As a cover designer and author, I get the pleasure of meeting many different kinds of writers. Some are just starting out on their publishing journey, others are seasoned professionals who can and do often write entire novels in a month. And those same novels go on to become New York Times best sellers. Really. Besides their packed production schedules and polished prose, what sets apart the newbies from the pros? I’ve found it to be really only one thing: branding.
One of the easiest and most important ways to brand your book is through typography. For those who don’t know, typography is basically the formatting of any type on your cover.
Here are the three C’s of using great book cover typography to brand your books and yourself.
Your fonts should be as close to identical as possible throughout your series or catalogue. If you picked Times New Roman for your author name on Book 1, you should have Times New Roman for your author name on Book 2 and 3 as well.
This isn’t to say that all of your font choices should be uniform. I recommend anywhere from 1 to 3 different fonts per cover. However, whatever choices you make on cover 1 should remain the same throughout the series. This includes any flourishes you make to the title itself. For example, you’ll notice in my Moonbound covers I used the moon instead of the “o” on all three of my covers.
This consistency should extend to every facet of your online presence. You should strive for the same font choices in your mailer graphics, social media & website as you have on your cover. I recommend you receive all of your design work from one designer so that you can have a professional, seamless visual experience for your readers.
I find that it’s lack of consistency more than anything else is that is the hallmark of less than professional author brand. If you can’t afford to hire out all of your design work, or if you just are a DIY-er who wants to take over making Facebook & Twitter ads yourself. I strongly recommend a basic familiarity with Photoshop. Once you know your way around the layers and text panels, you can purchase all relevant PSD files and font assets from your cover designer. Then you should use those same assets by dragging and dropping them into your new social media graphics so that your title font looks the same on your website as it does on your book cover. Do keep in mind that I and many other designers charge additional fees to access the PSDS and unless you’re a Photoshop guru it may be cheaper to simply hire your designer to make all of your branding assets instead of trying to do it yourself with the PSD files.
First and foremost, all of your typographic choices should be legible. Things like script fonts for author names or body text should generally be avoided. Overly decorative fonts that are hard or impossible to read at thumbnail size should be used sparingly.
Second, and this is a point that is often overlooked, all font choices should support and enhance your brand. A big blocky font may be very legible at thumbnail size, but it’s not appropriate for a YA fantasy novel. Type can also be a great way to clarify genre when you have a cover that may not be entirely obvious on its own.
In contrast, if you’re writing a thriller, scriptina might not be the best font choice and vice versa. Make sure that whatever font you or your designer picks screams your genre and brand.
And here comes the rule that thumbs its nose at the two rules that came before it, but this may be the most important rule of all, because of the very nature of what a brand is.
A brand is an identity that is, ideally, yours alone. The whole reason brands were invented was a way to rise above the noise of the thousands of other products. So if your brand looks just like everyone’s brand already out there, you may as well not have a brand at all. This doesn’t mean that you have to throw out conventions entirely. A shirtless man with a wolf is still probably one of the best ways to sell a paranormal romance book. But it does mean that you should try if possible to add some flourish to your type or some distinguishing feature or style that looks slightly different from the crowd. For example, the “photograph” on a cover is a popular convention in everything from Romance to Historical fiction. But for the covers I did for Carol Davis showcasing her collection of short sweet gay romances, I updated the concept by having each photo be part of the larger whole. Elements such as the heart were carried through the series design. (Okay I’m cheating that’s not technically a typographic feature, but it’s important all the same!)