Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Fonts Are You Using?

Okay, this is a new one on me - Did you know when you are self-publishing you have to make sure your fonts are not copyrighted? Well, it's true. Again, I am finding out this stuff the hard way.

Thank God for our friend Ryan or we wouldn't have known half of the information he has shared with us through this process!

Yes, one of our fonts is copyrighted and even though I have not heard back from my book designer, I am assuming he didn't know. Now, we have to check each font for the cover, back and map before we can move forward. I feel bad for the nice young lady who is formatting our book into epub because she is now put on hold, again.

I swear, if it's not one thing, it's another! This is wearing me out! So now we are all on hold with publishing. We have to sort through all of this and redo the fonts. Hopefully when we fix this, it will be the last major issue.

I am sure this will all be fixed and we will launch. It will happen. Thanks to all of you who have been patient and supportive of us through all of these problems. But you are definitely getting a front row seat to all the steps involved in self-publishing.  

One more thing I learned - What font you use is like a signature of your book(s), too. So we have to decide carefully since each book should have the same design. Those of you who now think "I am going through a traditional publisher after hearing all this", I just want to say, it is all worth it, still. Yes it takes time, but not as much time. In fact not even close to as much time as it takes this way.

I know writers that have waited years. So if your going through problems like me, hang in there, it will get better. (I have to tell myself the same thing)

I hope all of you have a great week. Just a small note, Toni had surgery for her collarbone yesterday and she is doing fine. She is at home resting and I did talk to her this morning. 

Thanks to those of you who's thoughts and prayers were with her. 

Take care, Lisa


  1. I usually stick with the standard Windows fonts for most things: Georgia, Palatino, TNR, Arial, Constantia and suchlike.


    1. Yeah, htis is something i had never thought about, but I'm learning...UGH!

  2. I see my Facebook messages and/or e-mails continue to produce new blog posts.

    Glad to hear Toni's doing good, Lisa. =)

    That's definitely a way to go Michael. A lot of Apple computers come with Helvetica, which is a fairly versatile font that can be used for a variety of different genres. A lot of fantasy novels will just use Trajan Pro (a font that usually comes with Adobe InDesign, which most cover designers will use at some point in the process). It's a fairly basic serif font, but you can use it for a lot of things.

    It's unfortunate that fonts are copyright protected. But it's not surprising, when you really consider it. Just above everything is copyrighted.

    For those who don't know, fonts are actually software. Despite being of a visual nature in the typical expression of a font, they are created using mathematics defining curves that make up individual glyphs, which are then assembled into characters. There are also various tables included within the font software that tells the font rendering engines where to render each glyph in relation to the others.

    This software is copyright protected like all else and the creator(s) assign licenses to them that permit various uses. Most require the purchase of them or software that includes them (e.g., Adobe software, Word Processors, and the like).

    The ones that don't require payment fall into two classes. The first are the ones you typically find for free; they're created by hobbyists and suffer from bad kerning, uneven stroke widths, and generally look unprofessional or uneven. You'd never want to use those on any professional design. The others are those created by experts who have, for one reason or another, chosen to provide the font for free.

    Those who provide them for free can do one of three things. They can provide it for free for personal use only (as many do), under other conditions they might dictate, or for commercial use. The easiest way to make them free for commercial use is to attach to them a standard license, like the Apache license or the SIL Open Font License (which was created specifically for fonts).

    1. There are a number of good sites out there for getting fonts free for commercial use (as opposed to free for personal/non-profit use). I typically try to get fonts from Google Web Fonts (google.com/fonts) if possible. Most of these are SIL (protects the font software only, doesn't care what your use of the font software entails) or Apache licenses (grants you "perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable copyright license to reproduce, prepare Derivative Works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, and distribute the Work and such Derivative Works in Source or Object form"), which are great licenses for fonts.

      Another good source for free fonts is Font Squirrel and Font Space. Font Space will have a little icon indicating whether or not it's free for commercial use and you can also filter so that you only get free for commercial use fonts. Having said that, it can still be dicey there. While a font may be designated as "freeware," I've found a number of fonts that mimic the designs used for major franchises, which are probably not legal.

