Guidelines for Placing the Title on Your Cover

When indie authors design their book cover, usually they place a lot of time and thought in he illustration or photograph that will appear in it. Just as important as the artwork, though, is your book’s title. It is, after all, the way people refer to your book. Given this, you want it to be visually memorable. That can be done by looking at its location, size and font.

Place the title near the top of the cover. Most people will look at the top half of a book cover before the bottom half. Because of this, the byline typically goes at the cover’s bottom, unless the author is a recognizable, household name, in which case it will be more prominent.

If placing the title over artwork, do so in a dead spot where the letters won’t clash with what’s in the photo or illustration; the sky or a grassy field where the color is fairly  monochrome are dead spots that are usually perfect for titles. Watch for lines in the artwork, such as telephone poles or tree branches, and where they intersect letters in the title. A letter superimposed over such lines can make the title unreadable as the background image causes the letter to look like a different one in the alphabet or even unlike a letter at all.

Mind Your Margins
As placing the title (and the byline or any other text as well), make sure it doesn’t get too close to the left, right, top and bottom margins. Doing so might mean letters get chopped off when a thumbnail of your cover is placed on a website. A good rule to follow is to never put any text within 48 pixels (that’s about a half-inch) from the left, right, top and bottom margins.

Ideally, titles and bylines are centered. That is, the left edge of the first letter and the right edge of the last letter on any line of the title are equidistant from the left and right margins.

For the title’s size, large, boldfaced letters usually work best, as they stand out more on a thumbnail. Try to make the longest word in the title fill the space a half-inch from the left margin to a half-inch from the right margin. Don’t be surprised if the title’s font size is 120-150 points.

The subtitle can be a smaller size and sometimes not in boldface. Always make the title a larger font size than the byline. The subtitle can be slightly smaller than the byline, however.

For font selection, you want to pick a style that matches your book. Some of those styles are a bit cliché, but they’re how readers subconsciously know a title is in a specific genre. For example, horror novels often have titles that look like dropping blood while westerns have fancy, serif-heavy fonts that look like they’re out of the 1880s. At the same time, don’t go overboard unless you’ve written a comedic book. A science fiction novel that uses a font in which the letters resemble robots won’t be taken seriously.

General Rules
Some general rules for your front cover title include:

  • Use readable and large fonts – Avoid fancy fonts, especially those that are italicized, in Old English or gimmicky (like Comic Sans) for your cover’s text. There may be instances when those fonts would work, but rarely can they be read on a thumbnail. Instead, opt for an easy-to-read font and place it in boldface to stand out.
  • Limit wording on the cover – The book’s title, subtitle, and a byline are all that’s needed for an ebook. Any more just clutters the cover and forces you to make the text smaller, thereby ensuring it is more difficult to read.
  • Make the title the largest lettering – If the picture and overall cover design is attractive, then a potential buyer will notice the title. Help them find the title by ensuring it is larger than the subtitle and the byline. The only time to make a byline larger than a title is if you are a famous author whose name is a household word.
  • Arrange text so it reads right to left – Avoid having lettering reading north to south or scrambled about on a page. Remember that potential buyers will view and read the thumbnail very quickly, so the more difficult the text is to read, the more quickly they’ll move on to another author’s book.
  • Avoid color clash – Use contrasting colors. The text lettering should stand out against the picture. If the spot on the picture where the lettering will go is light or bright, use dark text and vice versa. If placing your text on a black background, use a light hue that is an accent color in your picture. Also avoid changing the color of each word or sets of words within the title, subtitle and byline. Keep to one color.

These, of course, are just general guidelines to make the designing simple for writers, who generally are more interested in penning their next story than spending hours on a computer playing around with the size and location of the title. But if you’re willing to spend time with it, there’s no hard definitive rule that says a title can’t be in regular type or that it can’t be aligned to the left. The only rule it must follow is it must succeed in selling your book.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.