Adult coloring books is the hottest new segment in publishing and for the most part, sales are so robust that they are outselling novels. The main problem with this genre is that they are primarily distributed by major publishers and indie authors have not properly taken advantage of this lucrative segment. Today, we will look at what it takes to self-publish an adult coloring book and avenues you can take to distribute it to the retail space, as well as create digital editions.
The Virtues of Print
When indie authors are writing and distributing fiction or non-fiction titles, selling your e-book on Amazon is a no-brainer. There are thousands of tutorials to assist you in formatting your book correctly and how to properly employ metadata. Coloring books are a different beast altogether. This is a format that garners the most sales when in print, primarily because adults are finding it cathartic to sit down with their Prismacolor or gel pens and color for a few hours.
Concept and Creation
The first step in creating your adult coloring book is to pick a theme. You will not be able to get by with a bunch of random drawings. Today’s coloring books are themed. For example, Dover Publishing specializes in educational coloring books, with lined sketches of “Georgia Wildflowers” and “Ancient Egypt.”
The standard adult coloring book is 40 pages, this is the ideal amount to save costs when you are in the printing process. You don’t want anything larger because it will likely overwhelm a prospective customer.
Normally authors will spend time doing concept sketches and filing them away in order to pick the best ones for publication. Once you decide on the ones that will make the final cut you have to digitize them in PDF format. I recommend using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for the art assets, because it allows you greater flexibility in editing your art or making small adjustments. Create Space has excellent guidelines that you must employ, they talk about everything from margin settings to interior full bleed.
Making a coloring book can be a daunting task for an indie author who might have only written a few novels and is looking for a new challenge. Sometimes authors are not artists and getting involved in the creation of art, can be quite the challenge. If this is the case you might want to consider hiring a professional artist to illustrate the design for you. This can be a fairly cost effective endeavor if you use a service like UPWORK, which is formally known as ODESK and E-Lance. You can likely get by spending a few thousand maximum by hiring someone from Europe, Russia or India to make the art for you.
I have hired hundreds of people from Upwork over the years and I can share some insider information to help you avoid any pitfalls. The most important thing you are going to do here is post your job. You want to be very clear in your goals and spell out exactly what you expect of the artist. You also want to establish two cover letter questions. There are a ton of automated bots that just apply to everything that is posted on Upwork, so if the applicant does not answer your questions or simply answers your question with a link to their portfolio, simply skip that applicant.
When you hire the person that seems to make the most sense, do not let them draw on their own and hope for the best. When you hire someone on the cheap you want to totally micromanage them. I have run into a lot of problems in the past where someone talked a really good game, gave me some solid concept art and when the final assets were delivered it was terrible. Every step of the contract make them show you what they are doing and give your approval, don’t forget they work you for you.
One of the services I would recommend to sell your final product is on Create Space. This is an Amazon company and there is a lot of synergy between the print on demand platform and the Amazon online bookstore.
Create Space allows you to submit your content and either make physical copies and deliver them to your home or you can get into various bookstore catalogs and Create Space will only print your coloring book whenever a sale is made.
I recommend to not only opt into the catalog where you can be visible to major bookstores all over the country, but also spend the money and get physical copies made. Having print editions will allow you to approach libraries, small bookstores and schools. Doing this in person is imperative if you are just starting out because it builds brand awareness and gets you used to hyping your book in a small elevator pitch.
It is important to note that 2 of the top 5 books overall on Amazon are adult coloring books and 994 adult coloring books have been published in the last 30 days. It takes about a sale per day to be in the top 500 of all adult coloring books. When you submit your books to Amazon I would put them in the following categories.
Arts & Photography > Drawing > Coloring Books for Grown-Ups
Children’s > Activities, Crafts & Games > Activity Books > Coloring Books
The Create Space rates for making print versions of your coloring book available and delivered to your home are;
250 40 page full color books $3400 . . . $13.70 each
500 40 page full color books $3720 . . . $7.43 each
1000 40 page full color books $4300 . . . $4.30 each
1500 40 page full color books $4900 . . . $3.26 each
Finally, how lucrative is Create Space and Amazon for adult coloring book sales? According to an article “Color Me Happy” artist Jenean Morrison has self-published six intricate designed adult coloring books on Amazon.com since 2012. “In all of last year, she sold 15,414 books on Amazon. This year, in half the time, she has sold 43,420.”
Other Self-Publishing Options
You might think to yourself, why do I need a publisher? Coloring books are a big deal right now and there is a ton of money invested into this space. First time authors might not have the money to order thousands of copies of their own book in order to sell it to bookstores or libraries. In other cases, the author might have a day job and might not be able to devote hundreds of extra hours for promotion. If this is the case, below is a list of all the publishers in North America that currently deal in adult coloring books.
– Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC (introducing a line of coloring books in September 2015)
– Design Originals (A Fox Chapel Publishing company)
– Dover Publications (been publishing adult coloring books since the 1970s)
– Global Doodle Gems (collaboration of artists around the world to produce coloring books)
If you want to make an adult coloring book app, this could be the most cost effective way to break into the industry and gain valuable experience. There are numerous free templates available that take the majority of programming work out of app creation, which will save you money.
The first step is to decide what ecosystem you want to create your coloring app for. Most people will select Android and iOS as the two most viable options, but I would recommend making an app for the Microsoft format, since hardly any coloring books exist in the MS Store or are available for Lumia smartphones.
I would select one operating system to launch on, because simultaneous development for both Android and iOS can be very costly. This is because there are different programming skills involved. Finding someone that will work for cheap, who knows objective C, Xcode or Java can be a real challenge.
I would recommend developing for iOS first because people tend to spend the most money on app and in-app purchases and piracy is a rarity. You can also optimize your coloring book app for the new iPad PRO, that has a pressure sensitive stylus, which is very indicative to coloring.
Keep in mind that if you decide to go the app route, it is the most cost effective, but most saturated. Coloring books have been around since 2011 in the app format, so you have a ton of competition. Most are aimed at kids and young adults, so with the right marketing campaign you could make some decent money. Once you develop a template/API/Libraries, you can keep pumping out new apps, with a minimal cost.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.