      Font Squirrel tries to only provide fonts that are free for commercial use. It tries. That doesn't necessarily mean it will succeed. Most of the fonts there are downloadable directly from FS, while others will link to other font sites, where free fonts within a particular font family are being given away for free, while other fonts within the same family are being sold for a fee.

      When it comes to downloading fonts, I try to go straight to the creators. If it's direct from the foundry that creates it, it usually comes with a license text file right in the ZIP file the font is distributed it. I keep these zip files backed up in numerous places and a record of where I got the font. That way, if anyone ever comes calling, I can say ("Well, I got it from and it had ."). That's why I prefer to get it straight from the font foundry's site. I can then tell such a person, "I got it from your site and it said I could use it commercially.".

      There are a few foundries out there I know of that do beautiful work and use SIL font licenses. The League of Movable Type is a great one. I use their font Orbitron for my Legion Rises series.

      The Astigmatic One Eye Typographic Institute is another wonderful foundry. Astigmatic has a lot of fonts on daFont.com, Font Squirrel, and Google Web Fonts. One of those is Uncial Antiqua, a font similar in style to the one used on the Fable cover for the author names.

  3. Cover design. Wow, there are some great things you discover about cover design. There are a handful of things you need to know when you're designing a cover. You'll obviously want to know the title, author name(s), and any tag lines, series titles, or other textual elements. But more important than all of that, you want know the genre of the book. Because you'll design the imagery of the cover based on that genre.

    Fantasy will use illustration. Romance will use more photographic work, even if manipulated in a program such as Photoshop. Thrillers and mysteries will have a central image and will be darker than a romance, which will have a typically light flowery colour to it.

    There's no definitive use for a particular font. It's mostly the choice of the designer and/or publisher, though some fonts have different moods to them.

    The colours used should contrast with the background. So you might pick one of the other two colours within a triad sourced from the background colour of your cover art (e.g., you'd use a warm yellow or an orange on a blue background). Maybe you decide that, since the background is rather dark, you'll just stick to white. Or the background is really light, so stick to black.

    Go big. The title, the author name. Part of book marketing is selling yourself, so sell yourself. Part of your work is your name, and it should be prominent. On cover art, the title (and if possible) the author name(s) should be visible when the cover is shrunken down to thumbnail size. It's not always possible, especially if you use a fancy font such as a cursive or a blackletter font (like Fable). Blackletter fonts aren't always legible when they're not big and bold. But damn, they look nice.

    Things should be aligned to each other. If you have a series name or a tag line that goes with the title, it should be aligned to the title and in close proximity. If you've written another book, include a blurb like "The Author of Your Title" below the author name (if the author name is at the bottom) or above it.

    If you're working on a series, see if your cover designer can send you all of the source files. The names of fonts, foundries, and where they were purchased (sometimes the same design and name is used by more than one foundry and there are little quirks to each one). High resolution cover art, vector copies (PDF) of logos. These are important for two reasons. First, it lets you know what's being used in case you want to include a colophon (production notes at the end of a book indicating what fonts are used, designers, and the like). But it also allows you a certain freedom. What if the same designer isn't available when you're ready to do the next book? If you have all the information, it's not an issue. You can seek out designers who have those fonts or who are willing to purchase those fonts to work on your cover. All of that information is important to have even if you're not working on a series. What if you decide to write a sequel? It would be handy to have all that information if you need to use a different designer.

    1. Well, you always never fail to give me new insights and topics to write about! ;-)
      I have to say....WOW! I had no idea. But I am learning and to be honest a lot of this stuff is leaving me with eyes like a deer's with brights headlights flashed at them. Good thing my sister has the patience and understanding for this coz it is not my forte with any stretch of the imagination. See, if it would have been just me, I would have paid someone to do this. It's like men that know they can't fix cars so they go to the local mechanic. But with friends like you (love you) and stubborn sister's like mine, we will muddle through this! One step at a time.

