Formatting Your Novel: What Font Size Are Books Written In?

Publishing a book is a blood-draining process; from writing your first draft to performing a couple of different edits and formatting your entire book. With experience, you start to get familiar with a lot of formatting aspects.

One reason for that is because you start to understand the requirements from different publishers, and you can discern common patterns or needs.

But, if you’re just a fledgling writer, formatting is one of the most challenging stages in the book writing process because, unlike writing, formatting doesn’t come naturally.

You have to learn how to format!

Out of the many elements of formatting—which include size, typesetting, cover details (matte vs. glossy), page color, etc.—I have decided to take a look at font size.

Let’s get started!

formatting your novel what font size are books written in

Does Font Size Really Matter?

Font size carries a lot of weight in your book formatting. First, you’ve got to think about publishers and their fixed requirements—and usually, they have their own preferences when it comes to font size.

does font size really matter (1)

But even if you’re self-publishing, font size affects a lot of things from aesthetics, word count, and page count. For instance, if you use large font size, you’ll have a lower per-page word count (because the larger letters are going to fill up the pages quicker than smaller letters).

When it comes to the font’s aesthetic role, large font sizes tend to make a book a bit ugly (for the lack of a better word), and smaller ones look cool.

However, larger fonts are easier to read than smaller ones, so maybe they’re good for people who have problems with their sight.

Serif vs. Sans Serif

If you’re self-publishing, there’s a high probability that you won’t have any font requirements imposed on you. This means that you have to choose the book’s font yourself, you have to know the difference between serif and sans serif fonts. The dictionary definition of serif is “a short line at the end of the main strokes of a character.”

So, serif fonts have a serif—a small extension on the edges of the letters, whereas sans serif fonts don’t have a serif hence they have straight edges.

Based on these two categories, you’ll find out that fonts in each category fit a certain genre. For example, sans serif fonts set in block paragraphs work well for nonfiction reference books and textbooks. Classic serif fonts—which are easy to read—are suited to fiction, memoirs, and autobiographies.

serif vs. sans serif

How Do I Choose The Right Font For My Book?

So, how do you choose the right font for your book?

Here are some tips:

1. Follow the Publisher’s Guidelines

My guess is you’re publishing on your own; otherwise, the publisher would have given you a font. However, even for writers who publish on sites like Amazon Kindle, there are some font requirements that kindle suggests.

If you want your book to have the print version, you’ve got to choose readily available, free fonts that Amazon can use without any copyright complications. Usually, publishers will give you one or two fonts they work with.

2. Choose a Font That Goes Well with Your Genre

I already briefly touched on this when I mentioned serif vs. sans serif fonts. Successful authors know what font works well with their genre, and they avoid using fonts that are distracting, wild, and not in line with the norms of their genre.

As I already said, classic serif fonts are perfect for your fiction and memoirs, and nonfiction reference books and textbooks look better with sans serif fonts.

If you publish children’s books, I’d recommend using fonts that are more decorative and attention-grabbing because, for kids, there isn’t really more than meets the eye. It’s not like I’m underrating these little monsters, decorative texts just work so well for kids.

3. Avoid Bad Fonts

One thing you should know is that you’re not trying to paint some graffiti, you’re just choosing a font for your book.

Stick to fonts that’d not distract you. Fonts you’d easily forget, seconds after picking a book.

avoid bad fonts

Some bad fonts like Script MT, snap ITC, or Comic Sans would—maybe—go well with titles and other parts of your book, but—definitely—not with the body text.

4. Forget Times New Roman/Arial

Arguably, these two are the best fonts on either side—on the screen. Times New Roman is a serif font, and Arial is a san serif font, both are good.

Every word processing software has these two, and they are very easy to read. However, your book is not going to be a softcopy only, you’re probably going to publish it in print too. So, to avoid having a book that resembles a college dissertation (which is the most likely event if you use one of these two fonts), try other fonts that are easy to read and that look good in a book, not just the computer screen.

Choosing the Right Font Size

There are a couple of things that you have to be mindful of when choosing font size for your book.

Some of these are:

1. Consider the trim size

Since you’re going to print your book, you should choose a font and font size with the book’s trim size in mind.

You have to go for a font that’s easy on the eye, one thick enough for readers to follow from line to line and page to page, and a fitting font size for the trim size.

Obviously, smaller trim sizes will require font sizes and vice versa. But usually, 15 points is too large, and 9 points is too small for body text (Although some books have used these points and look and read just like any other).

Some fonts take up more space than others, even when font size is the same, and other fonts are also thicker than others. Therefore, you may be forced to increase or decrease the font size just to fit your trim size.

If you want to print your books, the way to find a good font size is to print a page or two using different fonts and different sizes to see what looks good.

2. Word Count

The bigger the word count, the more pages your book will require. To go around this, you might want to choose a font size that doesn’t eat up your pages.

If you’re writing fiction, there are high chances that your book will be 5.25 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5, or 6 x 9 if it’s longer. But with such small sizes and a huge word count (about 130-200k), you’ll need a font size that helps you fit all that story in that little book.   

3. Readability

Having sorted trim size and word count, readability has to be considered next. You have to consider the fact that not all of your readers will have a sharp vision.

Can you read easily with that font size? If the answer is yes, you’ve sorted the font size problem.

The best way to choose the font size for your book.

Dos and Don’ts (Basic Font Tips When You Haven’t Been Given Specific Formatting Requirements)

If you’re self-publishing, here are some of my rule of thumb:

  1. Use an 11-point Serif Font for text.
  2. Use a 14-point Serif font for chapter titles.
  3. Use a 12-point Serif font for section headings.
  4. Avoid monospaced (a.k.a. “typewriter”) fonts like Courier.
  5. Use, at most, three fonts. Too many fonts will just ruin things.

What’s The Best Font To Use For A Novel?

I’m not going to make up your mind for you but I’m going to suggest these fonts: Garamond, Baskerville, and Sabon.

Try these three and see if one could work for you.

what's the best font to use for a novel

Summary

If you find yourself among the chosen few, those lucky enough to publish with a traditional publishing house, you’re lucky because you have—at your disposal—a team of editors and book designers who can help you choose the right fonts for your book.

But if you’re self-publishing, you’re probably going to have to choose a font and size for yourself, so pick a book you’d want your book to look like, print out a few pages of your book and compare the results.

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.