When the adult coloring craze jumped across the pond in 2013 with the intricate designs of Johanna Basford’s UK best seller Secret Garden (Laurence King), Dover Publications was ready. The company had been publishing coloring books for 45 years, not just for kids but for experienced artists as well, said Ken Katzman, VP, marketing. In 2012, encouraged by major craft chain Michaels, Dover launched Creative Haven, with images on only one side of a page, on good stock, with perforated pages for easy removal and display.
By mid-2015, the label had grown to 150 books, with three million units sold, most for $5.99 apiece, and $18 million in revenue. Now, Dover has initiated the first National Coloring Book Day (Aug. 2) and started a new line, Spark (Jul.), for young children, which mirrors Creative Haven packaging.
“Creating a true brand [for adult coloring books] was really important. When we redid the packaging, that’s when [the books] flew off the shelves,” said Katzman. The books haven’t only flown off shelves in craft stores but in Target and Barnes & Noble, as well as on Amazon, where Creative Haven Creative Cats Coloring Book by Marjorie Sarnat ranked in the top ten along with Basford’s Garden for much of July. The imprint also took two other top 20 spots: for Marty Noble’s Art Nouveau Animal Designs and the recently released Owls Coloring Book, also by Sarnat.
The appeal of coloring
“I come at [coloring] from relaxation and mindfulness,” said Kellie Porter, a librarian at Woods Hole PL, MA, who started a library coloring book club in May. “A number of my friends have gotten into coloring as a stress-relieving activity. Then, [Director Margaret McCormick’s] daughter, who is in her 20s, sent her mom a coloring book for her birthday.” Porter likened the coloring club to her short story book club—there’s not much time investment for the patron—or to a knitting club “but more inclusive because you don’t have to have the skill.”
Most publishers of adult coloring books have tapped into the relaxation, therapeutic, and healing aspects, as well as the opportunity for creative expression. Struck by how relaxing it was to color with her four-year-old son, Quarto Publishing USA editorial director Jeannine Dillon wondered “if there really was a science to calm.” With that in mind, she partnered art therapist Lacy Macklow with artist Angela Porter to produce Color Me Happy and Color Me Calm. From release in October 2014 to early July 2015, the books, which retail for $16.99, sold 500,000 copies. Next are Color Me Stress-Free (Sept.) and Color Me Fearless (Jan. 2016).
In 2014 Quarto purchased the English rights to French publisher Hachette’s “Art Therapy” series. According to Quarto marketing VP Amy Yodanis, coloring book sales in France had begun to outpace cookbooks. “French women were claiming that the therapeutic effects of coloring were more effective than yoga, meditation, or even antidepressants,” said Jacqui Small, publisher of the eponymous Quarto imprint, who engineered the deal. Other Quarto titles include the Just Add Color: Botanicals and Day of the Dead.
For those who want the full French effect, there’s Secret Paris: Color Your Way to Calm by Zoe de Las Cases, which came out from Little, Brown in June. More cities will follow.
Penguin Random House (PRH) announced in May that it had signed Basford to a two-book deal. The first title, Lost Ocean, is due October 27. PRH also capitalized on two of its blockbuster series. On the same day, its Bantam division will deliver George R.R. Martin’s Official A Game of Thrones Coloring Book (with the tagline “All Men Must Draw” and 45 original illustrations) and Diana Gabaldon’s Official Outlander Coloring Book.
In May HarperElixir, a recently launched line dedicated to personal transformation from HarperCollins’s imprint HarperOne, revealed that it would publish “Coloring Books for the Soul.” Sacred Nature and Sacred Symbols, both subtitled Coloring Experiences for the Mystical and Magical, are due out October 6.
The library link
Librarians have responded enthusiastically to adult coloring books. Porter purchased several from Michaels and a local bookstore for the Woods Hole coloring club, including Noble’s Creative Haven Incredible Insect Designs. Some patrons brought their own. And some designs were so intricate that more than one person worked on each. Though the club attracted a wide age range, those in their 20s and 30s had seen the media coverage and were more familiar with coloring.
At East Baton Rouge Parish Library (EBRPL), LA, reference librarian Louise Hilton drew 32 people to her first coloring event at the main library on July 6; she’s booked four a month through September. “There was one older gentleman…and a couple who drove from over an hour away,” she said. Like Porter, she noted that twenty- and thirtysomethings brought their own books. Now she’s thinking about Cocktails and Coloring to keep them coming back.
Denver Public Library hosted ACT: Adult Coloring Therapy, a day-and-a-half program at the Central Library on August 1–2. Besides individual pages, the event boasted a mural-sized coloring page to be displayed in the library, according to Chris Loffelmacher, programming coordinator for Central.
With Dover’s long history of sharing kids’ materials with teachers and librarians, it wasn’t a huge leap to do the same with Creative Haven titles. Dover has a sample program for free content via email, said Katzman, and numerous printable coloring pages on Pinterest. “Libraries are places of discovery, and we know that a lot of libraries are pushing to get more adults in their doors,” he said.
“Dover is great at putting a lot online,” said EBRPL’s Hilton, adding that Creative Haven titles are “affordable.”
Other publishers are still grappling with their library policy. Quarto’s Yodanis said that librarians who want to copy sample pages for programs should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission, indicating how many people are expected; she also asked that distributed pages include information on the book and where to order it.
Barely a day goes by without a story on adult coloring books in major media, from CNN to the New York Times to the cover of Parade. The trend shows no signs of abating—and publishers are responding with new twists to keep it going. Quarto is banking on Iris Scott’s Finger Painting Weekend Workshop (Nov.). Yodanis said Scott’s adult finger painting classes sell out nationwide.
Dover’s Diane Teitel Rubins, new product manager, expects to see more sophisticated variations on standards like “how to draw” and “color by number,” as well as changes in trim size, to differentiate titles. Forthcoming Creative Haven innovations include “Designs with a Splash of Color”—different parts of the design are outlined in different colors—in Creative Haven Paisley Mandalas and Mosaics (Aug.), and “Designs on Dramatic Black Background” that bleed off the page, with Midnight Garden (Dec.).
“We’re constantly brainstorming new spin-offs of our coloring book lines,” said Rubins, “and I’ve no doubt every other publisher is as well.”