I was reading a book review recently of a piece of storytelling that I thought was divine. I read it in a single afternoon, surprised by how much I enjoyed the content. This particular reviewer was also surprised. They used a great many exclamation marks to make it clear they thought this story was going to be a romance, and not a deep book about a person learning that sometimes different is okay too. There was no smoochy smooch, and this warranted a rating of one out of five stars. My first thought took me off-guard, because it was about typeface. I pulled a face as I thought, “Pffft. The title was in a slab-serif, dude. Everyone know’s that’s not a smoochy romance font.” Taken aback by this seemingly profound knowledge I didn’t even know I had, I set about doing some digging. Now, before I unveil my findings, I should first mention that I am freakishly interested in things like this and even have a font identifying app on my phone because sometimes I see a sign and my immediate reaction is, “Dangg, there’s a typeface I could marry” and not “OMG! The bridge is out! We should probably not walk over it because certain death awaits!” With that in mind, here’s the dealio with typefaces for titles of books (if at any point you get confused refer to here because this is the best infographic on font ever):
1. Slab-serifs:  A serif is that weird little tick or kick that happens when you write a letter on the page. Computers mimic that in typefaces to make things easier to read in print. Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are like dogs with tails. They have tails. That is the dealio with serifs. So what are slab-serifs? Well they’re just serifs that are, among other things, very square. In my bookshelf, and in my omg I must read this imaginary bookshelf too, I’ve found that slab serifs tend to be used for books that can have romance but are more about a journey or adventure than just that. These journeys ultimately change the main character’s life, and maybe even the world. I can’t believe I never noticed before, but the fabulous Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is clad in a slab serif that is gorgeous. Observe:

2. Serif: More romance driven plots tend to have pure serif or handwriting serif typefaces, they look fancy and regal and swirly (I should mention not all serif fonts are romancy fonts, as slab-serif is a subset of serif). The swirlier the title, the more smooching to be expected within the book (although this changes if things are set in the future, not sure why). The more serious (and less swirly) the title, the more likely it will be a historical fiction novel and have minimal smooch. Or, at least, a lot of death and goblin farts to accompany the smooch.

NB: there are some exceptions to this rule par exemple Fifty Shades of Grey, which is in a super non swirly font but, disappointingly, has minimal goblin farting and almost no epic battle scenes. A lot of the super swirly titles were a little ohh la la for this post and the zombies complained and I had to delete them but believe me, the titles can be very swirly. Also, note that while there are minimum goblins, Forged by Fate has equal parts romance equal parts THOR in it, resulting in awesome. Let’s take a look:

3. Sans serif: This means without serif, so the typeface is straight and clean and very modern looking. Fab for online reading, but not so great for reading blocks of text on paper. It seems that sci-fi, dystopian, and alien books like to use this font. I love all of those kind of books so that is super fab to me!

So! What have I learned over the hours I have spent staring at book cover titles? Well, in truth typeface varied wildly! But definite trends and patterns occur. I think I’m most attracted to the titles that, to my mind, suit the story. A historical novel written in sans-serif would look bizarre to me, but it wouldn’t stop me frmo enjoying the novel. It does, perhaps, tell me what to expect though. What do you think? Do you pay much attention to book titles? Anyone ever designed their own?
Edit: the fabulous Word Weaver Press has just informed me that Forged by Fate is Trajan Pro! A fabulous typeface that is oldstyle serif, and based on the Trajan Column. Perfect for the book as its storyline spans from creation to present day! Tempting Fate combines Trajan with Scriptina because it is a tie-in novel and, as @WordWeaver_wwp tells us it sets the story apart but stays in character.


  • Mia Hayson

    I love this post! Thought-provoking… Now I want to dissect the font on every book I've ever read. Always enjoy your graphs. Christy

  • Mia Hayson

    I love this post.

  • Mia Hayson

    I designed the cover for my mystery novel, Tainted Souls. (Download the e-book for free!) Since I did it on the cheap, I was restricted to fonts in Microsoft Word. I chose Tempus, a sans serif with a sort of vaguely Egyptian look (though I really wanted Babylonian).

  • Mia Hayson

    This is one of the most fascinating blog posts I have read in a long time. I'm already obsessing over covers because of Maureen Johnson's cover flip and now I will obsess over the fonts too! Love it 😀


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