Put Out A Welcome Mat by Karrie Fransman

Draw the Line: online launch

This is part 4 of the Draw The Line story: you can find part one here, then part two and part three.

So, at the end of the last post, we were just getting artwork in from the 100+ artists who had each illustrated whichever political action they had been allocated. My inbox was bulging and everything was looking great.

During this period, Karrie Fransman had suggested that we concentrate on a digital launch before thinking about a physical printed book: that way, she reasoned, the project could have more impact more immediately, as images and links could be shared quickly and easily through social media, etc. This seemed sensible, so that’s what we agreed to do.

Around this time, Karrie also designed the Draw The Line logo of a fist clutching a pencil, which we were able to use for our site banner and as an avatar across social media.

Incidentally, Karrie’s own artwork contribution, on the theme of welcoming refugees, was one of the ones which got a lot of admiration all round:

Put Out A Welcome Mat by Karrie Fransman

Building the website

Copywriting came as no problem to me, as that’s what I do all day long at work; and we’d already crafted all the action titles and descriptions when sending out the artists’ briefs, so in fact there was very little writing left still to do.

Thanks to my day job, I also have just enough experience to set up a WordPress site and apply templates, etc, but unfortunately that’s really as far as it goes. You could say it was a case of ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.

This is an area where we definitely could have ended up with a better result by calling in a developer or designer ā€“ I did ask my colleague Martin Wright for help at this point, and he did what he could, but by then we’d made a few decisions in terms of hosting and design that made it difficult for him to do more that tweak.

That’s not to say it was a complete disaster: the Draw The Line website is functional. It’s still live at www.drawthelinecomics.com so you can see it for yourself. I use WordPress every day at work, so the big benefit for me was that I know its interface well, and there was no learning curve required for me in terms of building and editing the site.

The template we chose allowed me to arrange the actions within categories, all of which can be seen on the homepage ā€“ the set-up I’d always envisioned. The images within each category act like a slideshow, and the banner is different on each page load.

But there are some obvious flaws as a result of such choices: each page, and especially that homepage, is slow to load; and that template also had the effect that it’s hard to link to any one specific image within the category pages.

Draw The Line homepage
Draw The Line homepage

As with so many aspects of the Draw The Line project, I was happy to spend a bit of time on it, but didn’t want it to become an enormous time-sink on top of my other responsibilities, so we’ve never gone in to try and fix those flaws.

Telling everyone about it

Despite all I say above, it was (and is!) a functioning website, allowing us to show off all the illustrations in one place, and have an official launch.

The collaborative nature of the project came into play again, as different group members helped write and translate a press release, and crowdsource a list of journalists to send it to ā€“ journalists from every country represented among our cohort of artists.

We set up accounts on Instagram, Twitter and a public-facing Facebook page (in addition to the private group for participating artists) and let everyone know the project was open for business.

Don’t forget the book!

Meanwhile, what had happened to the plan of a kickstarted book? Well, our ambitions had grown rather, once we began to see the quality of the work we’d gathered together. We wondered whether it might be better to try and have the book published professionally: this would mean that it would travel further, be available more widely, and ultimately empower more people to take action.

And around this time, we heard about a publishing set-up called Unbound. One of our artists, Wallis Eates, had recently signed with them for one of her books, and it sounded good. They were a hybrid between a kickstarter, and a traditional publishing house: books were crowdfunded by people pledging for copies ahead of printing, but after the target sum had been reached, Unbound would do all the things a standard publishing house does: it’d arrange printing, distribution and marketing, and the book would be offered on Amazon as well as available for sale in bricks and mortar bookshops.

This sounded like a great option for us: after all, we’d already been planning the kickstarter part; but now we’d also have all the benefits that came from a professional publisher.

Well, that’s what we thought, but it didn’t go entirely to plan, and I’ll be writing a bit more about that in the next post.