Tag Archives: book design

Typography: It’s Not A Cover Without It

Illustrator & Typographer, Terry Roy
Illustrator & Typographer, Terry Roy

Guest Post by Terry Roy

Many authors go on the extravagant hunt for the best cover art out there. And while cover art is an important part of creating an attractive selling package (your book), bad typography can ruin it. Without typography, it’s not a book cover. It’s just a photo, an illustration, a painting.

What is typography? Glad you asked! It’s the art of arranging letters and words attractively on a page. Whether or not that page is a book cover or an interior narrative page, a billboard on a highway or stamped on a grocery bag you take home from the market. Most professional graphic designers are trained in this. Many others creating book covers nowadays are not. If you’re hiring someone to do a cover (to me, this means the complete package), or add typography to the image you want as the background for your cover, make sure you look at their portfolio and like what you see. Forget the pictures. Make sure you like what you see even if the titles and author names were on solid color backgrounds. Great typography design can carry itself, images added or not.

I can write pages and pages on this, but to keep it simple, I’ll distill it to basics.

1. When you commission artwork or start your image search, remember you need to display large, visible type on top of it.
Too many people sacrifice the visibility of the book title or author name so they don’t cover up the art. In my opinion–that priority should be the other way around. The art shouldn’t interfere with the stand-out impact of the author’s name and the title of the book.

2. The typeface you choose for the title can set the mood and tone of the book from the start. Choose wisely.
There’s a reason that many thrillers, spy stories, and suspense novels use a simple headline font like “Impact”—it denotes urgency, demands attention. Distressed or goth fonts get used on gritty, post-apocalyptic stories or dark vampire stories. (Be careful here, many distressed fonts won’t “pop” without a lot of help and unless you are a bestselling author, you don’t want your title blending in with the background art.) Fancy script fonts with lots of loops and swirls remind us of romantic invitations–so we see some of that on romance novels. These examples are generic. But please, don’t just pick a font because you think it’s cool. It has to match the story, and feel right with the title. Font sites often give you the option of typing in your title so you can preview it as you scroll through pages of choices. Just try it—see how it changes the mood and tone with each new look. (I spend hours trying fonts on titles, like some people try on clothes.)

Art & Design by Terry Roy
Art & Design by Terry Roy.

Make sure your font choice–or the font choice of your cover designer– is legal to use commercially.
Please respect fonts tagged “for personal or private use only” and do NOT use them on your book covers. Often fonts at free sites were created to emulate a copyrighted, restricted-use font face. It is NOT okay to use these fonts on your books or anything you put out for sale or download in a public marketplace. (“Bleeding Cowboy”, which I see on a lot of vampire or paranormal books, is a good example. Lots of people are using it, but unless they got a licensed copy, or written permission from the designer, they shouldn’t be.) Go to a site like Fontspace and use the “Commercial Use Friendly” filter in the search. That way, free fonts that are cool to use on book covers and other projects will show up, without tempting you with the Personal Use Only fonts.

3. Visibility and Readability.
Now that you have the right font for your genre and title, and another for your name (a simple, non-fancy font will do in most cases) the third important thing is to make sure it’s clear, sharp, and readable. Remember, in the online market for both e-books and paperbacks, the reader is either spotting you first in a tiny ad or a tiny thumbnail image in a New Releases list. Even if your cover art loses fidelity at thumbnail size, the title, at least (if not also the author name) should stand out sharp and clear. Color choice is important here. It’s hard to go wrong with the classic choice of black (offset by white), or white (offset by black) when you’re just not sure. No matter what color you choose, contrast with the background is paramount. There should be enough contrast to “pop” that title even in small sizes.

Now… go out there and practice! One final tip I’ll leave with you today: study the bestsellers of your genre from the big name publishers. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, copy one of these covers. Import it into your graphics program and make it a locked layer. On a layer on top of that, challenge yourself to duplicate layout of the title, authorname, and any other print. You don’t have to match the typeface exactly, just get one close enough. (In graphic design courses, students are often challenged to duplicate the layouts on ads and product packaging–it’s a great hands-on learning exercise.) Even if you don’t want to tackle your cover typography on your own, studying what’s hot from the big pubs in your genre can give you a better eye for getting quality work from the person you hire to do it for you.


Terry Roy has been drawing ever since her fat little fingers could hold a crayon. Digitally illustrating and designing beautiful books, inside and out, since 1998. Her experience in digital art started in 1992 when the first MS DOS version of Photoshop was released for Windows computers. She can now be found at TERyvisions, and her blogsite.

Maximizing the Potential of Your eBook

Guest Post by Natasha Fondren

The question I get asked most by my clients is this: “What else, other than the text, should I put in my book?”

POD books and eBooks can handle extra pages, images, color, fonts, and content without any cost (up to a certain point, and even with Kindle, it’s marginal). When you’re done writing your book, you want to add content that will first, sell your book, and second, sell your other books.


In eBooks, the front matter serves only one purpose: to sell this book to your readers.

In bookstores, readers check out books in this order:

  1. They catch sight of the cover.
  2. They turn it over and read the back cover.
  3. They skim through the appropriate ad pages at the beginning.
  4. They turn to the first page of the text and read a bit.

