Elements Of Creating An Adult Coloring Book

Here’s what I’ve learned from self publishing via Amazon’s Createspace:

  • Look at what’s popular.  When I started, the most popular books included mandalas, cats, and the famous “Secret Garden”.  But, trends are always changing.  Knowing what’s hot can help guide you towards a theme you might consider creating, but I don’t think there’s a huge need to stick to trendy topics (so long as your designs are great).  You should also stick with what you know (as an artist).  If you know you suck at flowers and hate drawing them, then don’t make flowers.  The pleasure you derive from the work you are doing will show through in the quality of your finished product.
  • Pick a book shape.  Most adult coloring books are either square-shaped or have a portrait page orientation.  You could have a landscape oriented book, and it would sell just fine.  Unless your images are taller than they are wide, you’ll definitely want to stick with a square shaped page.  You’ll also need to take your book’s gutter into consideration.  People can’t actually color into the gutter of your book (and that is one of the complaints I’ve seen in discussions).  Unless Createspace starts offering books with tear-out pages, you’ll want to mind the gutter and think about how your designs will fill each page.
  • Consider the number of illustrations you’ll be creating.  Knowing this will help you set goals, and estimate a completion deadline for yourself.  When I started looking these things up,  the “magic” illustration count seemed to be somewhere between 25 and 40 illustrations.  If you place each image on a single page (to prevent bleed-though and smudging), you’ll end up with double that number in actual page-count.
  • Settle on a general price.  If you’re going to self publish, be sure you understand where you’ll be pricing your book.  This step can come later in your process, but a competitive price is just another element to help a product sell.  I’d recommend reading this Wikipedia page about the psychology behind pricing.  Since the interior pages of your book will be black and white line-work, they will be less expensive to make than a book with colorized pages.  If it costs less for CreateSpace to make, then you will reap a higher royalty.  So, stick to black and white when you start setting up your interior.  My recommendation would be to price your work between $6.49 and $8.99 USD.  My book is listed just under $7, and for each sale, I get a little over $2.
  • Study reviews on other popular books.  It can be really helpful to look at the popular reviews (especially the bad ones).  The biggest complaints I’ve seen for the most highly-rated books are the designs fall into the gutter, the designs are printed on both sides of a page, and the pages are too thin.  While you should be mindful of how your designs will relate to the gutter, you shouldn’t have to worry about Createspace’s paper quality.  As long as you’ve got your paper options set to “white”, you’ll be sure to have a book filled with thick, durable paper.

Once you’ve got your paper orientation worked out, I recommend using a vector based program (if you’ll be making your designs in the computer).  If you like to ink by hand, great, but you’re going to need some image-editing software to erase artifacts and be sure your lines come out looking crisp and clean.  You may even want to print out a few “test” pages for yourself before placing it into a pdf file and uploading it to Createspace.

Some reviews of the more popular books complain that the designs are too complicated, and the lines are too small to work with.  In talking to various people about their experiences with adult coloring books, I’ve found that most beginners can become intimidated relatively quickly.  You may be able to get around this by adding some variety to the complexity of your pages.  Starting with a more simplistic design, working your way up to something highly detailed.  I have reviewed various coloring books while doing “prep-research” before making my own, and decided to create something along the “mid-range” level.  Most of my images are not too simple (like a child’s book), but not too overwhelmingly complicated.

Pick a gimmick.  Most of the successful coloring books include a variety of entertaining activities to keep the colorist amused.  Many incorporate games, humor, and treasure (item) hunts.  Some have you looking for swear words, others challenge you to add things to an image or find certain items hidden within the line-work.  I always find it best to come up with your own game or idea.  You should always remember to search for it, to be sure you’re not accidentally copying something that has already been copy-written.

Order yourself a proof before hitting that “approve” button.  This is a final step, but one of the most important in your publishing adventure.  You can print out pages for yourself to see how the final image might look, but if you don’t order yourself a copy, you won’t know how the line-work or page orientation will look to a potential buyer.  After your fresh copy lands at the doorstep, color it.  Seriously.  Unless you can afford an art editor, this is how you need to edit your work.  Color some things in one color, turn the page upside down and start coloring other parts.  Turning the page will help your eyes find mistakes you wouldn’t catch otherwise (missed lines, and unintentional line breaks).

I hope this helps and best of luck!


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