As I have had my little coloring book blog for nearly six months now, I thought I would document the first 6 months that I’ve spent reviewing coloring books and generally playing with coloring stuff. Hopefully, I can look back and see mistakes that I’ve made, and rectify them moving forward, discover changes that I have made within myself, with others and with the coloring world generally.
In the beginning
He convinced me that no-one would buy coloring books for adults, so I let the idea slide. I’ve had the last laugh with that one 🙂
When Secret Garden became popular I again looked at the idea of creating my own coloring books. Initially, I bought a few coloring books back in August 2015, for research 🙂 I soon discovered that I loved buying the books and looking at the pictures. I liked seeing what differentiated one artist from the other and different styles of art work and presentation.
By November, I had amassed over 100 books! In late November, I decided that I would put my amassed books to good purpose. What I had not amassed was any decent pencils. I had a cheap 12 pack from the supermarket. I often see other colorists make magic with whatever tools they have on hand – I’m not one of them. I need all the help that I can get!
I would often be in groups when people would ask if anyone had that book. I often did 🙂 I’d pop a few bad pics up of the inner workings of the book. I love showing others the coloring books that I have, so they can see what they like about different books, and help them make sensible buying choices.
I had good intentions of starting to review coloring books and coloring supplies in November, unfortunately due to work commitments I could not get up and running until February, 2016. At this time, I was working really long hours.
Getting Started Reviewing – #fail
I first started my You Tube channel in February, 2016 and my blog came later. I’m a firm believer in just doing one thing at a time, which is why I didn’t create a blog, a You Tube Channel, Pinterest page, Instagram account all at once. I’ve done this before, ended up in a pickle and totally overworked. I know, from experience, that I need to do things at my pace, and bear in mind that I have a job, a hubby and two gorgeous dogs to give attention to 🙂
So of course, I had by this time, 150 coloring books. I religiously shot all the videos and then spent 2 weeks uploading them. The internet is so slow in Australia I nearly gave up then.
I couldn’t believe it when I first uploaded a video and I had a subscriber and a comment straight away! I did a quiet happy dance. Then there were more and then I noticed it ….
Of course, I made a mistake 🙁 There was a spelling error in all the closing slides that I use. I could have just let it go … I thought about it. I couldn’t bear to lose all that work and redo all the videos. I couldn’t bear to lose the comments and subscribers I had just obtained. But the annoying part of me that likes things “just so” ..couldn’t bear the spelling mistake. What a #fail.
In case you are wondering, the spelling error was “colouring”. In Australia, we spell it “colouring” which is what I had done. I had forgotten that for the purposes of the blog etc I had gone with the US version of “coloring”. I re-did all the videos again and went through the tremendously slow process of uploading all the videos again and deleting the existing ones. When you delete the video the existing comments and subscribers are also deleted so I was back to square 1 🙁
I have been so thankful and grateful every week for new subscribers and followers. You will never know how much it means to me 🙂 xxx
The backlog begins
After about 6 weeks when the real videos finally went live and I was looking to tackle the next thing on my ever growing “to do” list. The next thing was the blog and I started the slow process of writing some content to go with the video review. Unfortunately, I had not finished that task when I got sick. Usually, when I’m sick it’s 24 hours and then back to breakneck speed. This time that did not happen, and I ended up being sick for over 6 weeks. I had reviews videoed in advance but I knew that I would run out of content eventually. Most days I could not get out of bed even to push a “publish” button on You Tube. I thought about quitting all together, but really there’s still so much I want to do.
As bad luck would have it, after I had made a slow and gradual recovery from my first illness I got sick again. I had been trying to take it easy and take care of myself. I had been limiting my interaction with the “real world” and had virtually quarantined myself. Only coming out for coffee and to go to work. It didn’t work. I got sick again. I’ve never been so sick in my life. Being sick twice in just a few months was too much for my immune system and I ended up catching every single thing that went around. Not only that I had such terrible chest and lung infections I had a lot of trouble breathing. I spent most of my time on the lounge. Too tired to even walk upstairs to my bed. I was sick for over 5 weeks and I’m still not fully recovered now. I get tired super easy and have to have a cat nap pretty well every second day. I guess, all those wonderful years of shaking off illness overnight caught up with me.
