On The Legible Cover
October 24, 2023

As authors, we need to acknowledge that readers do judge our books by our covers and will often look past those where they cannot read the title. The text is more than aesthetic adornments; it serve as powerful advertising tool, drawing readers into the heart of the story. I point you to a crucial element that is often overlooked: the legibility of book titles.

Authors pour our hearts into our work, carefully crafting stories that resonate with readers. The last thing we want is for our masterpieces to turn away potential readers. Whether your goal is to become a best selling author or to get your book into the hands of a few passionate readers, we need to turn our covers into advertising winners.

Whether you create your own covers, commission others to make them for you, or vote on ones provided for you, choosing the best adornment is vital for success.


Book covers are not merely protective shells for the stories within; they are the calling cards of a narrative's essence. They serve as your book's visual ambassador, beckoning potential readers with their unique blend of art and typography. Book covers convey a message, a mood, and an invitation. In a crowded marketplace, they're the first thing that makes your book stand out. A great cover says, "Here's a story you don't want to miss."


The title is the essence of a book boiled down to few words, giving the reader its identity and promise. It tells our readers what is inside. In today's digital age, the primary place our audience encounters book titles is online stores like Amazon, Apple Books, and Barns & Noble.

But here's the catch: online book thumbnails are often small, meaning that we have to consider how they will look when tiny. Imagine, for instance, you're scrolling through your preferred online bookstore, and you come across a thumbnail featuring a title you can’t read. Most often, the little image will have text right next to it. The problem with the relying on the accompanying text is that the potential reader has to look at both the image and the text, which takes more effort. It seems like a small thing, but it isn’t. With such a saturated marketplace, even the smallest deterrents can make the difference between a sale and a pass.


Crafting legible word art is a critical aspect of designing book covers. They ensure that your book can communicate its essence in less than a second, even in the smallest digital formats. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

Font Size Matters: When it comes to book titles on digital platforms, bigger is usually better. Opt for a font size that ensures your title is easily readable at any size or distance. This is even more important if you want middle-aged to elderly readers to check out your books.

Font Choice: Ornate fonts are visually appealing, but script/cursive fonts can become hard to see in small formats. The more squiggly your font, the larger it must be. Also, consider that younger generations aren’t taught how to read cursive.

Color Contrast: Ensure that there's sufficient contrast between your title and the background. A title in a font color that blends into the cover's background can be frustrating for potential readers. A simple black or white title often works well.


To illustrate the importance of legibility, let's explore a few examples. Here are some novels with titles that are easy to read in digital formats:

1. "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

While this title is bold in larger formats, the two covers are harder to read in smaller formats because of the double-text on the left and blurred background on the right.

2. "The Silent Patient" by Alex Michaelides

The bold, simple font on a light background creates an eye-catching and legible title, both on physical book covers and in small digital formats.

3. "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah

While the title may work well on a physical book cover, the contrast of her blue name on on blue background makes it challenging to read online, particularly in smaller formats. The small, thin, and italic text of the title is hard to read online.

4. "We Are Legion (We Are Bob)" by Dennis E. Taylor

Other than being one of my favorite books of all time, it is very legible. The ALL CAPS, large font, and simple font for the title and author name make it stand out. Further, the bright lettering on dark a background make it ultra-legible.


Because the major e-readers usually display only in black and white, it is important for your book’s title to stand out in that format. This means you need the contrast between your text and the background to be strong. Otherwise, you may lose out on sales because those readers see other books that catch their eyes.

So, whether you're designing your book cover yourself or working with a professional designer, always remember the importance of legibility. The title is your book's voice in the digital wilderness. Make sure it speaks clearly to all those who come across it.

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J.F. Lawrence | Jesse Lawrence
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