With eBooks, it goes more like this:

  1. They catch sight of the cover on the website.
  2. They click on the title.
  3. They check out the average rating.
  4. They read the synopsis and maybe skim the reviews.
  5. They download a sample.

It’s important to note that once they download a sample, they haven’t yet bought it. You still have to sell your book with the sample: the first 10% of your book.


In a traditional book, the opening consists of ad pages, half-title page, title page, copyright page, list of other books by the author, dedication page, epigraph, table of contents, and sometimes acknowledgments.

In an eBook, we want to get rid of everything that doesn’t sell your book because it takes up space in that first 10% of your sample. First, the half-title page, a holdover from printing processes, is completely unnecessary.

The copyright page will not sell your book, nor will it magically prevent piracy. Send it to the back. The acknowledgments, likewise, should be sent to the back.

The list of other books by the author will only sell this book if you have a long list that proves you to be an author who’s had some practice at this. When in the front matter, this list does not sell those books; it only tells the prospective reader that you’ve some experience under your belt.

This list is better at the end, after they finish the book, when they’ll be looking for their next read. Probably they’ve already seen on the website that you’ve written other books, if you have.

The dedication? As interesting as it is to you, it should only stay up front if it’s truly going to hook the reader into buying your book.

The table of contents is accessed through a menu button, so it’s unnecessary to put it up front unless it sells your book, as is the case in nonfiction (telling the reader what is contained in the book) or in some fiction, where the chapter titles are so interesting that they hook the reader.

So what does that leave?

  1. Ad pages
  2. Title page
  3. Epigraph
  4. Text

Ad pages go first, and these should be an invitation to the reader. While you should take advantage of this opportunity, do not let the ad pages dominate your sample; you want to sell your book to readers, then give them enough of your content to hook them into your story.

There are several potential items that can go in your ad pages (I don’t advise using them all!):

  • Reviews: If you have some exceptional reviews from respectable sources, or some funny, tongue-in-cheek reviews, then put two or three at the beginning. More than that, and you’re crowding out your sample.
  • Synopsis: Reminding the readers what the book is about is not only a good sales tool, but it’s also one of the ways the human mind learns: big picture to little details. When readers sit down to a book, they want to know what it’s about. While this information may be on the website, they may look at the sample days or weeks later.
  • Excerpt: A short excerpt, maybe one or two paragraphs, can work really well. There is an art to selecting just the right paragraph or two–make sure to get lots of feedback from your friends!
  • Letter to reader: This is a bit of an old-fashioned technique that I’ve only seen in romance books. It’s been used quite a bit, so it must have some effect. If you pick this, please make sure your note to the reader is super good!

The title page sets the tone for the book, so embed a nice font and have a care for the design. The epigraph, as well, can set the tone for the book.

The text should be inviting: a nice chapter header, a dropcap, possibly some styling in the opening few words all help pull the reader into reading your text. Book design is important!


If you upload a Word document or use a converter to make a Kindle book, then when a reader opens your book, it will open to Chapter 1, skipping all front matter, ad pages, and even the prologue.

If you hire a professional, they’ll make sure your book opens where you want it to–except the cover. On Kindle, the book generally refuses to open to the cover, unfortunately. (Please do write them and complain, though! Maybe they’ll change it!)


From the very second your reader reads the last sentence of your book, you need to sell your next book, or your backlist.
The back matter can contain:

Thank You: First up, it’s nice to thank your readers. Make it short and sweet; this is not an about-the-author page. Perhaps a sentence or two informing about (and linking to) what you’ve got in the back matter for the reader. For example:

“Thank you for reading Great American Novel! I hope you enjoyed it. A list of my other books is on the next page, and then the first chapter of my upcoming novel, Pulitzer Prize Novel, to be released in the spring of 2014.”

Second, offer a link to a very simple html sign-up form for your newsletter. (You do have a newsletter list, right?) This should be simple and ugly, easy enough for e-ink browsers to handle, such as my newsletter (free book on Indie Book Production coming soon to all subscribers!). Please note that this doesn’t have to be your only newsletter sign-up page, but for this purpose, you should stick to a sign-up page that can be handled by the worst of browsers.

A List Of Your Other Books: This can go before or after the next section.

Your Next Book: Like the sample, this should be in three parts:

  1. An image of the cover.
  2. A quick synopsis or blurb of the book that hooks the reader.
  3. An excerpt–you can make this substantial, such as the complete first chapter or two.

Other Ideas: I’ve seen some authors put a miniature version of their website in the back, starting with a home page that links to each section of the content that follows. Remember, the page count is nearly limitless, so be creative and give to the reader, and hopefully they’ll give profits back to you!

AND THEN . . .

After that, you can put an about-the-author page, so they know who you are. And then, (finally!) all the stuff you took out of the front matter that doesn’t sell this book or your next book.

the eBook ArtisansNatasha Fondren is the founder of the eBook Artisans. Whether you’re a traditionally-published author looking to make an out-of-print book available, an indie author releasing a self-published eBook, or a publisher looking to make a backlist available, the eBook ArtisansSM is passionate about making your print book or eBook a welcoming and beautiful experience for your readers.