Cover Fonts


Plasma Drip font from Font Squirrel at

The right font is an important ingredient for successful cover design. It can also be one of the more challenging elements to perfect.

What to look for

  • The cover text should fit the genre or subject matter.
  • It should look like the font belongs on the cover.
  • The font should inspire interest in the book.
  • It shouldn’t be a distraction.
  • The text should be easy to read. Any uncommon words should be immediately clear.
  • Key words should stand out in the thumbnail.
  • Pixelation, stray marks, blurriness, and other issues will detract from the cover.
  • Too many different fonts on the cover is a problem. Two different fonts must work well together.


We’ll look at a movie and t.v. show. Although these aren’t books, the font is equally important—more so, if you count the money invested.

Check out the font for Disney’s Frozen: It fits the content perfectly.

Another example is Nick’s The Haunted Hathaways:

Getting it right

The font and cover as a whole must look right to your eye. Well, not your eye. What really matters is your specific target audience.

That’s why feedback is so important. Some people have a good eye for font style. If you can get their opinions, that will help. You can also solicit feedback from your target audience, helping you build a little buzz while also perfecting your cover.

Finding the font

You need to go on the Great Font Scavenger Hunt. But it’s worth it.

If you’re using the font on your book cover, you’ll need a font that permits commercial use. There are many fonts online that allow free commercial use, along with many more with reasonable prices. For example, check out Font Squirrel. Google free fonts to find a host of other sites. You can also find many font collections for sale.

Read the license agreement carefully to learn whether or not commercial use is permitted. While some free fonts allow commercial use, beware that some paid fonts don’t. Check the license to be sure.

Note that paid font collections often exaggerate the total number of fonts. If the same font comes in normal, bold, italics, condensed, and expanded, for example, that single font might count as 9 different fonts (since condensed bold italic is different from condensed bold, for example).

Another issue is browsing through the fonts and testing it out with your specific text. A paid collection might come with a booklet that shows just the first 7 letters of thousands of fonts, which really makes it challenging to find the right one. An advantage of browsing online is that you often see larger fonts, spaced out better, and you can search and filter to better find what you’re looking for.

Once you have the fonts of interest installed on your computer, you can open up Microsoft Word, type the text, highlight the text, then scroll through the various fonts to see how it looks using the up/down arrows on the keyboard. This is pretty convenient. (If the font window blocks the text, you can move the text over by changing its alignment to right, for example.)

Don’t ignore it

If you did a survey among avid readers who know nothing about cover design, they might tell you that font style isn’t important to them. But that’s only because they don’t realize it.

Online, before you see the book’s product page, you see the thumbnail for the cover. Usually, the thumbnail is on a page with a dozen or more other covers. Very often, a shopper is scrolling through several pages of thumbnails to find a book. In a bookstore, you see the spines of hundreds of books.

The cover that best attracts the target audience gets the most attention. The font style does have a significant impact on cover appeal, even if we don’t realize it.

A successful cover signifies the genre and attracts the specific target audience in three seconds. The right font helps to pull this off.

Cover Design

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles, including cover design, by clicking one of the following links:

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

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Which Fonts Can You Use?

Font Pic

When you purchase a new computer and install Microsoft Word, most (if not all) of the preinstalled fonts may be used to publish a book in print. This extends to many symbols and icons that you can find in preinstalled fonts such as Webdings and Wingdings.

You don’t have to guess, though. There is a simple way to tell.

If you download free fonts or even purchase fonts, you may or may not be able to use them for commercial purposes (e.g. publishing a book).

Two issues include:

  • Can the font be embedded in a PDF file? You need to be able to embed the font in the PDF in order for the printer (e.g. CreateSpace) to be able to print the font.
  • Does the license agreement permit commercial use?

Let’s first address whether or not the font can be embedded in a PDF.

Obviously, you need a PDF converter that can embed fonts in the PDF file when the Word document is converted to PDF. That’s a separate issue, and there are many free PDF converters available, such as DoPDF. Note that it’s better to print to PDF than to use the Save As option in Word if you have images (otherwise, the resolution may be diminished).

Even if you have a PDF converter with the option to embed fonts, you still might not be able to embed the font in the file.

How can you tell?

Find the font file. In Windows, most of the fonts are by default stored in a Fonts folder in the Control Panel. Click the start button, then Control Panel, then search for the Fonts folder. Open this folder. If the font file isn’t there (it may have been placed somewhere else when it was installed), if you know the name of the font, try searching for it on your computer.

