When I began working on the design for the cover of Kyle Dillon Hertz’s debut novel The Lookback Window , I had two goals in mind: I wanted the book to be taken seriously, and I wanted to get it into the hands of readers who might not otherwise find it. Right from the beginning of the manuscript, I knew it was unlike anything I’d ever read before. I quickly became deeply invested, and the fact that I knew the novel was semi-autobiographical only strengthened the bond I felt with the characters. The premise was fascinating—I’ve read books of characters working through trauma, but this was different. It laid bare the experience of a person working through trauma (or not working through it) with an unusual constraint: a time limit. One year. One year to make a decision. One year to call for justice. One year to figure out what justice even means. I was given the name of one of the author’s favorite artists to consider for the cover, but I began looking for my own images as well. I find it important to do my own image research when I’m working on a cover design, even when the author or editor comes into the project with strong preferences. I need to see what’s out there, and I need to feel something in the images that reflects what I felt while reading the book. Often, I might be searching for one kind of image and run across something completely different, but I know I’m on the right track when something strikes a chord and I just can’t unhear it. In my search, I found myself gravitating toward images (mostly black and white) of young men. I was trying to find Dylan, the protagonist of the novel. Cover designs for the books of Ocean Vuong and Hanya Yanagihara kept circling in my thoughts. Emotional. Straightforward. GRAVITAS! I asked myself: if I’m going to put Dylan on the cover, how do I present him? This wasn’t just a matter of creating a visual for character and setting; this would be […]

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