Mistake #4: Typographical Errors

Welcome to Book Cover Design Mistakes, a new series of posts on Shelfbuzz which help identify common mistakes of amateur book designers. In Part 4 of this series, we’ll tackle the topic of typographical errors.

In addition to choosing the wrong typeface, amateur designers commit these basic errors in working with typography:

  • Incorrect kerning and/or tracking (letter spacing)
  • Use of foot sign (‘) instead of apostrophe (’)
  • Too many typefaces on one book cover
  • Placing type over an image that makes the type difficult to read

The following cover has an interesting central image (the heart shape), but the type treatment of the title is amateurish. The letters are tracked too tight and the foot sign (or “straight quote”) is a dead giveaway that someone just typed the title into Photoshop without thinking about using the proper apostrophe character. Both the “Incredible Love” line and the author’s name are just about unreadable even at this large size.

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This next cover uses a generic bold serif typeface that doesn’t add any character to the cover. The letter spacing is off, as is the line spacing. And sadly they also use the dreaded foot mark instead of a proper apostrophe.

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151 Rafts has an interesting illustration and makes an attempt to use a stylish typeface, but again the letter spacing is off between the numbers in “151.” The typeface for the subhead doesn’t work well in a small size. See how the thin part of the letterforms disappear. And you are looking at a cover that is much larger than the thumbnail images that most book browsers on Amazon will see.

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This next cover is a mess of typefaces (including the overused Bleeding Cowboys typeface). The designer also adds to the clutter by including a flame image for the second ‘e’ in ‘renegade.’ The second word of the title is in a different typeface, as is the author’s name and the words ‘A Novel By.’ Most professional designers rarely use more than two different typefaces on their covers.

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Three words: “weird bouncing letters.” Ugh.

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She Called It, Wolf has an intriguing title, but what’s up with the comma after “it.” Seems like a mistake. The cover design itself suffers from multiple problems. including the amateur snapshot of the wolf (dog) with the bad reflections in the eyes, a poor choice of typefaces, lack of kerning (again), and even the color of the title and author text which doesn’t stand out from the photo in back of it.

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Now that we’ve examined several examples of what not to do, let’s turn to a well-designed, professional cover which makes good use of typography:

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Little Girl Gone uses a single typeface that is big and bold. The angled “step” sections of the brown colored part of the cover cleverly hide part of the title which fits in with the genre. Kerning, tracking, and letterspacing are all good. The only quibble might be the choice to bleed the “E” in “LITTLE” off the right hand side of the book. This cut-off effect was certainly intentional, but the designer could have made all the type slightly smaller to avoid cutting the “E” off.

Here’s another example of some nice typography. The choice of typeface is smart and conveys both the fantasy genre and the specific world of this novel (which has a mideastern/Indian feel). The type stands out well from the background—with the right amount of contrast, and the outline/glow/shadow effects are not overdone.

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Bottom Line: typography (the art and skill of arranging words and letters on a page) is not exactly easy to learn (although it is possible to get a degree in typography). If you don’t have several years to devote to this particular field of study, at least familiarize yourself with the basics. Or better yet hire a professional designer to create your cover.

Book Cover Design Mistakes Series

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