Chick-lit book.
For Thrillers, Action, and Sci-fi covers you want to stick with sans serif fonts, specifically condensed styles. Think of fonts like:
Condensed, sans serif font faces create tension because they are tightly packed in together. And remember: Never distort (stretch or pull) a font face to make it look condensed. Always find the right condensed font face designed to look like that.
For Chick Lit or Romantic books you will find handwriting/script or romantic serif fonts work well.
Great script fonts for Chick Lit:
Great serif fonts for Chick Lit:
Should the font be the same for title and author name? Should the colour be the same?
It’s best to pair fonts when thinking about the title and name. When we use a font for the title, we want that font to be the focus. You may have used a really specialized font face that has a whole lot of beautiful flourishes, or a very specific design element to it that makes it look so great.
By using that same font face for the author name we end up essentially diluting that focus that we wanted for the title, because it all looks the same. We want to hold the reader’s focus on that one point, so work with a more decorative font face for the title and then pair that with a simple, clean font that doesn’t have any decorative elements to it.
This goes for the colours we choose for the typefaces. The colours should be in theme with the colour palette of the book cover, but also keep in mind how colour, too, draws our focus or directs it away.
If we want to draw attention to the title, then the title should be bright and easy to read. Then select a less powerful colour for the name to allow the title to do all the talking.
Some authors swear by the rule that the author name should be as big or bigger than the title on the cover. What do you think?
This all depends on the author and the purpose of the name being large. Initially large author names were designed that way because in traditional publishing it’s the name that makes the sale, not the title.
If you have an established following of readers, then go the big name.
If you have a series of books that you’re ready to brand across the board, consider going big.
Having a big name isn’t just about people recognizing the name, they recognize the design, the colours, the typeface. You don’t have to go all out, but when your name is pulling in the sales, then definitely step it up.
Do you follow any rules in terms of where the title should be positioned on the page (at the top, at the bottom, anywhere with a solid background)?
A good rule of thumb to keep is to use the rule of thirds. Imagine that your canvas (the book cover) is split into three portions: the top, middle and bottom. You want your title to fill up one of those portions, and your image to fill up 2/3rds of that, to give the cover visual balance.
And don’t just imagine the rule of thirds as a vertical rule, this applies horizontally too, so play around with that idea.
What do you think is the biggest mistake amateurs make in terms of font choices for book covers?
The biggest mistake amateurs make in terms of font choices is that they do it themselves. For the majority of the time, the difference between a good cover and a bad cover is the typography. I’ve seen some absolutely breathtaking pieces of artwork used on a cover, paired with a cheap typeface that has had no thought in its use or placement, and it has completely let the whole thing down. On the other hand a very average image can be magical when it is in alignment with some amazing typography.
Hire a professional!
Scarlett Rugers is a book cover designer and a Publishing Identity Consultant. Her purpose is to empower you to be the best author you can be, and collaborate with you to improve the quality of the book industry. She is constantly working to inspire, strengthen and pursue the perception that self-publishing is professional publishing.
For an experience that will make you feel traditionally published you can email her at: contact (at) scarlettrugers (dot) com or visit her website and see her work. She is also on twitter at @thebookdesignr.
Scarlett Rugers is also offering a 10% discount on her design services to all Kobo Writing Life authors! Visit her site for further information about her services.