Monday, 10 April 2017

Making a colouring book using Blurb

I created a colouring book using Blurb that featured my drawings. To order the book, visit this link.

Here is my report on my experience making my first ever colouring book:

Colouring books aimed at adults are all the rage. One artist, Johanna Basford, has sold over a million copies of her colouring book The Secret Garden.

My own colouring book was released on Blurb only a few days ago, however I've been building up to this point over the past few years with a number of colouring projects.

In 2015 I released a lion themed colouring sheet:

That proved to be very successful so then I released a set of limited edition art cards in 2015:

During last year's Inktober month long drawing project I decided to draw animals doing BJJ techniques from A to Z. This was a great exercise and it inspired me to finish the drawings properly for use as a fully formed colouring book.

Some of my Inktober sketches below, which you will recognise if you have the book:

Re-drawing the artworks
My inktober sketches alone were not of good enough quality for a colouring book. I wanted to draw the full set in a reasonably consistent style. I used Manga Studio Pro to draw each piece again, improving, editing, amending as I went along. I also ditched a few of the letters and replaced them with other ideas.

Here are a few examples:

I dedicated most evenings to creating the book's artwork, in total, 26 animals from A-Z took me about 3 months to draw if you include a whole bunch of nights where I didn't do any drawing. It helped that most of the concepts had already been created thanks to my Inktober sketches. Still, some pages were harder than others and with the new material, I had to really play around with ideas and sketches before committing them to the book.

My final A-Z BJJ Animal list includes:
A - Aardvark & Anteaters / Americana
B - Butterfly / Butterfly Guard
C - Cheetah / Cross Choke
D - Dachsund dogs / Double leg takedown
E - Emperor tamarin / Electric Chair
F - Frigatebirds / Footlocks
G - Giant panda / gogoplata
H - Hippos / half guard
I - Iguana - Imanari Roll
J - Japanese macaque - juji gatame
K - Kangaroo & koala - knee on belly
L - Lemurs / Lo Guard
M - Mammoth / Mount
N - Newts /  North South
O - Owls / omoplata
P - Porcupine / Pulling guard
Q - Quails / Quarter guard
R - Rabbit and Royal Python / Rear naked choke
S - Sloth / suplex
T - Tigers / Twister
U - Unicorns / Upa
V - Vampire bats / Von Flu choke
W - Wolves / wristlock
X - X-ray Tetra / X guard
Y - Yak and Yeti / Yama Arashi
Z - Zombie zebras / z-guard

Book layout using InDesign
I saved each lineart as a high resolution JPEG and imported them into an InDesign Template supplied by Blurb. When you first open up the Blurb Book Creator option within InDesign, this control panel is what you get:-

Using the book creator you select the parameters of the book you want to make. For example in my case I knew that a Trade Book was the best option and that I wanted it to be size 8x10 inches. You also get to choose options for the type of cover (hard or soft) and the quality of paper. There is a box to type in number of pages but you can also add pages while creating the actual document. All your settings are saved and once the book is completed, you click on the Upload Book button and follow the instructions.

It's worth noting that you need to make two different documents. One will be the main inside pages and then there is one dedicated for the front and back cover design. Below is a screengrab showing my book as laid out within InDesign:-

If you don't have InDesign or would prefer not to use it, Blurb also offer an online book creator and a downloadable program called BookWright. I haven't used any of the other options so can't comment on how efficient or good they are.

Printing the book: first version
I order three copies of my first draft edition. I wanted to test out the book first before making it available to the wider public. So I sent a copy off to my friend Pippa Granger, who is a colouring book fanatic. You can see a couple of her colouring treatments below:-

She did a great job and even mixed some media up adding opaque gel markers into the mix to give the pieces added flare.

But the paper I used (trade book, black and white Standard paper) at only 75gsm was a bit too thin for my liking. Even before colouring was applied, you can see through the printed page on the other side. I didn't think the public would accept a book that thin, especially if they used felt tip markers.

So I re-ordered more test books, this time opting for thicker paper - the Economy version colour paper, which was 105 gsm. As it was the colour printing option, I decided to add in extra pages to show some photos of me in action. The result was a book that I was much happier to release.

One of the things I liked about the Blurb platform was that I could tweak how I presented the book. For example I could choose just how much of the book I could preview:

Promotion and marketing
One of the advantages of Blurb is that they do offer to sell your book for you. In addition to that, you can get your book listed and sold via Amazon. Unfortunately this option is not available to Trade Books, unless you go via the third party distribution system known as Ingram.

I'll be honest and admit, when trying to read about how the breakdown of percentages and royalties worked, it got a bit confusing so I just ignored that facility altogether. I knew that I would be able to market and pitch my product over to my followers via social media.

I knew already that there was some modest interest in my colouring book project when I first posted about it on Instagram.

So once every few weeks I kept posting updates of my Animal Alphabet characters on Instgram and Facebook to maintain the build up of interest. Each post receiving more or less the same modest response.

When I finally received the first test copies, I couldn't help but reveal the product to my followers with some very hastily filmed mobile phone footage. The response totally took my by surprise with over 900 likes and 65 comments plus numerous private messages all begging to know when and where to buy the book.

Once I had seen and approved the second draft of the book, on the 4th April 2017 I put it live for direct sale on the Blurb website and made a promo video:

BJJ Animal Alphabet Colouring Book by Meerkatsu from Seymour Yang on Vimeo.

As of today there have been nearly 200 copies of the book sold through Blurb! The sales and general response has been amazing. I'm already thinking of producing a sequel colouring book.

My final thoughts are to say that I'm super impressed with the quality of the Blurb self publishing set up. The final product is superb and ideal for my purpose. The only slight niggle I feel could be improved is the high cost of shipping. Currently UK customers pay for my book at £9.99 and then have to pay £6.99 postage and packing, despite it being printed in the UK and weighing next to nothing. I really can't see anything about the packaging that suggests it is worth seven pounds, maybe four or five pounds at best if you use Royal Mail signed for delivery system. Compare that the the USA version of Blurb and American customers can opt for economy shipping at only $5.99 (roughly £3).


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