Saturday, April 6, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Font Sizes Part 1

In my ongoing series, I'm looking at all the little things you can do, as an indie author, to make your paperback book look more professional. I'm assuming you're starting with an ebook manuscript but it still applies if you're starting from scratch (i.e. with the scrappy all-over-the-place file you actually typed your story into, using whatever font and color appealed to you that day).

How do I decide on my font size?

There are actually several points during the formatting of your print book where this question needs to be asked. When you format an ebook manuscript, it's less important because most ebook devices allow the user to adjust the font size.

Flick through a commercial novel and you'll see different fonts and font sizes used throughout:

1. Cover (title, subtitle, author, perhaps an attributed blurb)
2. Title page (and half-title if there is one)
3. Copyright page
4. Chapter headings
5. Body text (the actual novel)
6. Header and page number
7. There may also be endmatter such as an ad for another book by the same author or publishing house

Cover and title page
Here's an example of five different fonts or sizes on the cover of Liane Moriarty's Three Wishes (Australian edition):

The blurb and attribution at the top are the smallest font on the cover; down the bottom the same font is used, slightly larger, for the "no. 1 bestselling" text, and slightly larger again for the name of another book. In addition there's the book title and author name. For simplicity's sake I'm going to focus on the title and author name, which appear to be the same font here in lower and upper case.

Now take a look at the title page:

Ignoring the logo (because, frankly, what indie author has a logo?) (hmm, now I really want a logo...), notice that the cover font is replicated on the title page. Because Liane Moriarty is a Big Deal, her name is larger than the book title. Up to you whether you format the title or name larger, and it may depend on layout restrictions due to your cover image.

All this is to say that matching the title page layout to the cover is a nice professional touch you may want to incorporate in the paperback version of your book, while it becomes irrelevant in an ebook where the device often picks the font for you.

Copyright page
Two important things to note for this page (the sample is from my book Little Sister Song): 
1. The font size should be about 2pts smaller than your body text
2. Format it to sit at the very bottom of the page.
The bolded book title at the start is a holdover from the ebook template I used, and I probably should've fixed it. You don't need bold text or any fancy formatting on this page.

Chapter headings
Here's where you can do something thematic, stylish, or fun! As long as you use an embeddable font, you can use anything here. You can find free fonts on the internet but make sure they're free to use for commerical purposes.

A few tips about formatting your chapter heading:

1. Chapters in a print book start about a third of the way down the page. You may think, "Hey, I'll add 'space before' to the style in Word, or to each heading individually." However, when you try either of these methods... they don't work because of the page break before each chapter. (The very first one may work, because it has a section break before it separating the chapters from the front matter.) Earlier versions of Word didn't have this problem and I don't know why Microsoft changed it (or why they do anything they do, really). 

To fix this, turn on your invisibles and add a Normal-styled paragraph break before each chapter heading:

You'll see that I started my chapters about a quarter of the way down the page, rather than a third, the reason being I wanted to save a few pages, over the length of the book, to make it cheaper to print.

2. Use a legible font in a larger size for the chapter title. Don't be tempted to bold it! Seriously, bold fonts are never as attractive, and the large size already stands out. Find your longest and shortest chapter headings and make sure they look good in the font you've chosen. If you have any special characters in your titles, make sure the font includes that character. Some font sets don't include things as basic as an apostrophe, question mark, or hyphen.

3. It's nice to match the font with the theme of the cover font. I didn't do this, because that font is only available in upper case and I didn't want upper case chapter headings (some are a few words long, and that's like screaming at the reader). So I picked something entirely different. It's a condensed font (thin letters) so that the longer chapter headings aren't set across two lines.

Three Wishes also picked a completely different font for the chapter titles, possibly because the interior of the book wasn't changed when a new cover was used for a later edition? I don't know, but the font is rather hideous and childish, and doesn't even begin to match the feel of the fonts used elsewhere. The lesson is: fonts tell a story, so make sure they tell the right story.

4. If you plan to have a chapter number as well, that's another decision to be made about font and size, especially if you format it on the line above. I decided not to have chapter numbers as they seem a bit redundant in a novel.

In my next post I'll look at the all-important body text font size.

And now I'm off to design myself a logo!

If you're finding my series useful, please share it with your writing friends on social media. Have you designed a book for printing? Is there anything here you do differently?

Posts in this series:
Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Your Indie Print Book - intro
Hard and Soft Section Breaks
Font Sizes Part 1
Font Sizes Part 2
Body Text Font Choices
Making Word Do What You Want Part 1
Making Word Do What You Want Part 2

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