Inside the Wild Popularity of a Coloring Book for Adults

Johanna Basford's Secret Garden has sold 1.4M copies
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2015 1:05 PM CDT
Inside the Wild Popularity of a Coloring Book for Adults
Johanna Basford's 'Secret Garden' has been a huge hit.   (Barnes and Noble)

Maybe it's soothing; maybe it's just fun. Either way, a coloring book for adults called Secret Garden has soared to enormous popularity, selling far more copies than its original run of 16,000 over the past two years—1.38 million more, the New York Times reports. Johanna Basford's book has been published in 22 languages, and a sequel is also flying off the shelves. Four years ago, Basford's work online caught the attention of an editor at Laurence King Publishing; the Scotland-based illustrator had already done work for Starbucks, Sony, Absolut Vodka, and Mercedes. The editor suggested Basford's material might work well for kids to color in, but Basford suggested a book for adults. "It got a bit quiet for a moment," she tells the Times, but samples convinced them.

What happened next: "Just before Christmas we got to 200,000 [copies] so I phoned up Laurence King and said, 'Can you please tell me when we get to a quarter of a million because I want to do a thing on my blog,'" the 31-year-old tells the Herald. "And there was a long pause at the end of the phone and they said, 'Well, actually, the foreign edition numbers have just come in and we think you're almost at a million.'" Basford is, however, far from the only illustrator involved in what has become a trend. Books co-created by Virginia author Lacy Mucklow and an illustrator in Wales with names like Color Me Calm and Color Me Happy have been selling out, too, the Washington Post reports. And then there are books like Between the Lines, by Peter Deligdisch. It's marketed as an "expert level" book that seeks to challenge colorers, Gizmodo reports. As Basford tells the Times, "People are really excited to do something analog and creative at a time when we’re all so overwhelmed by screens and the Internet." (More coloring book stories.)

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