If you were formatting a book – just the inside – you’d have to choose a strong, perfect body font for the main paragraphs and a complimentary and interesting font for titles, subtitles and chapter headings.
Except you don’t really need to do that, because (I assume) you’ve already put together an amazing cover design, and your cover design (I hope) already uses a perfect, brilliant font that suits the genre for the main title.
Which means – when you begin formatting your interior layout, you don’t really have to make any difficult choices.
All you need to know about book layouts…
The main mistakes I see on homemade, DIY or cheap/amateur book layout are:
1. Not enough space between lines and between elements like the headers, footer, page edges, and titles.
2. Really boring headers/chapter designs
3. TOO much decoration or strange fonts that don’t agree with the cover design.
Luckily, there are a handful of very good, very strong body fonts that are tried-and-true. You don’t want your body to be distinctive or stand out. You want it to look just like any other book in the bookstore. You want the text to be clean and readable. You want it to be invisible… so that people can get into your story.
Here are a few samples I just made up.
Note: I’m not suggesting you use these header fonts – the chapter heading fonts will depend on your book cover, but any of these body fonts are very good, very safe options.
Note 2: My design style is a little flashy. Generally first pages of chapters don’t have headers or footers (nor page numbers), and the first paragraph has no indent. Some books have a page number on the center/bottom of chapter pages, and on the header of normal pages.
A dropcap on the first line is not absolutely necessary. All caps on the first six words or so is pretty common as well. I didn’t add any special graphics in these, which I would normally probably do, because this post is about the text and font combinations.
Don’t try to do too much on the chapter page… too many flashy elements is distracting. Pair an interesting, expressive font with a very basic sans-serif (sans-serif fonts make good chapter headings because they contrast with the body text, which should almost always be serif. Don’t use two really artistic fonts. Use one only.
The body fonts on these range from 11 to 14, spacing is about 18 to 20 on most.
1. Adobe Caslon Pro (body)
Big Top (Chapter), “Aaargh” (Subtitle)
2. Bembo (body)
3. ITC Baskerville (body)
4. Minion Pro (body)
5. Garamond Premier Pro (body)
6. Sabon (body)
Sabon (body, example 2)
7. Dante MT (body)
Amor Sans (Chapter), Bickham Script (Dropcap)
8. Franklin Gothic Medium (body)
Note: You don’t usually want to use a sans-serif for body text like #8… but in some genres – mostly children or YA, it might be OK.
You probably noticed almost all the examples look pretty much the same. Any of them are good choices.
The first paragraph should start about halfway down the page. Leave lots of open space on the top half.
Need some free body fonts?
The ones I mentioned up above are premium fonts, but you can also try these free, almost as good alternatives.
I’m working on a huge list of best fonts for every single genre, to help you pick out those important stylistic fonts for your book cover and chapter headings. That will be up soon. I’m also going to post the InDesign templates for each of these samples – I’ll add them to this page when I finish cleaning them up (the templates come with front matter and 4 chapters of dummy text to get started). So check back in a few weeks or sign up on my list if you want them.
Of course there are other lovely fonts to choose from. But your book formatting is not a place to do a lot of experimenting or risk-taking. Some fonts have just a tad more character that may align more closely with a specific book… but unless you’re a designer – and even then! – you should probably go with one of these to be safe.
Have another font you absolutely love, that deserves to be on this list? Share it in the comments!