The next market to succumb to the adult coloring book craze is religion and spirituality, with a slew of new titles lining up on the runway.
For one title in particular, you’ll need blood-red crayons. Martyrdom: The Coloring Book by Hallie Fryd and Julia Gfrörer (ZestBooks/Pulp, Oct.) is a can’t-turn-away, so-turn-the-pages combination of text and illustration relating 50 stories of Christian martyrs. Everybody knows St. Valentine, but St. Eustace, who was martyred along with his family by being roasted alive inside the bronze statue of a bull, is one of many lesser-known spiritual luminaries whose life and death stories have been developed by writer Fryd and artist Gfrörer from traditional martyrologies.
Fryd, whose previous work was for teens, said setting the right tone was important. “We wanted to be respectful, religiously and culturally, while still highlighting what makes these stories so fascinating: the stalwart faith in the face of unrelenting and creative violence, and the mythical touches of talking animals, dragons and angels,” she explains. Gfrörer, a comics artist and graphic novelist, had already done some work with stories of martyrs. “I thought I had the stomach for it, if anyone did,” the Portland, Ore., artist says. “I have pet theories concerning the extent to which the various torments are trumped up, which keeps me sane.”
The phenomenal popularity of the category gave ZestBooks/Pulp editorial director Daniel Harmon an oblique angle. With its unusual, even outlandish, subject matter, Martyrdom offers something of a critique of the coloring-book gravy train. “By the nature of its oddness, it’s almost a parody of the genre,” he says. Social critique was something the martyrs themselves offered, he adds, “giving the middle finger to society at large.”
Other new religion and spirituality adult coloring books play more straightforwardly. Visual Scriptures: A Meditative Coloring Book and O Holy Night: A Meditative Christmas Coloring Book, both coming in September from Sixth & Spring, are the first two books in the Devotional Coloring series. The former includes illustrated verses from scripture. Publisher Carrie Kilmer said the house had been watching the coloring book trend and saw a place for Christian content. “This is just a niche we saw in the market that nobody else seems to be publishing into,” she says. She hopes that in addition to general trade the books might gain traction in Christian retail and even the homeschooling market.
Aimed squarely at the spirituality market are two adult coloring books from the new HarperElixir line of mind-body-spirit titles from HarperOne. Sacred Nature and Sacred Symbols, both due in October, bear the subtitle Coloring Experiences for the Mystical and Magical and are positioned as “coloring books for the soul.” Graphic artist and illustrator Lydia Hess created the illustrations. “[The adult coloring book craze] is a really incredible phenomenon, tapping into the need our culture has in general for play,” says publisher Claudia Boutote. “It gives adults this permission to tap into that wonder they had as a child when they colored and played.” Staff conducted an informal experiment to better understand and market the books: they had a color-in. “It’s a very rejuvenating thing to do,” Boutote reports.
The visually intricate mandala, a traditional object of contemplation in eastern religions, also adds an element of spirituality to adult coloring books, and has been an especially popular subject in the genre. “In Hinduism and Buddhism the traditional mandala is a circular diagram that functions as a graphic representation of the cosmos, a sacred space, and is used in spiritual meditation, healing, and contemplation,” says Barbara Berger, executive editor at Sterling Editorial, whose Serene Coloring line includes Mandala Meditation Coloring Book (Oct.).
Publishers report good orders from receptive retailers. Barnes&Noble (parent company of Sterling) plans to feature adult coloring books on a table, according to Boutote.
Here is a selection of other new and forthcoming religious adult coloring titles:
Beauty in the Bible Adult Coloring Book (Paige Tate, May)
Today is Going to be a Great Day (Christian Art Publishers, July)
The Shakti Coloring Book: Goddesses, Mandalas, and the Power of Sacred Geometry by Ekabhumi Charles Ellik (Sounds True, July)
Coloring for Contemplation by Amber Hatch, illustrations by Alex Ogg (Watkins, Nov. 24)