    2. By the way...where did you learn all this stuff? you should write about all your knowledge in this. You could help a lot of self-pub writers!

    3. Since 2000, I always made silly mock-up covers for any story I was working on. Those first ones? God were they terrible; the ones presently up for my own books are mediocre at best, though I have new ones for all my books that I just haven't gotten around to putting up yet (if only there were more days in the week or more hours in the day!).

      But doing that made me look at things and I had the fundamental knowledge of title and author on a cover, and a piece of art (though I never put any art on them because I was always of the sort to do things for the lowest cost, which means if I can't do the art myself, it just won't have art one it). There's more to it (author tags, book tag lines, series tags) than that, but the fundamental knowledge was there from the beginning.

      I also laid them out like a book. So I became intimately familiar with Word Perfect, Lotus Word Pro, OpenOffice.org (at the time), and LibreOffice (more recently) in terms of laying out a book in a manner that's as close to professional as one can get with a word processor. I'd actually recommend Libre Office for doing book design long if yo ucan't afford InDesign (and the massive learning required to make proper use of it) before I'd do MS Word. Its interface is unfortunately quite dissimilar to MS Word, which makes it a pain going back and forth between them. But it gets the job done and it does it fairly well. You can do good book layout in MS Word. Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, has actually created some templates that make use of free for commercial use fonts and MS Word for self-publishers to use: http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/ --> There are also some great learning materials on the guides page.

    4. Around 2007, I got together with the editor of my college's (St. Mary's College, now St. Mary's University-College) newspaper I had done tech work for in 2002 and 2003. We got together with a graphic designer I met through the pyschology club at the university (which I attended as a transfer student from the college) and started a small publishing outfit. Unfortunately, bogged down in the legal details and me being of a rather perfectionist nature (much to the dismay of my co-founders), the company didn't really go anywhere and didn't achieve its mandate. I shut it down in 2011. But in the mean time, I learned a great deal running it both in terms of business and in publishing.

      On the design side of publishing, I took a desktop publishing certificate course in the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008 (balanced with my working at the U of C Bookstore) at Mt. Royal University (it was Mt. Royal College up until 2 months after the certificate was issued), which taught me the fundamentals of typography and typographic design as well as some of the basic workings of Photoshop, InDesign, Quark XPress, Acrobat, and Illustrator. I've always been handy when it comes to software, so learning new programs really only takes me a day or two. I knew how to use most of Photoshop from referencing what i Knew of an old shareware copy of PaintShop Pro I had on a 3.5" disk from the '90s.

      Since then, I've also learned how to use GIMP (a freeware alternative to Photoshop, more powerful in some ways, less powerful in others), Xara Photo and Graphic Designer (which I do my front covers in; I just prefer the way it handles doing art from typography), Inkscape (freeware alternative to Xara and Illustrator), and Scribus (freeware alternative to InDesign; nowhere near as good or capable, very buggy on Windows last version I tried--things may have changed). I also briefly tried another layout program similar to InDesign called Serif PagePlus. It's substantially less expensive, and if you don't need a lot of scripting support, it's not a bad route to go. For me, I like to automate things as much as possible, so having scripting support is a plus. Thanks to the educational pricing, I have Adobe Creative Suite 3. I could upgrade that to CS6, but since Adobe has some shoddy coders, it has some bugs that make it not function on my computer setup. They'll eventually fix it, probably in CS6.5. That or it will contain to remain, despite having been reported 10 months ago. And I could fix the bug myself in about an hour, so it's not a particularly complicated bug to fix. But I digress.

    5. On the publishing side, the business side of publishing I should say, I didn't start learning as much as I know now until 2010. In 2007 and 2008, I discovered Joe Konrath. Shortly before deciding to start a publishing company, I was scouring the Internet for the way into Big Publishing, trying to find a way to get stories directly to editors and to skip agents all together. Back then, I knew agents were a bad deal. They made no sense to me whatsoever (middle men never do).