The odd thing about being sick is that the world does not stop. The postman keeps delivering coloring books, pre orders keep arriving and all keep building up on my desk. When I felt well enough to do some blogging again I felt super overwhelmed by the backlog of books. They were everywhere. Stacks of them. It was like a ton of artists had decided to breed little baby books in my office. I then realised, I was the only one that was putting pressure on myself to clear this backlog. All the books in the backlog were ones that I had purchased myself. I gave myself some permission to try and not stress about it 🙂 I have cleared a lot of backlog but I still feel that I’m playing catch up.
Getting there at snails pace
Once I started feeling a little human again, I started adding more to my blog. The slow process of writing all the content to match the uploaded videos began. I still have not caught up. I could have done it all at once but I wanted to pace myself with one platform at a time. I was also very conscious that, at this time, I had a lot of work commitments. In the second half of 2016 that is no longer the case, due to changes in the workplace.
I’m embarrassed to say that I still have not cleared the backlog of books that accumulated while I was sick. This period in total was over 3 months or more. This is more than half the time that I have been blogging and reviewing coloring books. There’s a massive stack of books in the queue that I’m slowly working through. The books that I am reviewing first are the ones that have been recently released or the ones that publishers are kind enough to send to me. Each week I try and add a few from my backlog so I can clear it. I will feel much happier when the backlog is cleared and I feel that I’m all caught up 🙂
At this stage, I still don’t know whether I did the right thing or not. Sometimes it bothers me. The way that I do my reviews by doing a video walk through and a written blog post with images and video takes a lot of time. Personally, I don’t know whether it is worth it. I look at other reviewers that just do one or the other. They can get their reviews out so much quicker than slow poke me. I like doing it this way, because people consume information in different ways. Some people prefer to read, some are more visual and some prefer audio, but it does take time 🙁 and I’m not sure still if it is the right way to do it.
Frequently Asked Questions
A lot of people email and message me questions about reviewing books, so I thought that I would put the common ones that people are currently asking me here:
Q. How many coloring books do you have?
A. Over 500. There’s a mix of budget coloring books, classic coloring books and everyday coloring books. I also have other coloring type products like decals, coasters, sneakers and posters.
Q. What is your favorite coloring book?
A. I’m moody. My favorites change and it would be extremely difficult to choose just one, they are like children to me 🙂
Q. Do you buy all your coloring books?
A. Out of my current stash of 500 odd coloring books about 5 have been provided by publishers/artists/authors and the rest have been purchased by me.
Q. Do you ask coloring book publishers for review copies?
A. I always intended after 6 months to approach 1 or 2 publishers for a few review copies as this can be an expensive undertaking, and I also wanted the book faster. I wanted to wait at least 6 months, so that I had enough credibility and followers, to make it an acceptable proposition for publishers to give me a review copy. I always consider, “What’s in it for them?” and without enough followers and content, it really is not a viable proposition for people to provide a book plus post it to me.
On the few occasions, I have received a review copy of a coloring book it is always disclosed in my review, and it makes no difference to my honest opinion of the book. I tell it like it is, and the publishers have been told that I will only provide an honest review. Sadly, a lot of publishers do not agree to send a book because of international rates or for whatever reason. Many of them do not respond at all.
Q. Do you turn down books for review?
Yes. Within days of starting my blog I had a request for a review. I turned this down because it was not going to be a good proposition for the artist. I didn’t have enough followers and content to make this a good win/win for them. All prudent artists should ensure they research where their reviews are being published and make sure that it is worthwhile ROI for them and a good fit for their market. I regularly turn down other coloring books that are offered to me because a) I have a backlog and b) I may not like the book. I need to like the book first.
I have never advertised myself as available for review or asked for artists/authors to send me books. In 2017 I will consider submissions, but it always needs to be a book that either I like, or that I think that you will like.
I do not want to review every coloring book that is made available on the market and for everyone that asks me. I learnt a long time ago you cannot be everything to everyone, and I certainly don’t want to exhaust myself trying.
Q. how much do you make reviewing coloring books?
A. Reviewing coloring books is an unpaid job. The only way to make money is to sell something yourself, get advertisers to sponsor you or get paid affiliate commissions. In the 6 months that I have been doing coloring book reviews I’ve made $21.00 from affiliate commissions. I don’t plan on retiring soon.
I had hoped that I could offset the cost of the books that I buy through affiliate commissions but this has not happened. An affiliate commission is when a provider, like Amazon pays a small commission when people buy a book through the link that you provide. On a $10 book this small commission is only about 30 cents 🙂 This does not affect anyone buying the book or the price of the book.
