Words are not just words anymore when you incorporate them into design, they are considered typography and need to be handled as a design element. To a designer, there is no such thing as “Just add in this word here and it’ll be fine”
Adding a word can change the ENTIRE design. A common phrase that makes me cringe is “It’s just a text change.”
Just… but when 100 words turns into 200 words, it is not ‘just’ a text change… it’s a design change because 200 words needs twice as much space as 100 words.
So, when you design your cover don’t just plot the text on there in a blank space and say done. Your name and title are part of the design as much as the image or graphics.
Rant over and on to the basics of fonts, or type.
There are three styles of fonts, serif, sans-serif and specialty(script, fancy, custom, etc).
A serif font have letters with the ‘feet’ on them. They are easier to read on printed materials. Most books and magazines use serif fonts for the body text. If you are creating a print book, use a serif font.
Sans means ‘without’ in French, so sans serif is pretty self-explanatory. Sans serif fonts are fonts ‘without feet’. These fonts are easier to read on screen and look really sharp as Chapter headers or accents within a body of text.
Specialty fonts are designed to be fun, scriptive, cartoonish or fancy in some way. They don’t follow any spacing rules and are very different from each other. Most fonts can be changed easily to give a slightly different look but have the same feel. Specialty fonts are used for their specific features.
Things to Consider
When using fonts, remember that less is more. So many new designers cram as many different fonts into a piece as possible and it never looks good. How the typography looks is actually a great way to distinguish amateur design from professional design.
If you are designing your cover and you use a specialty font for your title, use a simple Sans-serif for your name, or vise versa. You can use either a serif or a sans-serif for your back cover copy but I highly, highly recommend to stay away from specialty fonts.
Here are a couple examples of good typography on a cover.