Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million

Today, on the chopping block: Coloring Books

I've been making coloring books since... hmm... 1997? Maybe 1996? I currently have 10 titles available.

The first one was a general fantasy coloring book, called 'Sword and Sorcery, A Fantasy Coloring Book.' It had 22 illustrations, by Holly Wedo, Heather L. Wedo, Patricia A. Roe, Robin Nunez, Kelly Ganson and me. It sold for $9, and did very, very well.

Following the popularity of that one, I added a dark fantasy coloring book (Dark Tales), and a children's coloring book in a smaller format (Magical Moments). I attempted to do all-dragons, all-fairy and all-unicorn coloring books next, but didn't get enough submissions to do them separately, so I mashed them all up into Dragons, Fairies and Fantasy Horses.

Following that (in no particular order...) I've put out: Adventurers, Dotminatrix, The Fairies of Victoria Griffin (I and II), Fantastic Magic, Mythology, Fishbowl Fantasies, Wizards and Dragons, Goddesses of the World, The Dark Art of Robin Nunez, Rum and Ruffians, Songgryphons, a second Dragons, Fairies and Fantasy Horses and Steam Dreaming. Oh, and Fantasy Isn't Always Pretty. In all, I've published 19 titles now.

I don't order huge quantities of these - between 15 and 40 each run. Fishbowl Fantasies has probably be re-printed 8 times now. Most of the times, they become discontinued because I lose contact with an artist, and their contract expires.

One of the most popular coloring books I put out, I was appalled to get a request for a refund from a wholesale client for the Fantasy Isn't Always Pretty books she had ordered. While she didn't mind the subject matter, she found the male genitalia a little too much to sell in her store, and it hadn't been clear on the webpage that they would be present. Male... wait, what?! I had marketed this book for adults for the violence (speared mermaids, chained people, angel-eating dragons etc...), but I'm pretty draconian about not accepting uncovered nipples, let alone actual genitalia. I scoured the book, and lo... tiny penis on a background character. I replaced her copies with another title (her option - I would also refund a purchase like that) and apologized profusely, pulling the title while I figured out what to do with it.

I... am still figuring out what to do with it. For the short term, the remaining copies are on sale on the clearance page.

The coloring books have two major hurdles: getting submissions and printing them.

Printing was very expensive when I did it locally, so I went online, and found folks who could do it cheaper. I tried Comixpress, first, and found that they did fine for the first few jobs I ran through them - then started sending things out later than they said, and then they fell flat on their faces promising coloring books in time for a show, then failing not only to meet that deadline, but to deliver the books at all, despite repeated emails. It took opening a paypal dispute with them to get them to sit up and send me my coloring books (with many apologies and a genuine-seeming confusion about how the order and my emails got overlooked). I started shopping for a new printer, and settled on Ka-Blam. They are slooooow, but their prices are competitive, they have always made the date that promised to, and their quality is consistent. Also, they are willing to ship priority flat rate mail, which is a make-or-break deal with suppliers for me, what with living in Alaska.

For now, I have printing figured out. It is not super-fast, but it is reasonably cheap, and reliable.

Submissions. Ah, submissions.

Now, again, this is probably a lot of my own fault. I have not had the energy or focus to maintain any nagging in the last few months, so the Arabian Nights coloring book (did you remember I was trying to collect work for one of those?) has been languishing. Seriously. 2 entries so far. 2 entries do not a coloring book make. The deadline was supposed to be the end of this month.

This happened with Steam Dreaming when I had more energy and nagged more regularly, too - I think I delayed that sucker 2 full years before collecting enough work to put it out.

It's nice being an artist of my own, honestly, because I can fill in gaps, but a coloring book that is 16 pages of my work and 4 pages of other artists is not balanced, and I won't print it. At that point, I might as well put out something of only my work!

I'd like to keep doing these coloring books. The production end of them is relatively minor, I love the products, and they are relatively easy to stock and ship. (Horrah for flat rate priority envelopes!) I can afford to sell them wholesale, and they are steady sales. It's nice having a solid backlist, and they don't take up much space or break the bank to ship to me.

The biggest problem to solve, is getting the work.

I have a wildly talented pool of artists, and if I can keep them focused, we can keep making kick-ass coloring books. Prove me right, guys...
Tags: chopping block
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