      Back when I discovered him, Konrath was opposed to self-publishing. Absolutely dead-set against it. His Newbie's Guide to Publishing was always slanted to denigrate self-publishing authors. Around that, the Kindle was out and I thought the mere idea of e-ink and e-book readers was patently stupid.

      I think it was 2009, I happened upon Konrath's site again and suddenly he was self-publishing and swearing by it and Amazon KDP. I was shocked. Absolutely shocked. It was mind-bending. Here was this midlist author whose works I found terribly good and terribly amusing switch from anti-self-publishing to pro-self-publishing. And he was making tons of money doing it.

      [Fast-forward to Christmas 2010, I got myself a Sony e-book reader and began reading again. For so many years, I read for school, sure, but never for pleasure. And suddenly, I had a huge library, spent hundreds on books in the year (I've slowed down since, deciding I should probably read the books I've bought before buying more), and was reading almost daily (except when I'm terribly busy).]

      I can't quite recall when my friend Ryan V and I got back in touch, but at some point in line we reconnected via one IM service or another (beit Yahoo, ICQ, MSN, or AIM). We chatted, I discovered he was a writer, and he pointed me towards Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I devoured their sites. What I found most interesting was Dean's Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series, because I resonated with every single one of them. I hadn't fall for any of those myths, not a one. I called into question all of the myths, and I was right.

      At the same time, both Dean and Kris's writings regarding the history of publishing and how publishing works were invaluable. And then they started self-publishing and then they started their own publishing house, WMG Publishing, and it's just amazing how much has happened--how much I have witnessed happen--in these last few years.

      So I took a few of WMG Publishing online workshops. The cover design workshop first, since I wanted to give me new covers a bit more professionalism. Just a little nudging, and my covers are way better, all they could offer were a few tweaks. Otherwise, they were deemed fully professional "as good as some things I'm seeing coming out of traditional publishing."

      So that, in a nutshell, I think, is how I've learned this all. I mean, that and my own personal research over the years. I was obsessed with fonts for a while. Looking for fonts, and discovering fonts. Their licensing for a time didn't come up in my searches, but I pay attention to them now.

    6. You absolutely amaze me Ryan! First, you are so dedicated to detail and you are most definitely a writer, hence the length of your comments. I am grateful to have you as a colleague and a friend. You have helped me so much! I am appreciative and just can't thank you enough for taking the time to help us with self-publishing. I know what you mean by writers used to be against SP. I know a few who have recently changed their minds and have jumped on board. The biggest reason, more money and next, less time waiting to get your work out into the market. This is one area I learned quickly when I was told it could take two years before i would be even noticed by a respected publisher. I was not about to wait. I looked into self-pub and have never looked back.

      Even though it is a pain to do, I still believe it's the best way to go, in more ways than the above mentioned. My issue is I am 51 yrs old and I was not raised around computers. Years ago I did take some classes to get familiar with them, but there is some new software always popping up, or a new type word to describe something and I have no idea what it means, so I became very frustrated and I seem to shut down. I am a person who learns from doing, not from reading. I am very hands on. Once I do something I've got it. I do have an excellent memory, one thing I have always taken pride in. And I am usually very patient and I catch on quick. But with so much information hitting me at once, I get lost.

      This is why people like you mean the world to me. You have selflessly helped me and continue to do so! Thank you again and I hope and pray there is nothing else that crops up. I don't know if my heart can take much more! ;-)

    7. I agree wholeheartedly with self-publishing being the way to go. Publishing a book is an endless process and you should cut out as many middlemen as possible. And publishers are middlemen.

      As for the process itself, self-publishing is like that old saying. "Good, fast, and cheap. Pick two." If you want it good and cheap, it's not going to be fast. If you want it good and fast, you'll have to pay for it.

      Good and cheap kind of works quite well for Big Publishing. It doesn't cost the author anything (beyond the price of their soul, the first and second born and the first and second borns of their first and second born), takes 1-6 years (can take 1-2 years to find an agent, 1-2 years to find a publishing house, and then 18 months to a year for the publisher to publish it), and is usually good, though it might have an awful cover, no marketing, no copyediting, might be published dead ... oh, wait. I guess it doesn't really work for Big Publishing, since they don't really guarantee any of those three. Not cheap, not fast, and not good.

