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How to Choose a Font: Free for Commercial-Use vs Paid Fonts

Looking for a free font to use in your novel? Don't fall into the trap of using a font embedded in your computer. Many of them are not free for commercial use.

Choosing a Font

If you're designing your own book, fonts are one of the most important choices about the look of your ebook. Certain fonts go better with certain genres and subgenres and can send a message to the reader about what kind of story to expect. You'll want to choose fonts that are eye-catching, readable, cost-effective and appropriate to your genre.

The first thing to keep in mind is that eye-catching and readable don't always go together. You want a font for your cover that says "cozy" but readable. Script fonts have a little curve to them and can fit well in the cozy mystery genre, but they can also be difficult to read. To test whether a font is hard to read, try making the font as small as it would appear on a thumbnail of your book. Can you still read it clearly? If not, people browsing books online might not be able to read it either and are likely to skip your book.

If you choose a font that's readable even as a thumbnail, you'll draw readers into your story. Fonts with a bit of fanciness to them can also help draw readers in. Headings that stand out and add to the beauty of the cover will get the reader to stop and notice your title, chuckle at the pun if your title has one, and click on the book.

Types of Fonts

There are many different types of fonts, but the basic ones that are appropriate for ebooks are:

  • Serif

  • Sans-Serif

  • Script

  • Display

Serif and Sans Serif

Serif Fonts fonts are ones like Times New Roman that have some extra strokes on the characters, but are not curvy or similar to handwriting. Sans-serif are straight letters without the extra strokes you'd see in a serif font. Because of the lack curviness and the simplicity of these fonts, they are good for the inside text of books.

Script and Display Fonts

Display fonts are heading fonts meant to be on the cover of books, and these fonts can range from fantasy-like fonts suitable to fairy tales to Gothic fonts meant for Halloween. Because of the wide variety in these fonts, it's possible to find one that is perfect for a cozy mystery, especially one with a sci-fi, paranormal, or other genre-based cozy. For more mainstream cozies, script fonts, which are based on handwriting may be better.

No matter which type of font you choose, you have to be careful that you have the rights to use the fonts in your ebooks.

Computer Embedded Fonts

If you're formatting your novel in Word, you'll want to be careful which font you use. Not all fonts are free for commercial use. This is true even for most of the fonts embedded in your computer. If you searched for the answer to whether most of the fonts that come in Word can be used commercially, you'd get answers across the board. To stay on the safe side, never use a font unless you're sure it's legal to do so.

If you hire a professional graphic designer to create a cover or format the inside of a book, the designer is responsible for font licensing. Likewise, programs like Canva to create covers and Vellum to format books have pre-installed font collections, which can be used commercially. Lastly, certain fonts in Word are free-use, like Libre Baskerville (not Baskerville). You can look up the license for a font via Google to see if you can use it commercially by simply searching for the font name + license.

Paid-For Fonts

If you're looking for a great font not found in most books, you can buy a font online. There are many different sites that sell fonts at reasonable prices. Make sure when you purchase a font that you are reading the license carefully to ensure you have the rights to create as many ebooks as you want. Some licenses are only for single use, others allow use only for unlimited ebook, website, or print book creations.

Certain sites like Fontspring guarantee worry-free licenses. Simply purchase a license for one ebook or multiple books. Here are some legitimate sites for fonts:

Free for Commercial Use Fonts

Some designers put their fonts online for free. Some are free with attribution, meaning that you can use the font as long as you credit the creator and/or link to their website in the copyright page of your ebook. You can choose free fonts on certain sites online. Be careful to choose a site where you can view the license and/or search for the license online to make sure it's valid. Here are some sites for finding great free-for-commercial-use fonts:

Downloading Fonts

Once you click "download" on the font you want, make sure you've closed any Word documents and quit Word. Then, open the file from your downloads folder. The file should open using a program called "Font Book." Click "install" and wait for the new font to appear on the list in Font Book. Then, you can open Word again and the font should appear among all the rest of the fonts.

Some great Fonts

Here's a list of some great free fonts I've used and/or saved for future use for cozy mystery books:

For Covers:

Promocyja (Public domain)

RM Ginger (attribution)

For Inside Text:

Which fonts do you prefer for cozies?

Join the conversation:


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