Pop culture trends typically start in the entertainment, comics, and toy arena and expand into book publishing. But one of the most notable themes at this year’s New York International Toy Fair emanated from publishing: adult coloring books.
Several of the 30 or so publishers at Toy Fair, which runs from February 13-16, prominently featured their roster of adult coloring titles and many of the 1,200 other exhibitors were showing adult coloring books, puzzles, mugs, posters, and even socks.
Buffalo Games offered puzzles created under license from bestselling coloring book author Johanna Basford. The puzzles themselves are in color, but each come with a poster for the user to fill in. Karmin Creations highlighted coloring books, puzzles, posters, felt posters, stickers, and mugs, including several licensed products. One of its newest licenses is Highlights for Children; the posters and puzzles under this brand are tagged on packaging as “for Grown-Up Children.”
Among the many other companies spotlighting adult coloring-themed products were Eurographics (with puzzles and posters), Trends International (posters), PlaSmart (coloring kits), Re-marks (coloring pages, bookmarks), Pomegranate (books and greeting cards), and International Arrivals (books).
On the publisher side, first-time exhibitor Fox Chapel was showing its coloring books and craft kits to toy retailers. “We have established markets in some toy stores, but we want to create more awareness that we’re here,” says Wendy Calta, sales account manager. Fox Chapel was one of several publishers to extend into adult coloring-style titles for tweens; its Notebook Doodles and Manga to the Max featured simpler but still-intricate designs.
Thunder Bay Press, the adult imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group (owned by Readerlink), had a large selection of adult coloring books. “We’ve seen a couple of new accounts who had never ordered from us before,” says Rachel Geerlings, Printers Row senior marketing manager. “Anything with the words calm and meditation in the title really seems to appeal to people.”
Thunder Bay is also offering more coloring kits that contain both books and pencils. “We’re hearing from our accounts that pencils are hard to keep in stock and hard to get from the wholesalers,” says Geerlings. “So they’re asking for the kits.” Meanwhile, Printers Row’s children's division, Silver Dolphin, has introduced coloring titles that are very detailed but skew a bit younger.
Scholastic’s Klutz division was also showing detailed titles for tweens, including Coloring Crush.
Broadening the Market
Even as some publishers are stretching the adult coloring genre to encompass younger readers, others that are primarily known as children’s coloring and activity specialists have moved into the adult market. Kappa Books, which sells adult puzzle books as well as children’s coloring titles through its Modern Publishing division, has produced more than 30 adult coloring titles and a monthly magazine. “Who knows how long it will last, but it seems to have legs,” says Andrew Steinberg, president of Kappa’s Modern Publishing imprint. “It’s doing really well for us.”
Bendon, which has been adding more “toyetic” products to its line, still maintains over 1,800 SKUs of the traditional coloring and activity books that represent the largest piece of its business, according to Ben Ferguson, president and CEO. Bendon launched a number of adult coloring books, as well as posters and kits, in the third quarter of last year. Its array includes proprietary designs as well as licensed titles under the Kathy Ireland and Ugly Christmas Sweater brands, the latter licensed by Crown Jewelz.
The Next Big Thing
There was some buzz among Toy Fair exhibitors and attendees that the “next big thing” was connect-the-dot books for adults, in which up to 3,000 dots per page result in intricate sketches suitable for framing. A company called Monkeying Around has been offering sophisticated dot-to-dots since 2000. While it has seen only a slight boost in sales due to the coloring craze, the coloring trend has led it to tweak its marketing message. “A lot of people like to color them after they connect the dots, so we’ve started promoting that now,” says the company’s David Kalvitis.
Thunder Bay has a series of 1,000-dot-per-page titles, the newest being a licensed version with Marvel. Geerlings believes dot-to-dot is more of a supplement to the coloring craze, rather than its successor.
Speaking of coloring, the augmented-reality trend in children’s coloring books, which began to emerge two years ago—and mirrors the now-entrenched practice of connecting toys to apps or websites—is still going strong. Companies that introduced AR coloring books in the last year or two have added to their lines, such as Painting Lulu with its new My Little Pony and Angry Birds: The Movie licenses, while Bendon highlighted its growing Disney Color + Play line.
New exhibitor ArniMate showed its just-introduced collection of AR titles; children need to color at least 30% of the page before the interactivity can kick in, as an incentive to do the physical coloring before jumping into the app, according to U.S. CEO Artur Stelmakh.
Augmented reality is increasingly going beyond coloring books into the storybook realm as well. Mercury InPress’s Incredebooks, a pioneer in the AR coloring sector, launched educational books under the Disney Imagicademy brand. They feature a variety of Disney characters on rhyming books, storybooks, and nonfiction.
The popularity of adult coloring books seems to have elevated the quality and variety of children’s coloring products in general, which always have a large presence at Toy Fair but were highlighted more prominently this year. Giant coloring murals from Lullabee, coloring rolls from Mudpuppy (which can be unfurled to create a long continuous coloring surface), greeting cards from Montco, giant maps from Pirasta, velvet posters from Danice, and a Frisbee-like disk from Roodi (made of paper for indoor use) were just a few of the products spotted.
All told, publishers were positive about 2016 Toy Fair. The show saw good traffic levels overall—although some exhibitors reported that the children’s book aisle seemed a bit slower than the more toy-centric areas of the show—and publishers reported writing orders and making promising contacts with new buyers and other attendees. “Several toy buyers have told us they’re doubling their space in books,” says Julie Gaudette, sales manager at Child’s Play. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by that at this show.”