These days, it seems you can't make it past the lobby of a Barnes & Noble without seeing an adult coloring book. The genre currently holds five of the top 10 spots on Amazon's best-sellers list, and there are meetups held across the country for women who want to unwind with a glass of wine and a Crayola 24-count box.
Artist Jenean Morrison is cashing in on the adult coloring craze. In a modest studio in Memphis, Tennessee, she creates black-and-white drawings of flowers, geometric shapes, and patterns, and sells books of these blank pages through Amazon's self-publishing platform CreateSpace.
"I think people might be surprised by the amount of money one can make [selling] self-published coloring books," Morrison says.
She isn't kidding.
Morrison has sold more than 91,000 copies and pocketed nearly half a million dollars since summer 2012, when she released her first book, "Pattern + Design Coloring Book." This year alone, she earned $329,000 in royalties from Amazon and launched international editions of her books in six countries.
Even if she lands a contract with a major publishing house, Morrison says once you self-publish, you never go back.
For more than 10 years, Morrison has created graphic designs and licensed her art to companies that make napkins, Solo cups, fabrics, scrapbook kits, and more. While business was good, she dealt with constant blows of rejection and spent a huge chunk of her day just pitching those companies. It was exhausting.
Then in 2012, she came across an old coloring book from the '70s. It was filled with intricate designs, rather than pictures of princesses and farm animals.
"When I saw it, I said, 'I should do one of these,'" Morrison tells Tech Insider. "I knew I could put together a good one, but I didn't want to go through what I went through all the time with those other companies."
At the suggestion of her husband, she tried Amazon's self-publishing platform CreateSpace, which can turn a user's PDF file into a paperback in just a few clicks. Amazon makes the books available for purchase online and prints them to-order, so the writer never needs fuss with manufacturing and distribution.
"With my fabrics, I can design something and it will be six months before it hits the market," Morrison says. "Within three weeks of having the idea [to make an adult coloring book], I had the first one published."
Morrison has since published seven more coloring books, including ones dedicated to flowers and others depicting mandalas, a spiritual symbol in Indian religions. "Flower Designs Coloring Book, Volume 1" rocketed up Amazon's best-sellers list to number 16, and remained in the top 100 for eight weeks.
She maintains total creative control from cover to cover.
Amazon's self-publishing platform sets a minimum list price based on the book's size, but the author sets the final cost. Morrison prices her coloring books at $12 and receives a royalty of $5.05 per book, approximately 40% of the list price. She also has two books with few images price at $7, for which she earns a royalty of $2.05 per book.
There are some drawbacks to working independently. Morrison has to market the books herself, which she accomplishes by posting colored pages on her Instagram account. She has more than 8,200 followers, and many more tag her in their creations on the photo-sharing app.
She doesn't have a professional designer on her side, and instead turns to her husband and mom for feedback. But when the family comes up short, Morrison turns to her Amazon customers.
"I read the reviews, which sometimes hurts," Morrison laughs. "But I take the feedback people have left. I feel like every coloring book I've done has gotten better and better."
Morrison says she still creates designs marketed toward retail, and occasionally shops around for a coloring book publisher. The supplemental income doesn't hurt.
At the end of the day, though, coloring is just something she enjoys. It's a retreat from the day-to-day grind.
"There's something really satisfying about filling up a blank area of the page with a color," Morrison says. "When I looked at [coloring books] that had skies or trees, it's like, 'Well, the sky has to be blue and the tree has to be green.' But with a pattern, I can put any color that I want in there."
And that's just the way she likes it.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.