Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All’s Fair In Love And Fonts

I’m gonna be blunt. Fonts are a bitch and a half. I think I’ve said that before, and guess what? You’ll hear it again, I’m sure.

The reality of a book cover artist whether you are accomplished or just starting out, or like me, just feeling your way blindly but thankfully having a few wonderful people to help guide, is that we artists have a vicious love/hate affair going on with the fonts of the world.


We swoon at the flowing lines, the sharp edgy edges, and the curly cue cuties. We drool over fonts that are so far out of our price range we silently offer up our children to an unforgiving universe at the mere thought of owning the typeface that is quite literally our unicorn in fontdom.

Disclaimer: A.J. Corza has no children to sell for fonts or otherwise, so no worries there…although, she does have a nephew. ;)
But even if we have access to unlimited funds, even if we own the best of the best, the snazziest of the snazzy fonts, we’re often thrown into the very depths of despair by that age old question; which one do we use on a cover? Which one do we download? Retro, San Serif, Calligraphic or Contemporary? Beyond the fact that there are so many fonts out there it can make your head spin, you have to also think of what color, how big, and where the hell do you place it to best compliment the cover art. Guess what, you maven of artistry? You are now well on your way to cardiac arrest.

And don’t even get me started on whether it’s free for commercial use, personal use, or if you have to pay for it. Just think about all that, plus the fact that we artists usually have to find pictures for your cover. I mean, you don’t want to be nude do you? Well, ok, some of you do, but in all reality you want something pretty to make people stop on the street and say, a la Keanu Reeves, “whoa”. PLUS, it needs to be good looking. At least we’re hoping for good looking, ’cause some covers are just, um, less than savory, shall we say?


But I digress, we were discussing fonts. What I’m trying to get at is that fonts are maddening in a way that pictures never are. I’m speaking from my own experience, of course, so it could just invariably be my own foibles rearing their ugly heads, but for me, finding a good picture is easy. It’s finding a font that flatters that same picture and still stays true to the tone of the book that is often a hair pulling, teeth gnashing, grr arghing experience. I can’t tell you how many times my poor boyfriend has literally pulled my chair away from the computer and frog marched my butt to the couch, handed me my Kindle, and said go back to it later. And thank goodness he did or else I’d have to buy a new computer every other month!

So, to illustrate what I’m talking about, I’ve included an old one of my own ’cause anyone that knows me knows that the first person to point out the bad on my own work is…me. So let’s get to it!


This is an old cover that I did a long time ago. Yep, that’s right, this really bad cover is by me! *bows, collects flowers, smiles demurely*. This was during my first foray into making covers, which was for a friend who worked at Linden Bay at the time and yeah, I’d say I’ve grown. THANK THE STARS! That said, I am fully aware that the cover design for this is not quite up to par. Sub-par, parboiled, parsnip, parsley, I would ask for parlay, but it’s really not worth it. (If you haven’t seen Pirates of the Caribbean just ignore that last bit).

But seeing as how we’re discussing font mishaps, please do ignore the craptacular cover.

That said, I actually like the font itself. It’s nice and clean and easy to read. BUT why, oh why, did I feel the need to squash the title together at the bottom? And what is that terrible outer glow effect? The cover is boring enough as it is, the font is NOT helping. It’s beige. BEIGE!!! No gradient to make it pop a bit more, no variance of tone quality, just the color of the background. Perhaps next time I shall try a nice puce or 1970s harvest gold? Seriously, someone should have smacked me over the head for this color choice. And this is a prime example of one of those times when a fancier font would have given flair to the cover. Or a burlap sack, you know, whatever was handy. *hangs head in shame* I’m so sorry G.A. Hauser. Please know that it was not done intentionally. It was merely the artwork of a newbie artist. And congrats on your ongoing success regardless of this cover!

Reminder to self: boring is BORING! Is boring.

Ok, so here’s the skinny on what I’m trying to get across.

Fonts are not to be taken lightly. A font can make or break a cover. A font can make people pick up the book, especially if the title is intriguing. Hell, it can scream at you from across a damn room sometimes. But a font can also make people squint, get a spasm in their neck as they turn their heads trying to read it, and invariably it can have a customer putting that same book right back down on the table and picking up “Thirty Shades of Grey” instead.

We don’t want that!

So, for the artists, here are a few things to think about when selecting a font: Is it clear? Is it bright? Does it stand out from the cover art? Does it blend so much you can’t see it? Is it fitting the feeling/vibe of the story? Is it so fancy you can’t read it at first glance? Or is it too blah so as to make you start thinking of what’s for lunch? Is it too tiny at thumbnail size? Is it so big you can’t see the pic below it? (Unless of course that’s the point) Is it squished? Is it just not quite right?

And for the authors, remember when waiting for that artwork that choosing a picture takes time, doing the artwork, whether it’s photo manipulation or just a plain photograph that maybe needs some touch up, that takes time. But also remember that choosing the correct font…takes time. Putting the right color on that font, or that drop shadow with the correct distance and opacity takes time. So if you don’t like what the artist has chosen, take a step back, take a deep breath, and just ask if maybe there’s something else. And try to explain what you mean. Saying fancier and not actually explaining how is a whole ‘nother can of worms you don’t want to get into. Maybe say, more like wedding invitation fancy but more New York Times fancy rather than scroll work from the Ottoman Empire fancy. (I’m not actually sure how fancy the Ottoman Empire got with their fonts, but you get my gist). This will not only help you to convey the idea visually (which artists generally are), but it will keep your artist from pulling their hair out behind the scenes.

And lastly, remember, HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FONTS!!! Don’t get crazy, don’t get John Travolta on us when we’re looking for a little Kenny Loggins, but also don’t be afraid to try new dance steps with your title art. Sometimes you can end up very pleasantly surprised!

That’s it for this week, guys. Have a great day, and may all the good books be with you!


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All thoughts and comments are the reviewers only and not the viewpoints of others. If I’ve made you angry, stepped on any toes, or otherwise ruffled any feathers, I do apologize. This is just for fun, and written in the hopes that it will help fledgling book authors and artists to grow and learn. And help this artist grow and learn as well!

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