Let me lay a truth bomb on you.
This blog post is about Font Types. This is a truth bomb because it is likely devastating to your world view to hear someone suggest that Font Types actually matter. I am sorry for crushing your world.
Font types do matter and there are accepted Font Types for the body of your book, for chapter titles and for headings. There are also unacceptable ones. If you use an unacceptable one, someone may drop another truth bomb on you… after you publish.
This is Part I. To Check out Part II of Picking a Fabulously Fun Font for Your Book, click here!
Simply put, a Font is the style of letters you use in your book. The Font should look a certain way in order to promote readability as well as conform to the generally accepted style. You could, of course, ignore all this and still be successful. The way to do this is to simply be different. Doing this may fly or may can crash magnificently. Personally, I’ve never been good at guessing what will work and what won’t in that kind of thing so I’ll walk us through the standard approach. 🙂
There are two basic types of fonts that we’ll talk about. Serif fonts and sans serif fonts. I know… you are “edge of your seat” right now! This is going to be awesome!
The difference between a Serif and Sans Serif:
A Serif is a little extra projection… a sticky outy thing. A Serif font has those little projections sticking out of the end of a letter. It’s like a little point that sticks out the side at the end of a stroke. For example, a capital “T” has a sharp point coming down the end of each arm. A lowercase “m” has a couple of points sticking off the end of each stroke. A common Serif font is Times New Roman, but don’t use it for your book. It’s not considered cool… or acceptable to use Times New Roman. It’s just too overused. Soooo… don’t use it. Just look at it and weep.
Serif Fonts also tend to have thicker and thinner parts of the letters. Here are some examples:
Look at the Serifs in the above examples so you know what this is all about. The “T” has those little projections hanging down. The capital “P” in Palatino has a point which sticks out the back and both sides of the bottom. The lowercase “l” has points sticking out of the top and bottom.
For the thicker/thinner part, notice on the Capital “N” the down strokes are thin and the angle stroke is thicker.
A Sans Serif font is missing Serifs. “Sans” means “without” so since it’s a Sans Serif, it means it ain’t got no Serif. Let’s pretend English allows for double negatives. I remember a nurse sitting down with me once after an examination and telling me, “It’s not… not serious.” I heard the double negative and replied with fear, “It’s not not serious???” She backpedalled a little bit and I realized I shouldn’t care about grammar in regular conversation.
Sans Serif fonts are without the Serif. They also tend to have a consistent thickness.
Common Sans Serif fonts in Word Processors are Arial or Calibri (but neither of these tend to be used often in books). Here are some examples of Sans Serifs:
Notice how the letters are without (sans) the little projections. Notice as well that the letters tend to have an even “weight” to them in that they are not thicker or thinner in spots. Helvetica is a good option for Chapter titles. You can also go with some really fancy fonts for the chapter titles if you’d like. When you pick your book title/cover font, you can always match up your chapter titles to that style.
Simply put, Sans Serif is just the letter. Serif fonts try to make the letter a little more fancy by adding in the extra little projections.
The Interior of Your Book:
Typically, the text of your book (the body, the actual stuff the reader reads) will be in a Serif Font (the Font with the extra projections). If you open up a bunch of books and take a look at the fonts, you’ll find a Serif font is what is typically used. I just looked through six e-books and three printed books within reach of where I’m sitting right now and not one used a Sans Serif.
Part of the benefit of a Serif font in a printed book or an e-book is the serifs on the letters tend to help the letters group together in a word which makes it just a little more readable.
If your book is going to be offered in digital form (e-book), you need to be careful. Serif fonts sometimes include thicker and thinner parts or strokes of certain letters. You may find a Serif font you really like, but the thin parts of the letter may be too thin. If your reader makes the letters too small on their screen, certain parts of the letters may disappear (because they are too thin). This will make your book difficult to read.
Whatever Font you end up using, you should stick with that font for the entire body of your text. Chapter titles and headings should include a different font (often Sans Serif fonts, by the way), but keep those titles and headings consistent with themselves. Pick your font style(s) and stick with them. It is recommended that you don’t use more than three different fonts in a book (e.g. 1. Chapter Title Font; 2. Sub-Heading Font; 3. Main Body Text Font).
NOTE: there are some who are encouraging the use of a Sans Serif Font for the body of your text–especially with e-books. I encourage you to experiment with the look and feel of it, but realize that there are certain things you can do to your book to give it an unprofessional feel. Choosing the wrong font can have disappointing results.
One of the other issues you will face is different font types will include thinner or thicker letters. As a result your book may take up more or less space depending on the Font. For instance, if you use a wide font, your 200 page book could print at 225 pages. That might not seem so bad and it might feed your ego that you’ve written such a long book, but you have to pay for those extra pages when printing and the sale price of your book won’t go up to compensate for the extra printing charge.
If you use a thin font, your book could then print at 175 pages. That’ll save you a bit on printing costs, but the letters could print really tight together and you may find your readers feel it’s harder to read your book. Don’t make it hard on your readers. That’s cruel and your readers will either hate you or stop reading your book. Perhaps both. To add to this, if the letters are too tight with each other, the letters “cl” may look like a “d” and words with “vv” (there are some, not many) can look like a “w”. That’s just annoying. Don’t annoy your readers.
We’ll stop there for now. Check out Part II of How to Pick a Fabulously Fun Font Type for Your Book to cover topics such as Monospace Letters, Recommended Fonts and more!
Comment below on what Font types you’ve found which have a professional feel and are easy to read.