Nearly every craft publisher, large and small, is dipping (or redipping) a toe into the widening pool of adult coloring books. The impetus is clear: to capitalize on the runaway successes of Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden (Laurence King, 2013), which has sold more than 278,000 print units according to Nielsen Bookscan, and Enchanted Forest (Laurence King, 2015), which has sold more than 179,000 print units since its February release. Basford’s next book, Lost Ocean, will be out in October from a new publisher, Penguin.
The recent popularity of coloring books for adults has attracted attention from the likes of the New Yorker and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and over the past few months, coloring books have made frequent appearances on national bestseller lists, including PW’s. But how many more can the market bear?
“There’s going to come a time when this trend is not red-hot, but [coloring books] might actually be an established category” by now, says Frederick Glasser, director of academic/select trade for Barron’s, which plans to publish at least 20 new coloring titles in fall 2015 and spring 2016, up from nine titles in the previous fall and spring. “There are so many themes to explore—fairyland, kaleidoscopes, tattoos—and there’s starting to be spillover from the urban sketching trend, with coloring books that are explorations of particular cities.”
One such title is Chronicle’s forthcoming Fantastic Cities by Steven McDonald (Aug.). Others include books in Little, Brown’s new Color Your Way to Calm series. The publisher is seeing early success with the June releases of Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick, and Secret Paris by Zoé des Las Cases, with combined sales of more than 20,000 print units. Two more from des Las Cases, Secret Tokyo and Secret New York, publish in October, and then in December, the series takes a different direction with Wonders of the Sea by Claire Laude and Aurelie Castex, and Birds & Butterflies by Alice Chadwick.
Meg Leder, executive editor at Penguin, says, “The great thing about coloring is that it’s an evergreen market.” She sees the category beginning to expand into branded areas aimed squarely at adults (PRH imprint Bantam will release Outlander and Game of Thrones tie-ins in October, for example).
In spring 2016, Thunder Bay is releasing Tolkien’s World, a coloring book that, while not a direct media tie-in, capitalizes on the popularity of what has become a literary franchise: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Also in spring 2016, the publisher’s Canterbury Classics imprint will launch the Color in Classic series, featuring pages inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, and Grimms’ fairy tales.
Other publishers are embracing the crafting-coloring connection. F+W’s imprint Fons & Porter is releasing The Tula Pink Coloring Book (Oct.) by fabric designer Tula Pink, which gives coloring book enthusiasts and Pink’s fans an object of mutual interest.
At Laurence King, publicity and marketing manager Debra Matsumoto has seen a different sort of crafting-coloring crossover: “We receive regular requests from fiber artists who want to reproduce Secret Garden designs with embroidery,” she says. Similarly, C&T Publishing has noticed that embroiderers are turning to its coloring titles for design inspiration. It’s a spin Mary Amicucci, Barnes & Noble v-p of adult trade and children’s books, thinks is destined to pick up momentum.
Zen and Ink
De-stressing continues to hold strong as an incentive for consumers. The new Color Yourself Calm, with illustrations by Chopra Center teacher Paul Heussenstamm and text by Tiddy Rowan, launches a series of the same name from Barron’s; the next three titles—focusing on creativity, happiness, and relaxation—are slated for February 2016. Dover, whose Mystical Mandala Coloring Book by Alberta Hutchinson has sold almost 185,000 print copies since its 2007 release (and more than 75,000 units this year alone), has a follow-up from Hutchinson: More Mystical Mandalas Coloring Book, which pubs in December.
With high-end offerings stretching into the $15 range and beyond, boasting heavy paper stock to avoid marker bleed-through and perforated pages that allow the consumer to cut and possibly frame finished images, what Leder at Penguin refers to as a “hobby” is distinguishing itself as a pursuit with loftier goals.
“Coloring is a stepping stone to an array of beginner crafts,” says Karen Cooper, F+W v-p and publisher of lifestyle, crafts, and design. “There’s something very satisfying about being able to creatively express oneself without much instruction, time, or effort.”
Also contributing to the proliferation of coloring books among adults: the number of outlets that welcome such titles. “Both Michael’s and Barnes & Noble gave strong support early on,” Glasser says. “Once you’ve opened those markets, you can go to bigger stores: Target, Walmart, then on to grocery chains and gift shops.”
And the biggest surprise, he says, is the number of office supply chain stores that display the books beside their more traditional stock of colored pencils and markers—the only tools a coloring book enthusiast requires.