What Should You Write about? (Topic & Genre)

Images from Shutterstock

Images from Shutterstock

WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT?

When you decide to write a book, you’re faced with important decisions:

  • Which genre should you choose? Which subgenre?
  • What topic should you write about within that subgenre?
  • What features will your story have?

But there are other important considerations that go along with these, which are often overlooked:

  • Is there an audience for what I really want to write about?
  • Could I attract more readers by writing about something slightly different?
  • What are my marketing assets?

You’re not the only person who will read your book, right? At least you hope not!

So if you only write what you want to read, doesn’t that seem somewhat selfish?

You’re a reader, too, of course, which may help you, as a writer, develop a style and feel for how to write.

The challenge is to find the right balance.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR GENRE & TOPIC

Here are factors to consider when choosing your genre and topic:

  • Familiarity: Which kinds of books have you read? The more experience you have with the subgenre, the more you’ll be aware of readers’ expectations.
  • Ability: In which subgenres are you best equipped to write? Look at this both in terms of ability and marketing.
  • Knowledge: On which relevant topics, relevant for your subgenre, are you knowledgeable? Marketing is a factor here, too.
  • Research: You should do research for your work of fiction, and this can be very handy when it comes to marketing.
  • Assessment: What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing? when it comes to relevant content knowledge?
  • Goals: What are your writing goals? Authors with vastly different goals should approach this decision somewhat differently.
  • Receptiveness: How receptive will the target audience be to you as a new author? If self-publishing, you also want an audience that will be receptive to indie books.

One of my coming posts will be on the topic of researching your fiction book, with specific ideas for how to take advantage of this in your marketing. (Stay tuned.)

There are many advantages to thinking about marketing in the beginning, and not as an afterthought.

I’m not saying that you should write for money.

I am saying that you should think about how you will attract readers when you’re beginning your project, not after it’s done.

What if you could be helping to create interest in your book while you’re still writing it? That can pay big dividends when you’re ready to launch your book.

What if you could make a small change to your approach to writing that may greatly enhance your readership? If you knew this, would you consider it?

You can merge your marketing with your writing in small ways, without really imposing a business sense on the art of writing. In coming posts on the subject of fiction writing, I’ll reveal ways to do this.

WRITING GOALS

Writers can have a variety of goals when they proceed to write a book:

  • Write leisurely as a hobby.
  • Write to earn good money.
  • Write to hone the craft of writing.
  • Write to experiment with a new form of writing.
  • Write to please a specific audience.
  • Write to prove themselves.
  • Write to get published.
  • Write to become famous.
  • Write to land a movie deal.

Chances are that you have more than one goal from this list. If so, you’ll have to decide how they weigh in importance to you.

(You may also have a goal that isn’t on my list.)

What you should write about obviously depends, in part, on your goals.

EXAMPLE

You may recall that in a previous post I announced that I would be writing a work of fiction. (Although I’ve written and published several nonfiction books, this will be my first novel.)

Not only that, but I will periodically blog about the decisions that I make as I come across them.

I’m presently deciding what to write about, so today I will use my current project as an example.

Writing is both an art and a craft, and that’s the way I view it when I sit down to write. But as I hope to show you, it’s possible to also consider marketing to some extent early on in the writing process, without sacrificing the artistic feeling for business. And these little considerations along the way can really help you share your passion with readers effectively down the road.

Choosing the Genre

I read many sci-fi and fantasy books. I’m familiar with these genres as a reader.

Both have significant target audiences, and a healthy percentage of that has shown willingness to support indie authors and even new authors. (I’m far from a new author, but I am new to publishing fiction.)

I plan to write a series, and this appears to be quite doable in these genres.

My background in physics lends itself more naturally to science fiction.

I also have specific plans for how to tie my research on the subject into marketing.

So my first fictional work will be a science fiction novel. Which will turn into a series.

(Each volume will be a full-length book with a complete story.)

Choosing the Topic

I want the story to plausibly obey the known laws of physics. As a physicist, I’m not willing to sacrifice this point.

After much thought, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is for the story to be set here on earth.

One of my goals is for the reader to feel like the story could really happen. Tomorrow. I want it to seem so real it’s compelling. You could be part of this story.

I have a very specific topic in mind, but I don’t want to reveal too much at this point.

As you write your story, you want to start creating interest in your book, but you don’t want to give too much away. It’s a tough balancing act.

For now, I will just say that the book will be set in the present day, and it will involve aliens to some extent.

Strengths & Weaknesses

I count my background in physics as relevant to science fiction, so I feel that can be a marketing strength.

So is my familiarity with both the genre and the content that I have in mind. I also have specific research plans.

Two of the story’s strengths will include curiosity and suspense. The topic will feature things many of us would love to know more about, so curiosity will be a natural ingredient. My intention is for the plot to eventually reveal something really big. Like, “That’s huge!” and “I can’t believe it!” So there will also be suspense.

