When it comes to book cover design, it’s surprisingly tough to get the Author’s Name looking just right. All too often I’ve seen a strong self-designed cover let down by a sad, lonely-looking name simply dropped onto the bottom of the page like an afterthought. If you’ve struggled to really nail this element, take heart: you’re not alone! And there’s a lot you can do to ensure you get it right next time.
Defining the problem
Here are the more common problems I see:
- Poor Font Choice
- Competing Fonts (fonts too similar)
- Clashing Fonts (fonts too tonally different)
- Poor integration into the rest of the cover
- Poor Font Quality
- Poor integration into Author Brand
I’ll be providing ways to combat all of these pitfalls, tackling one problem per week. So let’s get started!
Part One: Font Choice
Most self-published authors are very aware of genre conventions, and can easily determine whether their Title should be in a traditional serif font, a modern sans-serif, relaxed script, slab, or whatever’s favored in their chosen genre. I’m going to assume you’ve got that sorted, and are now trying to style your Author Name in a way that will complement your Title.
Competing Fonts: Fonts are Too Similar
Many indie authors (and designers) stick to the same typeface for both Title and Author Name. The reason for this is obvious: fonts from the same family were designed to complement each other, so by choosing this strategy you can’t go far wrong #ProTip: Fonts from the same family are designed to complement each other #bookcoverdesign Click To Tweet. And to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going all-Garamond, or all-Helvetica, or whatever typeface you prefer. However, you do run the risk of all your text looking too similar. At best, you’ll have a dull cover. At worst, the reader won’t be able to visually distinguish Title from Author Name.
The solution to this dilemma: style the fonts differently. It seems simple, but it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked.
To add contrast and visual interest to your Author Name font, try running through this list:
- Different font weight (ie. thin, regular, semi-bold, bold)
- Different color (a super-simple fix that adds contrast)
- Different Kerning (this is the spacing between letters; if you use Photoshop or similar, ‘Optical’ kerning often yields more visually pleasing results than ‘Metric’)
- Make one All Caps
- Make one Italicized
- Play with Opacity
- Play with Texture
It really is worth the extra 10 minutes or so to find a stronger option … and if you’re not convinced, here are some examples below.
Jodi Picoult (Leaving Time): Although these fonts belong to the same typeface (and are even the same size!), a simple color change and the dropping of capitals in the title provides more than enough contrast.
Catherine Bybee (Doing It Over): In this harmonious design, simply capitalizing the author name and throwing an italicized word into the title provides visual interest and polish.
Sue Fortin (The Girl Who Lied): Different font weight, font size, and a color change are all that’s needed here.
K.L. Slater (Safe With Me): This cover uses color, font weight, different kerning and texture to add plenty of visual interest.
Premade Cover: This cover (one of my premade book covers, ‘Frost’) uses the exact same font in different weights, plus one of them plays with opacity.
Clashing Fonts: Fonts are Too Different
Sometimes you might want to really bump up the contrast between Title font and Author font by choosing completely different typefaces. In other words, you’ve chosen Garamond for the Title, but you want something completely different for the Author Name. That’s fine, and it can make for a truly gorgeous and dynamic cover. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find a font pairing that not only looks good, but also manages to avoid delivering a ‘mixed message’.
The solution to this problem: establish some font-pairing guidelines before you embark on a time-consuming and potentially fruitless search.
I’ve come up with four basic groupings that are a good place to start:
- Modern Classy
- Modern Thriller
- Modern Playful
- Modern Romantic
Firstly, you’ll notice that these font groupings are based on the TONE we want the cover to convey. That’s crucial. The best font pairing in the world is useless if it doesn’t accurately convey the tone of your story. #ProTip - the best #font pairing in the world is useless if it fails to convey your book's tone Click To Tweet
Secondly, all four font groupings are ‘Modern’. This is simply because contrasting fonts (ie. font pairings) are generally a modern trend.
1. Modern Classy
Great for literature and women’s fiction, this pairing comprises a simple, clean sans serif and a well-balanced serif.
2. Modern Thriller
While a lot of thrillers stick to the same typeface (either a bold sans-serif or serif), you can play around with contrasting fonts, particularly in thriller crossover genres. This category regularly pairs a bold sans-serif with a slim serif.
3. Modern Playful
This pairing is used for comedies and light-hearted novels, coming-of-age stories, and erotic or playful romance. The pairing comprises a clear, bold sans-serif and a clean ‘handwritten’ script.
4. Modern Romantic
Striking a balance between traditional and modern, this category uses a clear traditional serif with a relaxed and loopy ‘handwritten’ script.
As with the single-typeface option, you can always play around with the styling options I mentioned above (color changes, capitalization, italics, kerning etc.), but do bear in mind that these fonts will already be very different, so don’t go crazy. You certainly don’t want to lose the unity and and cohesion of the design.
So now we’ve covered some options for font, including styling and pairing options. Next I’ll be talking about how to integrate the Author Name with the rest of the cover, so it looks like it really belongs.