      In all seriousness, yeah. Taking a book to market via Big Publishing, Traditional Publishing, or as my friend Ryan V says, Corporate Publishing, can be frustrating. The first hassle is finding an entry into that world. Most publishers will tell you that you need an agent. I say avoid them all costs. Use an IP attorney to negotiate contracts--agents aren't lawyers and they don't know nearly as much as they say they do.

      Once you've managed to get an in, which can take years and megabucks going to writers conventions and the like, you have to impress the editors. Once you've managed that, it's the rights grab. The publisher will attempt to extract from you every conceivable intellectual property right it might never use. Barring no disagreements over contract terms, you'll be paid the first part of your advance 1-3 months late (a direct violation of the contract; this isn't really sounding like a good working relationship, is it?). The book will go through the editors and all of the developmental processes. You won't get to pick a title or the cover, that will be chosen for you even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the book. Some 18 months later, the book hits the shelves and you've hopefully received the last third of your advance. So over 1.5 years, you'll have received $6,000 from your publisher.

      Now let's do the math. Price a full novel at $4.99 as an e-book, which means you'll make, on average, $3.30 a copy. To make the same amount of money, you need to sell 1,818 copies of the e-book over the course of 18 months, which works out to about 100 copies a month. Hard to do? In the beginning. But you'll gain traction and velocity the longer the book is available and the more books you put out.

      Which of course leads to my own marketing path. I don't market my books. I don't advertise them on Facebook, or on Twitter. I have a page set up for all of my books where you can find a calendar of upcoming titles. That's all. Whenever a new book comes out, I have a sudden spike. You'll have the first in a series sold, then the second, then the third. Sometimes someone will buy all of my books in one fell swoop.

      My advice is to leave sales alone, maybe do a book tour, but until you have another book or two out, it's counter-productive to market a book. Readers who like the book will want more. If there are no more books to be had, they will forget about that awesome book and move on to some other author. Will they find you again? If they bookmarked your site, maybe or maybe not. It's really hard to say. Granted, no one method guarantees anything and all publishing journeys are different. This is all my opinion, after all. It's my method and I typically just recommend to people, do whatever makes sense to you.

    8. And now veering off entirely and more into the realm of my degree in psychology ...

      I'm a tactile learner as well. I learn through doing (frankly it's more fun that way, anyway). I used to find myself incapable of learning things from a book or from a lecture until I learned that I'm a verbal learner as well and have good verbal memory (unfortunately, I learned this at my current job some 3 years after graduating). Which is to say that I remember words or semantics. So when I have conversations with people, I remember the function (not necessarily the precise content, but the meaning) of those conversations. The consequence was, when I was in college and had small class sizes and conversed with the professor and fellow students regarding the material, I remembered the material far better than when I transferred to university and had no conversations with people in class because I was one amongst a thousand. I went from having excellent grades with with minimal studying to having mediocre grades with hours and hours of studying.

      So how do I apply that to my learning now? I talk to myself about what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, how it's supposed to be done. I lecture myself on the material and it helps me learn how to do it. From that, I can learn from reading how to do things. Sometimes it requires me to do a bit of research into the history of something, but it can all be managed because I found that key to my learning. I went from having a terrible memory to having a great one, because I figured out how my brain processes memories. Verbally. With words. If you figure out how best you learn and remember, you can apply that to learning anything. =)

      Unfortunately, learning still takes time.

      But now, I've written 3,743 words throughout the day, so I think that's enough blog commenting for today. Highly productive in word count. I should probably keep most of this for my records, since it could go into a book one day.


    9. I had t read your post to my husband, we both loved it! Exactly what it's like with a publisher lol! Thanks for that and thanks for looking out for us! You're the bomb!

  4. We talked about this in person and I'm sorry I'm just getting to this post. I'm very glad that everything worked out with the font you wanted to use.