Designing the cover for 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