Fonts are unquestionably one of the most important things that appear on a book cover – often being the “make or break” factor.
The type of font you should use will largely depend on the genre that your book is written in. A recommendation that I made in my previous blog posts is to always look at the bestselling book covers in your genre.
This is true whether you are an author self-designing your cover or a book cover designer designing a book cover for a client. Doing this will give you an idea of the fonts and images that are proven to work on a book cover. The reason for doing so is because it sets the readers’ expectations for the genre they want to read.
As an example: when a potential reader looks at a thriller book, but it has a cover with beautiful handwritten fonts, they will get confused and that can influence their decision to buy your book. They’ll question whether the book is actually in the genre that they want to read. Don’t allow this sort of confusion to sink a potential sale (even if that handwritten font looks wonderful!)
Another thing to keep in mind is the number of different fonts you should use on a single book cover. I would recommend a maximum of three fonts. It is also perfectly possible to just work with one font using various variations on its size and color. If you are going to use multiple fonts, make sure that they work well together and resist the urge to use multiple complex fonts on a single cover. My preferred way of doing things is to select one “fancy” font, which represents the book well, and then combine that with one or two additional simple fonts.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to take you through the fonts that are best to use in various different genres.
Thriller and Mystery
When you look at the examples above, you’ll notice a few things that you might not have seen at first glance. Perhaps most obvious is that all of the titles are written in capitals. The fonts are bold and prominent and a majority of them are using a sans serif type of font.
“Sans serif” fonts are the opposite of “serif”, sans serif fonts don’t have small details and flourishes at the edges of individual letters (which serif fonts do). “Serif” is a word of Germanic origin meaning “dash”, applying the extra bits that are added to the letters. “Sans” is the French for without, so essentially meaning “without dashes”. Now you know!
Not having the extra flourishes makes them look clean and simple (see the image below to better understand the difference).
Another thing you might notice on these bestselling covers is that there are various effects applied on the text. The most common examples of these effects are colors, gradients, and textures which can easily be added in Photoshop.
As for specific recommendations, the fonts which work great in this genre are Univers, Gotham, Helvetica and Bebas Neue.
The main type of fonts used in this genre is serif fonts (with flourishes) or fancy script (handwritten) types of fonts. It is also common to use thin sans serif fonts. If you stick with these choices, you can be sure that you will get something that looks right in the genre. You will also notice that while many capitals are used in the titles, lowercase is also acceptable in romance. An important thing is to make sure that your colors are well selected. White, turquoise, pink, red or violet are widely used in romance.
My favorite fonts for this genre are Bentham, Bromello, Day Roman and ButterScotch.
Science Fiction and Space Opera
In this genre, it’s common to use fancy fonts. This could be the popular “Star Wars” type font (see above), grunge and dirty fonts as well as bold sans serif fonts. Often, there are a couple of effects added to the text in this genre. Most notably, 3D effects and drop shadow are used to make the text lift off the cover. Similar to the thriller genre, capital letters are very common and it’s also popular to add texture and colors.
My favorite fonts in this genre include Space Marine, Bad Grunge, Roboto and Spy Agency.
The most popular fonts used in this genre are serif type gothic fonts. As you can see in the example above, most of the text is either white or black or in a contrasting color to the cover image.
When I’m working on a fantasy book cover, I like to use these fonts: Baskerville, Apple Garamond, Trajan Pro and Cinzel.
This is an interesting genre in which the fonts are often quite complicated and particularly fun to work with. You might notice in the examples that the text often seems dirty, sometimes even having blood drops on it! The key is that the fonts look scary – I’d recommend that they are either handwritten or bold sans serif type.
Complex fonts, like those you can see in the examples, have had a lot of graphic work put into them. This makes them original and different to the traditional fonts used in other genres.
Color-wise, you’ll often come across red text on a black background.
My favorite horror fonts are Dry Brush, All Over Again, Unquiet Spirits and My Bloody Valentine.
Non-fiction is a broad area, but you can still notice similarities among the bestselling book covers in non-fiction as a category. Typically, the use of minimalist fonts is preferred currently and lowercase letters are common. An interesting feature about non-fiction covers is the way of how the text often interacts with the cover imagery. This can be tricky to do but often leads to an effective result when done right.
My favorite fonts are Helvetica Neue, Montserrat, Criticized and American Typewriter.
And that’s it! Those are my top font recommendations. Sticking with these fonts will help you create a book cover that looks right in the genre you are aiming for!