One of my writing challenges will be that I’ve become accustomed to writing nonfiction for some time, while fiction is a somewhat different craft. For one, fiction includes a much wider variety of adjectives and verbs, and strong emotional elements that often don’t appear in nonfiction writing. I’m quite familiar with reading fiction, and I’ve studied the craft of writing fiction—and I have written shorter pieces of fiction in the past. These things should help, but when I start the writing, these are some of the challenges that I’ll face.

Target Audience

I find that it’s helpful to know who my audience is when I’m writing the book. And of course this will be helpful for the marketing, too. And the marketing should begin when you start writing the book, not after it’s published.

One of my target audiences is the slice of sci-fi readers interested in a present-day story that takes place on earth, which involves aliens.

But I also have a significant secondary audience: UFO enthusiasts and people who are curious about the possible existence of other forms of intelligent life in our universe. There are millions of people in this secondary group, as shown in the popular t.v. series Ancient Aliens which first appeared on the History channel.

Marketing Potential

This is a story that I will really enjoy writing, which is important.

But one thing that increases my motivation to write this story is the potential to share it with others.

One step involves researching the subgenre to check that there is a target audience for your story. Doing this also helps you learn the expectations of your target audience so you can better meet their needs.

Another step is seeing how your background or experience may be relevant when it comes to marketing.

And research. Research for your fiction book can serve as a valuable marketing tool. I’ve already identified material that I will read, watch, and study that will help me perfect the content. More than that, this research will also be helpful when it comes to marketing. One of my coming posts will show you specific ways that you can do research for your novel and use it as an effective marketing tool.

Also, I will write an entire series. (Each volume will be a self-contained, full-length novel.) In genres where series can work well, series carry some marketing benefits. There are a few disadvantages, too, and some challenges, but if you can pull off the series well, the pros can outweigh the cons.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Which FONT Should You Use for Your BOOK? #pubtips

Images from ShutterStock

Mock covers created using ShutterStock images.

FONT SELECTION

Whether designing a book or just the book cover, the choice of font is a very important design element.

  • The right font on the book cover helps to attract the specific target audience.
  • The wrong font anywhere on the book can be a sales deterrent.
  • Overused fonts, like Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, Algerian, etc. can make an unfavorable impression with those who recognize them.

Fonts come in many different shapes, from rectangular to curvy. They can be simple or complex. They can be serif or sans serif (the little decorations that you see on the ends of letters). They can be thin or thick, light or bold.

So which font should you use for your book or book cover? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s worth taking time to consider it carefully.

It’s not hard to find a free or low-cost font that allows commercial use. It just takes a little knowing what you’re looking for and investing the time to do a thorough search.

CONTENTS

I will begin with a discussion of font use in book design, both inside and on the cover, including font tips.

Then I will focus on genre-specific fonts, including:

  • sci-fi fonts
  • fantasy fonts
  • romance fonts
  • horror fonts
  • western fonts
  • and other fonts

In addition, I will illustrate this with several examples of genre-specific fonts.

BOOK FONTS

Different fonts are used in different parts of the book design:

  • The cover font may be different for the title, subtitle, author name, and back cover blurb. The title keywords and the author name should be abundantly clear in the thumbnail. The title may use a fancy font to convey the genre, but not at the cost of inhibiting readability. The other fonts should be simple, so as not to clash or detract from the main font. All the fonts need to go together. Avoid using more than three fonts on the front cover (two may be better, in general).
  • The body font used inside a print book needs to be clear and easy on the eyes. Don’t use a fancy font for the body text. It may be worth going with a popular novel font like Garamond or Minion, rather than a genre-specific font, since the main feature of the body font is easy reading.
  • Inside the book, you may also have a different font for headings and drop caps, for example. The drop cap is typically fancier, but should fit the genre, yet still needs to be clear. Especially, any drop caps in the Look Inside must be very legible. Focus more on clarity than fanciness for the headings.
  • It may be best not to embed a font for the body text of an e-book, as readers are accustomed to having the freedom to choose a font of their liking.

