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Choosing Font Sizes for Books: Get Your Typesetting Size Right

tutorials , , , Choosing Font Sizes for Books: Get Your Typesetting Size Right

If you’re new to ‘typesetting’ books (the process of arranging type on the inside pages), you might feel a bit daunted by the task. Before you begin, you need to decide how big your font sizes should be.

Let us guide you through the recommended sizes for typesetting books, and make sure nobody’s going to need to strain their eyes.

1. Why Does Font Size Matter?

Typesetting is an unsung hero in the publishing world. When you read a book that has high-quality typesetting, you probably won’t even notice it. Good typesetting will make the book more legible, easy-on-the-eye and be superbly suited to the genre and context of the book.

Font size is the most crucial factor in typesetting a book, but it can be tricky to get it just right. The ‘ideal’ font sizes listed at the bottom of the article are given as part of a recommended range. Whether you lean towards the smaller or larger end of the range will depend on some of the following factors. Take note, and choose your type size in accordance:

Q: Is the book long or short?

A publisher might want to be economic with the number of pages if a book is going to be long. If that’s the case, edge towards the smaller end of the size scale. You can also reduce the size of the Margins on your pages to squeeze more text onto the page.

If the book’s short, a publisher might want to increase the number of pages to make the book look fatter, and therefore appear to be of higher value to a browser. Increase your font size (and your Leading [the space between lines of text]) if this is the case.

typesetting books best font size for books

Q: Who is the Readership?

Who is the book aimed at? This ties in with the genre of the book as well. Will the audience be intellectual (literary and classic fiction), or will they be looking for a quick, absorbing read (‘airport’ fiction, romance, thrillers, young adult fiction)? Are they adults or children (children’s books will often need a much larger font size)?

Some genres go hand-in-hand with a particular font size. It seems like an unspoken rule that more intellectual fiction requires a smaller font size, and therefore more concentration (or eye-strain, whichever way you see it) to read it. Nonetheless, a very slightly smaller font size communicates intelligence and seriousness, and will suit modern literary fiction and classic novels equally well.

Larger font sizes are more digestible, and will be more suited to typesetting 50 Shades of Grey than a Franz Kafka reprint.

So make sure to consider your readership, and the sort of font sizes they will be expecting to encounter.

typesetting books best font size for books

2. The Perfect Font Size for Books

Of course, everybody has different preferences for book font size, and quality of eyesight can be a factor in shaping these preferences.

But assuming most people will fall in the middle of the spectrum (neither eagle-eyed nor poor-sighted) these font size ranges for headings and body text should cut the mustard each and every time…

Body Text:

Minimum 10 pt — Maximum 12 pt

Chapter Headings (‘A’ Headings):

Minimum 14 pt — Maximum 16 pt

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Sub-titles (‘B’ Headings):

Minimum 12 pt — Maximum 14 pt

Make sure to think about your Leading too—as a general rule, try to make it a little more generous than the Auto leading value in InDesign.

typesetting books best font size for books

Once you’ve decided on your perfect font size, you’ll need to find the perfect font too! Discover our pick of the only 5 fonts you’ll ever need for books or brush up on your skills for creating books in InDesign.