Adult Coloring Books: Catching the Wave of New Opportunity

One of the most explosive trends in the book publishing industry recently is Adult Coloring Books. Whether it’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble, airport bookstores or your neighborhood craft store, coloring books are flying off the shelves.

As the early-adopter speakers and authors are jumping into this segment of the publishing business, it begs the question of whether you should too.

This intriguing factoid brings up a few questions. What exactly are Adult Coloring Books? What is their unique appeal? Is this a trend that’s going to last? And – most importantly – how do you get your work published in this oh-so-haute format?

Let’s break these down one at a time.

What Are Adult Coloring Books?

A lot of people associate coloring books with childhood, waxing nostalgic about the hours they spent with Dick, Jane and Spot. Back then it was tough to decide just the right shade of red for hats and shoes, hoping they wouldn’t clash with the rosy apples on the trees or the brick red barn in the background. If you could stay within the lines, you were an artistic genius.

Coloring really was fun when we were kids… for about 10 minutes. Only a few of us had the patience to hang out long enough to finish the page, let alone the whole book. Our hyperactive growth hormones made us want to bolt upright and play catch in the backyard or rassle with the dog rather that sit quietly with a bunch of crayons.

But fast forward a few years, and suddenly adult coloring books are everywhere. Patience doesn’t enter into the equation at all. Large conference centers are giving coloring pads and a set of sharp pencils to attendees, as studies have demonstrated that people stay more attentive to speakers, trainers and business executives while engaging multiple senses.

Today’s line drawings which beg for pigment are all about de-stressing and expressing. The images are centered around a theme, like religion, lifestyle, hobbies or personal development. Companies are even developing artwork around their key initiatives to help employees retain rapidly changing business priorities.

Why Create With Color?

Adult Coloring Books offer a kind a release from stress that few other activities can. With an engaging image and a set of sharp colored pencils or Sharpies, coloring can transport you into another time and place, a world of make believe, professional development or even hyper-reality. Here’s are 5 reasons why the adult coloring market is booming.

  1. It’s Kinetic– Coloring is a physical act. It requires hand to eye coordination, and it causes the brain to absorb the messages on the printed page.
  2. It’s Visual – Coloring is inherently visual, stimulating the optic nerve, bathing the eye in rich hues, and releasing endorphins into the bloodstream as we get into the zone.
  3. It’s Imaginative – Let’s face it: coloring is hypnotic. It liberates the senses and allows us to let our imagination run wild.
  4. It’s Memorable – By connecting the visual and the physical, we can create a memorable and lasting impression through the messages we include in our Adult Coloring Books.
  5. It’s Associative – Creating an Adult Coloring Book of your own can be a great branding tool for you as a speaker or trainer. When clients invest their time, emotion and imagination into evocative imagery associated with words, they will associate positive feelings with your ideas.

Is This Too Trendy to Last?

As early as the 1960s, exotic coloring books for adults were all the rage. “The Fat Cat Coloring & Limerick Book” was first published in 1967, and it was a big hit well into the ’70s. During that time you could also find coloring books for all ages on subjects like the Old and New Testaments, Folklore, Art Nouveau and even publications inspired by Pop Artist extraordinaire, Peter Max.

In the 1980s, the trend continued. You could always find Adult Coloring Books at the gift shops of airports and major museums, including the Museum of Natural History in New York City. There were even hanging mobiles designed for just this purpose. You could always find intricate fish, dinosaurs or wild animals to color and hang from your ceiling.

During the 1990s, Adult Coloring Books were still available and growing in force. Gift shops at National Parks and nature centers, as well as traditional bookstores like Barnes & Noble stocked the crème de la crème.

Today the adult coloring book phenomena is booming. A respectable percentage of Amazon’s top 100 books are now adult coloring books. With a history this evolved, there’s no doubt that the popularity of this medium will continue to hold strong. Adult Coloring Books are here to stay.

What Are Best Practices for Offering Adult Coloring Books?

As an author or corporate training director, once you decide to add Adult Coloring Books to your line up of published materials, you may want to consider the following options.

Illustrations: Stay current on what’s selling in the coloring book market. Chose a favorite style such as hand drawn or computer generated graphics, and run with it. For our purposes as a publishing house, we’re gathering a team of independent illustrators who are hungry to work on new published projects in order to keep-up with the demand in this segment.

Themes: Build your book based on a theme, not a mishmash of subjects. You might create one book with classic designs, one with inspirational sayings, or a series of books with images from one specific continent or era. Avoid mixing themes together in one edition. Keep it focused. For example, consider topics such as quotations, lists of information, meditative reflections, characters from a novel, motivational quotes or a series of key insights related to your brand.

Publishing: If you decide to publish your Adult Coloring Book yourself, be aware that there a several product development decisions to make about your book. Details such as book size, weight of the paper stock, page perforations and book binding (perfect bound, spiral bound) all have an impact on your cost and price, as well as your coloring book’s usability. Check-in with a publisher who has an established retail distribution footprint, as the retail distribution landscape is rapidly expanding into pet stores, cruise ships, craft stores, coffee shops, cooking stores and more.

Adult Coloring Books can add a rainbow of opportunity to your personal brand and your product line up. Like coloring itself, the only limit is your imagination!

Bryan Heathman, president of Made for Success Publishing, works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.