FONT TIPS

  • Study the covers and interiors of top-selling books, including self-published books, in your specific subgenre. This will help give you a feel for how the font style should look on the cover, drop caps, headings, and body text.
  • Black fonts on white backgrounds are probably easiest to read (but you have to choose the font color that’s appropriate to the visual element and background). Keywords in the title really need to stand out in the thumbnail. Red text on black often doesn’t come out clear enough (and it’s a common mistake because red, black, and white make for a good three-color rule, just not with red text on a black background).
  • Some fonts require kerning. This refers to the space between letters. An extreme example is the Papyrus font, which is not only overused, but very difficult to kern properly. Kerning is most important for your cover fonts and heading fonts. There is an option to kern fonts in PhotoShop or InDesign, for example. Even Microsoft Word has kerning options. Place your cursor between two letters, click on the funny-looking arrow-like icon in the bottom right corner of the Font group on the Home tab, select the Advanced tab, change Spacing to Expanded or Condensed, and play with the point value. Some letter combinations are more extreme than others, such as the WA in WATER.
  • Don’t rely on the font selection to convey the genre all on its own. Phrase your title so that the genre is clear from the wording. Then the right font helps to reinforce this signal. (A subtitle can help, when necessary.)
  • Take the time to research cover fonts and drop cap fonts that suit your genre. Google things like, “perfect font for a romance novel,” and variations like that. Also, see below for some tips on selecting fonts for a few popular genres. Check the font license to ensure that commercial use is permitted (in some cases, you can purchase a license directly from the font designer or from a website that sells fonts; there are also many fonts that allow free commercial use). You do need good anti-virus software and caution when downloading any fonts.
  • Title keywords are even more important for nonfiction books. These need to be large so as to be clear in the thumbnail. Readability is most important.
  • Emphasize the right words. Essential keywords should be larger (or at least no smaller) than unimportant words like “to,” “the,” “and.”

FONT MISTAKES

  • Don’t use a cover font that signifies the wrong genre. That makes it difficult for your book cover to attract people who may actually be interested in your book.
  • Avoid overused fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Papyrus, Algerian, etc. Though the much bigger mistake is an inappropriate font or using a font that’s too extreme, fancy, or unreadable.
  • Make sure that your fonts are clear and readable. The body text font should be very clear and easy on the eyes.
  • Keep fanciness to a minimum. Readability is more important. If a font is too fancy, you might use it just for one keyword, or one letter (but the corresponding fonts better be a great match).
  • Avoid arranging text vertically, diagonally, and in ways that impair easy reading.

SCIENCE FICTION FONTS

Sci-fi fonts need to look futuristic in some way. A common way is for the letters to be made up of mostly straight lines, i.e. no curves (or only subtle curves).

Think like a rocket. The sides of a rocket are straight, like most of the letters of sci-fi fonts. If there are curves, they need to feel spacey, perhaps like the smooth arch of the rocket’s apex. A metallic feel for the color may help (but not necessarily).

You wouldn’t want to use a sci-fi font for an entire novel (unless it’s subtle enough that it’s very clear and readable), but a good sci-fi font can help the cover send a harmonious signal.

The following Space Age font illustrates the spirit, though note that not all of the letters are clear. Avoid this font for non-obvious words, or when many of the letters of a word happen to be hard to read. (This particular font doesn’t allow free commercial use, though the cost may be affordable. You can find out here: mickeyavenue.com/fonts/spaceage/license.php. I have no connections with the font licenser; I simply found this font during my research. Personal use is free, however.)

Font Sci Fi Space AgeThe Space Marine font below is bolder and easier to read, though not quite as suggestive.

Font Sci Fi Space Marine

The following Orbitron font has sci-fi character, and is still fairly easy to make out.

Font Sci Fi Orbitron

My last example of a sci-fi font is Mashine, but don’t simply pick one of the few examples I used. There are dozens of others to choose from.

Font Sci Fi Mashine

FANTASY FONTS

Unlike sci-fi, fantasy fonts tend to be curvier, but not as much as romance fonts. This gets a bit more complicated with paranormal romance, for example. Remember that the color scheme can help a little with the differentiation (red, for example, is common in romance, though it may be the image that’s red, not the font).

A fantasy font may have a magical or other-worldly feel to it.

You have to be careful with the most extreme fantasy fonts, which can be harder to read.

There are different kinds of fantasy books, so the specific font you choose needs not just to be a good fit for fantasy, but for your specific content.

My first example of a fantasy font is Auriol (which is not free, by the way, but I purchased a commercial license for $30):

Font Fantasy Auriol

The Endor font shown below has some extreme touches. It’s more readable with some words than with others, so use it wisely.

Font Fantasy Endor

This Merienda font illustrates how the shape of the font can look more like fantasy than like romance. The strokes themselves are indicative of some romance fonts, but the shape makes it fantasy instead.

Font Fantasy Merienda

My last example of a fantasy font has some straight edges typical of sci-fi, yet the shapes of the letters look more ancient than futuristic, which makes it fantasy. Remember, there are many other kinds of fantasy fonts than just the brief sample shown here.

Font Fantasy Becker

ROMANCE FONTS

Romance fonts tend to be curvy, sometimes in a script, but not always. Beware that the script fonts are often harder to read and aren’t always available with a bold stroke.

Another consideration is that teen romance, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, historical romance, etc. are different subgenres, which may require different title fonts on their covers. It’s worth researching the top-selling books, especially those that are self-published, in your specific subgenre.

