Designing the cover for Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend
Take a journey through the mind of Paul Coomey, Head Designer at Simon and Schuster, and the ten iterations it took to find the ideal cover for 'the most outrageous book of the year', YA title Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.
Most of our journeys towards a great cover involve a finely crafted brief, which defines the target reader, lists competitor titles and core retailers, and summarises the publishing strategy for the title.
Not this one.
This journey [to create a great cover for Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend] began with the question, ‘Is he actually a pterodactyl?’
Yes, he’s actually a f***ing pterodactyl. Literally.
So I discussed the book with my Art Director, Jen Richards, and the book’s UK Editor, Rachel Mann, and we had one of those why-don’t-we-what-if kind of conversations that began with us talking about purple paint and ended up with a delivery to the office of a pile of plastic dinosaurs. So far so groovy.
We didn’t have a brief but we did, of course, have a direction. The cover for this book needed to be as stand-out as its title, and it needed to find its reader at the ambitious end of the YA spectrum. The tale is Kafka-esque. It’s a little grotesque. It’s got burlesque. The protagonist is statuesque. There’s a lot to go with here. Let’s put a pterodactyl on the cover.
So we begin. Round one is a warm-up – let’s see how it all fits. Pyke looks a bit too schoolboy/preppy here in his crisp shirt, but the strap container is good, a happy accident:
Here’s another fit-test – Pterodactyl is a long word – but this is Mills and Boon for dinosaurs. Not a great look:
Ok, let’s lose the shirt (not like that, not yet). This is an improvement, leans into the Stylist realm and isn’t that a lovely shade of pink? May come in handy anon:
Right, needs more hotness. ‘What about the six-pack?’ cries Sally, our Key Account Manager. Six-pack. Hotness. Type not working. Bit X-rated. Not Enough Pterodactyl:
Six-pack hotness with added pterodactyl. This is looking promising. Still has the same stodgy typography, but the eagle-eyed among you will notice that this is not a million miles away from our final cover.
Stop; Futura time. Always worth a try, a Supreme kind of font. Not working here, though; ‘sentence’ case is too chaotic. We want to attract readers, not make them dizzy:
Let’s try another tack, give it a bit of the old jingly-spindly YA treatment – OMG is that ADELAIDA? I love it:
Clearly not getting anywhere with the typography, and despite having a winning image, I decide to start again. What if the subject of the cover is not the object of everyone’s affections but a representation of what he provokes? I ask myself. Nonsense, obviously, but nevertheless:
And another one! High school! Screaming! Hotness:
Not working! But the typography question has been answered. So we combine it with our winning image of Pyke, add another sticker for a cover quote et voila:
We’re done! Ten rounds with a pterosaur and we have a truly stunning cover* for the most outrageous book of the year*. A properly thrilling read, too…
*Jayne Nelson, SFX