You get one chance to make a first impression.
We all know this. It’s why we dress up for interviews and dates.
Yet, so many Authors ignore it when it comes to book cover fonts.
They put countless hours into writing a good book and then put almost no effort into the first thing people see: the cover, and specifically, the words on the cover.
Let me be very clear about this for you:
Bad typography can ruin a good cover.
Some of the biggest and most common mistakes include:
- Using text fonts instead of book title fonts
- Failing to match the typeface to the target market
- Not integrating the lettering into the book cover design
- Applying the font straight “out of the can”
- Making the font too small for the Amazon thumbnail
That’s why I’m sharing the best book cover fonts for nonfiction books, with important tips on how to use them: so you won’t make this mistake on your book.
Why Book Cover Fonts Matter
Before I explain why book cover fonts matter, let’s be very clear:
Don’t design your cover yourself.
You should not design your own cover unless you are professionally trained in graphic design, and have a lot of experience designing book covers.
When you go to an interview or on a date, do you design your own clothes?
Treat your book cover the same way.
OK, now that’s settled, let’s dive into the font.
When you see a title on a book cover, you might think you’re just reading the words. But that isn’t true.
Your brain is taking in the lettering as an art form.
That’s what typography is: the artistic design of the letters themselves.
And your mind takes that in before you’ve even read the title.
In fact, your subconscious mind makes a few snap judgments about every book based on its typography:
- Is it professional or amateur?
- Is this for people like me?
- Was it written by an expert?
- Is it serious or funny?
- Will it be easy to understand?
- How much work went into it?
Is your brain really getting all that from the typeface?
Because your subconscious mind sees everything visual as a conscious design choice that sends a specific signal.
You can see this clearly with a few quick examples.
The typeface refers to the general look and feel of the lettering. Garamond, for example, is a typeface. A font is a typeface in a certain size and style. “Garamond 10 pt bold” is a font. But this is a technical distinction. Most people use the terms interchangeably.
Professional vs. Amateur
The difference between a professional cover font and an amateur choice is obvious.
The font on the left is modern and professional.
The font on the right is not a title font, and it has not been integrated into the design.
You can see immediately how a bad font makes the book look bad.
Direct Voice vs. Humor
Choosing the right font isn’t always about good fonts versus bad ones.
Sometimes it’s about sending the right message.
If your book uses humor, you want readers to know that up front.
If it doesn’t, you want them to know that too.
This is about branding and positioning.
Choosing the best font for the title and the author’s name projects your brand to the reader. It tells them what kind of book this is.
Dense vs. Simple
Your book’s cover font can even communicate the “density” of the writing style.
Professional books written for a lay audience project a clean, simple feel. The font itself is easy to understand.
Textbooks tend to use more complex fonts, projecting a collegiate feel.
You can see how much design matters.
Before you ever thought about it consciously, your brain recognized the book’s intended audience.
Common Elements of the Best Book Title Fonts
The best book cover fonts have at least three things in common.
1. They all project professional, intentional design.
A cover font can be serif or sans-serif, modern or traditional, but it has to be eye-catching.
Most importantly, it needs to be chosen on purpose for that particular book.
Serif typefaces have small decorations or embellishments on the letters, like Times New Roman or Baskerville. Sans-serif typefaces do not, which makes them appear simpler and more modern.
2. They are legible in a thumbnail cover image.
Long titles call for a tall, condensed font. Shorter titles need a wider font to sit comfortably in the frame.
Title fonts are not one size fits all.
But every bestselling book uses a font that was chosen carefully to be visible and arresting, standing out against other titles.
This is because such a high percentage of sales now occur online. Your cover needs to be visible in a thumbnail, on a mobile device.
3. They are never straight “out of the can.”
The fonts on professionally designed covers are never just typed onto the cover.
Graphic designers use shading and effects to give cover lettering the right artistic feel.
They stretch or condense the spacing to balance the lettering across the cover, giving it the right “weight.”
Even the perfect cover font will look unprofessional unless it is worked into the overall design.
Important Note: Book Cover Font Copyright
Just because you have a font on your computer doesn’t mean you can use it on a cover.
Fonts are a form of art and are protected by copyright.
If you want to use a font on your cover, you have to get the right to use it.
Fortunately, that’s easy to do, but most great title fonts are not free.
In book publishing, you get what you pay for.
If you’re working with a good designer, they will have access to thousands of different fonts and can help you choose the right font for your book.
Designers use fonts every day for everything from body text to movie posters. They understand font styles (thin, bold, narrow, condensed, etc.) and can find the best fonts for each individual project.
Good cover designers are also familiar with book marketing and will make sure your title and author name look great with the cover as a whole.
But if you’re self-publishing and want to create your own cover, you can download the fonts you need.
Just be sure to check the licensing so you know what it allows.
If you already know which font you want, search “download [fontname] font” in Google to find it.
For example: “download Gotham font.”
Or, if you haven’t chosen a font yet, there are plenty of font sites you can browse through.
The best sources for free fonts with commercial use rights are:
1. Google Fonts
If you want to find your own cover font, start with Google fonts.
According to Google, every font on the site has been released under an open-source license, for use in any project.
It has tons of great fonts, and you can type in your own title while searching to see how it would look.
Below the search bar, select the “Display” checkbox for title fonts.
Display fonts are for titles, as opposed to text fonts, which are better for interior book design.
You can also select either serif fonts or sans-serif fonts to narrow your search.
The Google Fonts catalog includes some fonts that are not actually on the site. If your search results in a link that leads to a different website, you’ll have to check that site for license information.
There are thousands of fonts on the site. The options in the right-hand column can help you narrow it down.
For book covers, choose “Display” under classifications, “Condensed” under tags, and “ebook” under licenses as a good place to start.
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, all the Adobe fonts are free for commercial use. The license is included in the subscription.
The subscription itself is not free, but most designers have one. So if you’re working with a designer, which I strongly recommend, you’ll have access to any font here at no extra charge.
The Best Book Cover Fonts For Nonfiction Books
Gotham is a modern sans-serif font and one of our favorite fonts for nonfiction cover titles.
Everything about it says “clean,” “direct,” and “professional.”
Like most fonts, it has versions ranging from thin to bold, depending on your needs.
Gotham is the “go-to” font for general nonfiction.
For a serif font that projects a clean, professional image, Hoefler is an excellent choice.
Its soft embellishments capture a traditional sensibility in a modern look.
DIN is a simple sans-serif typeface.
It’s popular on technical books but looks great across a wide variety of nonfiction sub-genres.
DIN condensed is excellent for long titles and author names.
4. Trade Gothic
Trade Gothic is a versatile sans-serif font that comes in several styles and widths.
Its bold form in all caps is great for grabbing a reader’s attention.
Bodoni is a serif typeface with a sharp contrast between its thin and thick lines, giving it a hint of modern elegance.
Despite its narrow edges, it reads well even in thumbnail images.
Caslon is a serif font with a slightly retro feel.
It doesn’t have as wide a range of applications as our top 5, but on the right cover, it can be the perfect choice.
Helvetica is a sans-serif text font that works well for titles in the hands of a good designer.
It’s preloaded on just about every computer, but make sure you have a commercial use license before you use it on a book cover.