I have some ideas for other things that I could do to help offset the cost of the books but, as yet, these are only ideas. I’m not even sure that they are good ideas 🙂
Q. What are the costs involved in reviewing books?
A. This is an expensive hobby unless you accept all your coloring books as free submissions from artists or publisher review copies.
The costs involved for me, I can’t answer for anyone else reviewing, are various including:
Video costs – this involved buying lots and lots of equipment, like tripods, stands, camera, rigs and what not and trying to find the best solution. I still do not think after experimenting with a ton of different methods and products that I have the best solution, and will always be looking for something else. I’m scared to look at my receipts but this probably equates to about $400. This figure would have been higher but my hubby has done a lot of the building and creating stuff. When I say a lot of …I actually mean all 😉
Internet – the internet is so slow in Australia that uploading videos became a nightmare, especially large videos. I had to upgrade the internet plan which was an initial cost involving the ISP coming out and installing extra cables and stuff. I then had to add to the current plan making a monthly cost of $100 just for internet. I still think even with the highest service plan for home use, that the internet goes at a snails pace when I’m uploading 🙁
Website cost – domain name registration, website hosting, security and back up service. This equates to roughly $50 per month depending on the amount of data being used.
Computer costs – in order to free up the hard drive and store a local backup I added to my 2TB computer another 2TB (this is nearly full – video takes a chunk of storage space). This equates to about $130 every 6 months.
Stationery – keeping track of book releases, receipts etc – minimal expense, probably about $20.
Books – The cost of the books is the biggest ongoing cost. I keep receipts for all my purchases and file them neatly away. Quite frankly I’m scared to look at this file 🙂 Being in Australia, the cost of shipping and the delay in having anything sent is the biggest bug bear 🙁 I could buy so many coloring books without the high cost of postage! I suggested to hubby we move to the UK so I could get books faster …but he declined lol. We both have lived in the UK before …I’m keen but he’s not 🙂
Design costs – graphics etc, currently very little but I had always planned to change the design look at some stage. I would love to be super organised and have special graphics made for each occasions, Halloween etc but really that’s just not viable, at this stage. I do have a monthly subscription to Photoshop which is about $10 per month.
Currency Exchange – Not a cost, because fees are what they are, but something also to consider is currency exchange. The Australian dollar is currently quite low. When purchasing in Euro and USD there’s a significant difference in pricing. I quickly glance at my credit card and then look away when I see the conversion from USD to AUD ..it can be too scary sometimes. The only conversion I do like is when you are purchasing in Japanese Yen and the total says 9000 or something like that and it converts to $100AUD or so, I can live with that!
General Costs – associated with working from home, electricity, water etc.
Q What do you use to video?
A. I’ve tried many solutions and currently interchange between a cell phone and a Canon digital camera. I use a desktop tripod (no name brand) from Ebay. I’m not completely happy with the current set up and will continue to look at options. I use a Blue Yeti microphone with an adapter to connect to the phone occasionally. The adapter was also obtained from Ebay. My hubby is way more practical than me, and he is the one that works out the solutions for my problems, and sources the bits and pieces.
Q. Any coloring books you hate?
A. Yes. There was the dud coloring book. I hated it because it was not only shoddily put together but also breached copyright owned by well known and established artists. Making a quick buck off someone elses talent and hard work is never a good thing. I also have another coloring book that I absolutely hate. When I first purchased it the spine fell off on day one. I was then sent a replacement copy. Inside, the pictures are terrible, very poorly put together, using the same images over many different pages. You’ll never see it because I will never review it. I absolutely hate it. I also have a few others that I am not overly keen on. Often the reason for this is that I feel that the artist missed an opportunity to do something special by being too quick to market. I’m not going to say what books these are, because this is just my opinion, others may feel differently.
Q. how much time do you spend doing this?
A. Much more than what you would think. Although I am working part time, this actually takes more time than what I currently spend at work. My work hours were reduced a few months ago, so I guess that’s lucky 🙂
I’ll give you an idea of how I spend my time. I am not sure that I spend it wisely, but remember I’m not getting paid for this, so the “boss” is not suffering.
Sourcing new books – this can take hours, if not days. It involves going through upcoming new releases and catalogues and exploring. Making a judgment on whether you want a book based on no cover, or a cover and maybe a little description is very difficult. Obviously, there are some artists that the new releases will naturally be purchased because I’m already familiar with their work, but for others this can involve lots of exploring and finger crossing. Remember, like everyone I have a budget too (further limited by my reduced working hours) so I need to make careful buying decisions as well.