Once you find the font file, right-click the font file. Then click Properties and Details. See what it says under Embeddability:

  • Editable. This allows the font to be embedded in such a way that the user can edit the content afterward.
  • Installable. This allows the font to be embedded in such a way that the user can permanently install the fonts.
  • Print and preview. This allows the font to be embedded, but only if the user is not permitted to edit the content.
  • No embedding permissions. This prevents the font from being embedded. These are personal use fonts that will function on your computer, but not when the file is converted to PDF.

The main point here is this:

The fonts can be embedded in the PDF and the printer (e.g. CreateSpace) will be able to print the PDF unless the Embeddability is set to “No embedding permissions.”

Note that Word can embed TrueType fonts (.ttf), but not OpenType fonts (.otf). You can view .otf fonts in Word, but not embed them by clicking Save As. You need to use a non-Word PDF converter in order to embed .otf fonts. Adobe fonts are .otf. (If you want to get technical, you can subdivide OpenType fonts into various types and complicate matters.) You can check the font extension by right-clicking on the font file.

When fonts are not properly embedded, a program may attempt to substitute another font with similar typeface. If this is successful, this may cause just a minor change in appearance in the final result. However, if the substitution is poor or unsuccessful, it can result in major problems.

Checking the Embeddability option only tells you from a practical perspective whether or not the font can be embedded.

You must still check on the licensing.

  • If the font is only licensed for personal use, you’re not permitted to use it to publish a book that will be for sale.
  • If the font permits commercial use, you may use it to publish a book. However, you must read the license agreement carefully, as it may have restrictions.
  • Some fonts require payment or a donation in order to use them for commercial purposes.
  • Some paid fonts do not permit commercial use. Paying money for the font does not guarantee that it can be used commercially.
  • Sometimes, you must contact the font owner, make a formal request to use the font, answer questions about your intended use, and also pay a fee in order to use the font for commercial purposes.
  • Some fonts simply do not permit commercial use at all.

Note that I’m not an attorney. I’m not providing legal advice. If you would like legal advice, you should consult an attorney. You should also read your license agreements carefully.

When commercial use is permitted, the font license will make this clear. This statement is often easy to find when commercial use is permitted, as it’s a nice selling feature. When commercial use is prohibited, sometimes such notice is not easy to find.

If the Embeddability option is set to “No embedding permissions,” the font designer is preventing you from using the font commercially.

However, if Embeddability is allowed by the file, the commercial use of the font may still be prohibited by the font license. Just checking Embeddability doesn’t guarantee that commercial use is allowed.

As stated in the beginning, when you purchase a new computer and install Microsoft Word, most (if not all) of the preinstalled fonts may be used to publish a book in print. You can read more about Microsoft typography here:

Some icons and symbols that appear in symbolic fonts or extended symbols (i.e. you find them by clicking Insert > Symbol) are in the public domain. Research a specific symbol to learn whether or not it is in the public domain.

Note that if you’re using a font to create a logo, there may be additional restrictions (e.g. you may not be allowed to sell the logo using the fonts). Also, some fonts may restrict you from altering them.

At CreateSpace, you can always make a test file in Word. It can be your actual book, or if you haven’t started yet, type some text with fonts (you will need to reach 24 pages and satisfy the minimum publishing criteria to do this test). Convert the Word document to PDF. Upload the file (you can also make a free test book and delete it from your dashboard later, without ever approving the book). If the fonts aren’t embedded and you need to embed them, CreateSpace will let you know this during file review. (It could be the problem is that you didn’t select the option to embed the font when you printed the Word file to PDF, so you also have to understand your PDF converter.)

Fortunately, there are very, very many free fonts out there that allow for commercial use where the fonts will embed without problem. If you look for “commercial use allowed” before downloading fonts, that should help minimize possible problems. (Unfortunately, there is also an occasional commercial use font where the font doesn’t embed, even though the terms of use said that commercial use was okay.)

Fonts are important. Most importantly, the font should be a good fit for the content, be easy to read, and not seem boring.

Fonts are also important for cover design. Here, the font should create interest, fit the content, and still be easy to read.

When designing a cover, it’s possible to draw shapes to make letters (you can make your own custom cover font this way). You need to have some artistic skills and a good idea of font use in cover design to pull this off. Probably, you would only do this for a couple of key words in the title in very large letters.

One potential problem is the temptation to use a really cool-looking font that’s not easy to read, doesn’t fit the content, or doesn’t match the color scheme of the cover. It’s easy to go overboard.

However, if you want to design your own font to use in the interior of the book so that when you type the letter, that image comes up, that’s much more involved.

Note that publishing an e-book is different. In this case, it is generally desirable to use a default font like Times New Roman and allow the user the option to select the font on the e-reader.

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