The Lust Script font below illustrates some of the curviness of romance fonts, along with some of the touches that you often see on capital letters and the ends of some letters like r’s and v’s. This font won’t come out well in all caps, by the way (though there is a non-script variation).

Font Romance Lust Script

Here, I used the same Lust Script font for the first letters and combined it with Lust (the non-script companion) at a reduced size. The result serves as a good reminder that you need to manually kern the title fonts (compare the large gap between the NA of Naughty and the RO of Romance).

Font Romance Lust and Script

The following Pollen font is more subtle. You may not want to use an extreme romance font for the title, subtitle, and author name. You need to do some research to find combinations that work well together.

Font Romance Pollen

There are many, many romance fonts to choose from, and some fonts work better in some romance subgenres than others. It’s worth doing some research to see what your options are. Script is not uncommon, but place emphasis on readability and ensuring that all your cover fonts work well together.

I made the following fancier option using pictures from ShutterStock (artist Augusto Cabral). You wouldn’t want to make much text fancy like this, but one short keyword that is easy to read might work.

Font Romance ShutterStock

Of course, you could do the same in other genres, too. But you really have to be careful not to go overboard. Using images or very fancy fonts can be hard to read, and they can detract from the main visual element of the cover. Keeping the cover fonts simple, but relevant, is a good philosophy.

But let me illustrate one more example of using imagery within the font itself. The following image is also from ShutterStock (artist Mr. High Sky).

Font Romance ShutterStock 2

WESTERN FONTS

Western fonts should look like something you’d see in a wanted poster or in a western movie, for example.

They should have a more rugged feel. The color scheme might look more like a desert or the sun (red, orange, yellow), though that doesn’t mean to make the font one of these colors. Search for some authentic western posters, books, movies, etc. to see what is common.

The following Rosewood font has some familiar western character.

Font Western Rosewood

So does this Smokum font.

Font Western Smokum

There are a variety of other kinds of fonts that clearly have a western style. Do some research to find the best one for your needs. But beware of a few that go overboard (like being entirely made out of rope).

HORROR FONTS

One way to illustrate horror is a small degree of fading. Too much fading renders the font unreadable.

Another way is to add dripping blood, but it’s not easy for that blood to look right.

Fortunately, there are many bloody, faded, and other chilling fonts to choose from, so you can find the font that fits your book perfectly with a little research. Filter out the ones that are overdone or which don’t quite pull the effect off correctly.

This Misproject font illustrates a small amount of fading away. It’s still readable.

Font Horror Misproject

Here is one more example of a horror font. This is American Shopworn.

Font Horror HWT American

While the Chiller font installed on your computer might seem convenient, it may be worth taking time to find something more appropriate. Again, don’t just limit yourself to one of the two examples that I provided to help illustrate the horror genre: Explore your options thoroughly, and also browse top sellers in your subgenre.

BODY TEXT

The body text needs to be very clear and easy to read.

Times New Roman may be overused.

Garamond, shown below, is a popular alternative.

Font General Garamond

There are other good fonts for body text, like Minion, which follows. Look at the ‘a’ and the ‘e’ to see the difference. Both of these are serif fonts, which have little marks at some letter ends to help aid in the reading.


Font General Minion

Georgia is a bolder font than Garamond, but is sometimes confused with Times New Roman.

OTHER GENRES

Another consideration, besides the genre, is the book’s era and setting. For historical fiction, it may help to signify the period more than the subgenre. For example, you might find a good font to represent the Victorian era for a Victorian novel.

The distinction between mystery, thriller, and suspense can get a little tricky. For mystery, you may be able to find a few icons to help serve as a guide, especially if your novel is similar. For example, check out the fonts used in the Murder She Wrote t.v. series or Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Whatever your genre is, you want to browse the covers of top sellers to get a feel for what the font is trying to convey and how they pull it off. Use my examples as a guide to get you thinking (e.g. sci-fi is futuristic, western is rugged, fantasy is magical or other-worldly).

For nonfiction, a very clear light serif or sans serif font is common on the cover. Clearly conveying the keywords in the thumbnail can be a valuable marketing tool for many nonfiction books.

There are many places to browse for fonts, but it may be best to start with a variety of genre-specific inquiries with Google, and remember to browse the covers of top sellers in your subgenre. Be careful where you download material from the internet. There are many sites, like Font Squirrel, Da Fonts, and fonts.com, offering free or low-cost fonts for commercial use, or you can buy font collections. Even Adobe offers a selection of fonts through TypeKit (Creative Cloud users can use TypeKit for free).

Chris McMullen

Note that I made up the names of the sample titles used to illustrate fonts. Any resemblance to any covers of books that actually use these titles or similar ones is purely coincidental.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set now available for Kindle and in print