On average, people only spend a little over 20 seconds looking at a book before they decide whether or not to read it, so every second count when it comes to designing how the book looks, and choosing a font is one of the most crucial of these decisions that can make or break a book.
But unless you are a particularly observant reader, you probably have never actually taken note of the font used in your favorite books.
So, what font are books written in?
Most popular books are written in Serif, Sans Serif, Garamond and Jason font.
What are the most popular fonts that best writers use?
Although there is no single right answer to what font writers use, there are some common themes that writers follow.
Serif fonts (fonts that have small “tails” on the letters) are generally considered easier to read for large bodies of text because of the more distinctive look of each letter. Serif fonts are supposed to lead your eyes from one letter to the next, and one word to the next, without stumbling. These are most often good choices for the bulk of the book.
Meanwhile, Sans Serif fonts (fonts lacking the “tails”, literally without serif) are more eye-catching and easier to read in larger sizes, making them great for titles, headings, or illustration captions. These are things meant to draw your eye, but not hold your attention for too long.
Keeping in mind the readability, you might also consider the mood of the book when choosing a font. A book meant to give readers a spooky feeling doesn’t need to be in a big, curly script that hurts the eyes, but it doesn’t have to be boring like Times New Roman either!
Readers won’t usually notice if the font isn’t the best choice for the story, but they will know that something isn’t right, so it’s important to consider the story you are trying to write before choosing the font.
Following these guidelines, there are several fonts to pick from for the bulk or body of the text.
- Garamond is an old font, dating back to the 1600’s for its creation. However, its modern usage is only as old as 1989 when Adobe created the font family based on its original form. Garamond quickly became one of the most versatile and widely enjoyed fonts available, creating many new versions and iterations after it.
- Janson is another old font that remains a classic. It is a very strong font, with very high contrast between thick and thin lines, increasing readability at any size and making it a good choice for magazines and books.
- Originally released to be used for newspapers or titles, Palatino is a slightly thinner typeface that retains readability even at small sizes, making it a good choice for the body of books as well.
- Baskerville is an extremely crisp font. It has high contrast in its lines, as well as generous spaces. Along with regular and consistent shapes, this makes Baskerville high in readability. Baskerville also has many variations that are better for covers and headers, allowing matching font types across the entire book.
What size of the font do writers use?
When considering the size of font, again, readability is key. For Sans Serif fonts, they can be a little smaller, with most books falling between 8 and 10 pt. fonts.
If the writer chooses a Serif font, the text needs to be larger. Most books with a Serif font are between 9 and 12 pt. font for the body. If the serif is used for a header, this can be as large as 14 or 18 pt.
Keep in mind that if the audience is mainly children or the elderly then the book will need a larger font size than normal for the text.
Covers, of course, are an entirely different story. Writers (or designers they have hired) can choose what size they want their title and name to be on the cover. It doesn’t all have to be the same either! Covers can have multiple different sized words on the same page.
Usually bigger is better though, since titles need to be readable from far away, or in the case of digital books, they must be readable from a thumbnail.
What are the best combinations of fonts?
As mentioned, most books use more than one font. Writers use at least a few fonts in each book, but they are generally from the same font family. For instance, a writer should choose one of each of the following:
- One serif font for the body
- An italic version for emphasis, thoughts, or other languages within the text
- A bold (or semi-bold) version for
- One matching sans serif font for the headers
- One font for the cover of the book. It does not have to be from the same family, but it should match the mood
Writers generally try to avoid using too many different fonts or unrelated fonts. Although it may seem exciting to look at for the first time, it is going to end up being distracting for readers as they progress and try to get into the book.
What color should you choose for a font?
Books generally use black or dark brown fonts. This choice depends largely on the color of the page. If the page it is printed on is crème or beige, the writer will want black font.
A white page with black font is very high contrast and easy to read, but the stark contrast can also be distracting to readers, so many authors choose a dark brown font if their page is pure white.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Not every author uses one of the font families mentioned above. There are authors who have very successful books that use different colored fonts, not brown or black (Check out Legend by Marie Lu for a good example of how it can work).
But being unique isn’t always a good thing either. Many classic, well-known authors use these fonts for their books. Stephen King even uses ITC Baskerville for his covers, and it seems to work for him! So don’t be afraid to embrace the classics and run with them!