Business Overview

The adult coloring book industry has exploded in recent years. In 2015, the Washington Post reports, an estimated 12 million coloring books were sold. For comparison, an estimated 1 million was sold in 2014.

An adult coloring book company helps provide grown-ups with a creative outlet by both designing and marketing coloring books. These coloring books are usually highly detailed.

Who is this business right for?

People who are highly creative and have a knack for artistic expression may enjoy, and be good at running, an adult coloring book company. Business owners often design coloring books themselves, at least until their business is well established, and creating a coloring book requires a considerable amount of artistic skill.

A coloring book company doesn’t require a business owner to keep specific hours, so it’s possible to start a company while working at a traditional job.

What happens during a typical day at an adult coloring book company?

The day-to-day activities of running an adult coloring book company include creating coloring pages using drafting programs or other means, taking and fulfilling orders (including both retail and wholesale orders) and marketing coloring books. Business owners must also either self-publish or order runs of coloring books, and design coloring books. These latter activities take a lot of time, but they can be done almost any time of the day (or night).

What is the target market?

A coloring book company’s ideal customer is someone who is creative, and either has free time or needs to pass time (such as at a doctor’s office or airport). A coloring book provides a creative outlet, but it takes time to color.

How does an adult coloring book company make money?

An adult coloring book company makes money by selling coloring books. Books can be sold either directly to customers (retail), or to stores and distributors (wholesale).

What is the growth potential for an adult coloring book company?

Even a small adult coloring book company can reach customers throughout the country and world, thanks to online retailers.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful adult coloring book company?

In order to successfully start up and grow an adult coloring book company, a business owner needs a knowledge of vectors and must be able to navigate the coloring book publishing industry.

Most coloring book designs are made with vectors, which is why business owners should know how to use them. Vectips has a good tutorial on using vectors to create coloring books.

When it comes to publishing, coloring book companies can either self-publish or use a third-party publisher. The Creative Penn has a podcast on self-publishing a coloring book.

For business owners who want to use a third-party publisher, successful adult coloring book entrepreneur Morgan Carson recommends hiring a printing agent. The coloring book publishing industry is complex and uses industry jargon, she explains. Because startups usually order small runs, it’s not worth a publisher’s time to explain the process in great detail. A print agent will increase the cost of each book, but they’ll help ensure the books come out well.

What are the costs involved in opening an adult coloring book company?

The startup costs for an adult coloring book company are extremely low. For someone who already has a computer and software, there may be no additional investment.

Business owners who have money to invest may want to obtain a copy of Adobe Illustrator, which is a powerful vector drawing program, for designing pages and use a third-party publisher. Adobe Illustrator CS6 has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $599. (There are other programs, such as Corel Draw x6 that have capabilities and prices similar to Adobe Illustrator’s.)

A publisher might charge $150 for an initial proof, and then a few hundred to a few thousand for an initial print run. The cost will depend on the size and quality of the books, and the quantity ordered. Business owners who want to start a coloring book company without any significant financial investment have a couple less expensive programs to choose from. Inkscape and Scribus both have free vector drawing programs. Self-publishing isn’t free, but it costs less than hiring a third-party publisher. Additionally, business owners can print on demand, printing copies as they’re ordered.

What are the steps to start an adult coloring book company?

Once you're ready to start your adult coloring book company, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an adult coloring book company

An adult coloring book company can reach a broad audience online. Marketing on social media and blogs can help a company reach likely customers.

Many coloring book companies are also able to effectively market themselves in their local area, by selling through independent bookstores and other retailers.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Finding a specific niche can help an adult coloring book company stand out from other companies. For example, a company might focus on a specific hobby (e.g. drinking tea), area (e.g. New York City) or type of picture (e.g. action shots).

How and when to build a team

Most adult coloring book companies are run as one-person operations. Very large companies may have multiple designers and salespeople, but this is not common.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an adult coloring book business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Adult coloring books usually sell for less than $20. Jenean Morrison prices her books at $12 and $7.

What are the ongoing expenses for an adult coloring book company?

The ongoing expenses of a coloring book company include publishing fees and shipping costs. These are both usually covered by the revenue generated through sales.

How much profit can an adult coloring book company make?

With the recent explosion in the adult coloring book industry, there is excellent growth potential. Morrison has made over $500,00 since 2012 selling books, including $329,000 in 2015.

How can you make your business more profitable?

An adult coloring book company may be able to add a line of children’s coloring books to increase profits. The business model for a children’s coloring book line would be nearly identical to that of an adult line.

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Next Steps

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