April 7, 2015

Coloring books for grown-ups top bestseller list


A page from Johanna Basford's Secret Garden © Johanna Basford and Laurence King / via JohannaBasford.com

A page from Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden
© Johanna Basford and Laurence King / via JohannaBasford.com

Small British publisher Laurence King has had a surprise runaway hit here in the US with an unlikely title. Alison Flood reports for The Guardian that two coloring books created specifically for adults are currently topping Amazon’s list of bestsellers, beating out Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train (which clocks in at #5) and pre-orders for the long-awaited Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman (at #12).

Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford designed her books—Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest—specifically with adults in mind. They feature very intricate outlines of animals, trees, flowers, and landscapes, too detailed for the average toddler with a crayon to attempt, at least under the strict edict of “Stay Inside the Lines.” Basford explains that she came up with the idea for Secret Garden—which came out in 2013—-almost as a whim. She already had a deal to create a children’s book, and had the idea to make one that she’d want to have herself.

Head of sales and marketing for Laurence King, Eleanor Blatherwick, says that the success of Basford’s books has been a pleasant surprise. She tells the Guardian, “The last few weeks since Enchanted Forest came out have been utter madness, but fantastic madness. We knew the books would be beautiful but we didn’t realise it would be such a phenomenal success.” They’ve gotten a boost from celebrity endorsements, with actress Zooey Deschanel and Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum sharing it with their legions of social networking followers.

As Flood reports, the massive success of grown-up coloring books is part of a larger trend. Another UK publisher, Michael O’Mara, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of similar titles, buoyed by an interest in them as a means of reducing stress. Head of publicity Ana McLaughlin states, “It was last year that it all really mushroomed with Art Therapy, in June. It really took off for us—selling the anti-stress angle gave people permission to enjoy something they might have felt was quite childish… It’s just an enormous trend and shows no signs of slowing down.” Basford echoes that sentiment, enthusing, “I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug. And it’s creative. For many people, a blank sheet is very daunting; with a colouring book you just need to bring the colour.”

Basford, who is already working on a third book, says that “it’s been a real surprise, to see the category bloom.”


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.