Delivery – When I have a book or when the postie delivers I usually upload a pic of that to Twitter which is where I post my coloring book deliveries.
Review – I then spend some time going through the book that I will review, getting a feel of what is inside, the theme of the book, whether it correlates with the title and the cover image expectations.
Process – Sometimes I write the review first. This generally takes 45 or more minutes to write the review but the bulk of the time is spent doing the “admin type bits” – formatting the review, finding the buy links for a number of countries, creating a featured image of the book cover, taking pictures from inside the book, exporting and editing images and uploading them.
If the author is new, I will also spend some time trying to find out a little bit about them. This could involve going through several resources and can often result in being empty handed. I’m ashamed to say that this can often take up to 3 hours, depending on distractions like messages, phone calls, postman!
Filming – I will then shoot the video. Sometimes I do this first, just depends on how I am organizing my time. The video goes for the duration of the review. I then need to export the video to my computer’s editing program. I then need to import it to the editing software. This can take minutes or 1/2 an hour depending on how big the video file is. This waiting time is incredibly boring so I will often write the review while I’m waiting for the video.
Editing – I will then edit the video. I really dislike video that has other sounds in it – screaming, car horns etc so I try and reduce that noise as much as possible. I live in the inner city, near a park and underneath a flight path. There’s going to be noise 🙂 I also have two little dogs that like to bark every now and then, so mummy edits them out 🙂
I then create a cover slide showing the book cover and add it to the video. The video is then rendered and downloaded. This can take 30-40 minutes depending on how big the file is. Then, it’s time to upload. Even with the upgrade in internet I still find the upload process incredibly slow. Often I’m inclined to upload overnight. Sometimes I have done this and the video hasn’t completely uploaded, so I have to start again. It is far better if I am awake for the upload process.
You Tube Admin – I then need to create the thumbnail for You tube and add all the description detail and links. This takes a lot more time than you would think 🙂
Publish – Finally, we can publish and go live! Yay!
Getting Social – After the video is published I then post the links to the review on my Pinterest, Twitter and FB accounts as well as in some FB groups. I have also started posting reviews to Goodreads. Some books do not have a record at Goodreads so sometimes, I spend the time, creating a record for the book there as well. I generally only do this for English publications. All up, not including any follow up or interaction, each review probably takes 2-3 hours. That doesn’t account for when things go wrong, audio goes missing, files won’t upload or get corrupted or there are internet outages 🙁
More Admin – Then there’s the admin side of things 🙂 I dislike admin intensely but it has to be done. There’s checking diary, checking up on orders that should have arrived but haven’t 🙁 Tracking refunds/returns (thankfully minimal). Then clearing data on my cell phone, camera and transferring it to an external drive, backing up the main drive. All mundane but it has to be done.
Websites come with work as well. Thankfully, this is usually only a few minutes and mainly consists of keeping things up to date and fixing links that have broken.
Back Up – Once the review has been published I move the folder containing the original video source, the uploaded video and all the images associated to my external hard drive. All of this moving stuff about does tend to slow the computer down a bit. This is often the opportunity that I get to have a cup of tea 🙂
Planning – I do spend at least an hour a week going through the books that I have planned for that week, working out the priority and sometimes juggling things if a new release arrives early. I like to have a mix of coloring books throughout the week so that there is something that may appeal to everyone.
Sometimes, I really want to do a theme week like “Fairy” week but then I worry that not everyone will like that, so I go back to mixing it up a bit. When I’m putting my list together, I like to ensure that the mix comprises different price ranges as well as different themes.
Filing – Finally, After I review a book, it goes on to a separate bookshelf so that I don’t accidentally review it again lol 🙂 However, in the past my hubby has “helped” me in my office organization by blending both piles together. Needless to say I was not happy, and I’m still discovering books that haven’t been reviewed as yet.
General – I also like to spend some time putting together other articles that are not reviews. These will usually sit in draft form for a while, while I tinker with them, when I have a chance. I would like to spend more time doing this, but it seems the day just disappears … In fact, I’ve been tinkering with this article for a week and it’s nearly midnight and I’m tinkering away …
When not publishing reviews, I am usually thinking about coloring in some way. It may be sourcing, articles, how to techniques or interacting with fellow coloring addicts on social media. I probably spend too much time on social media, but it is one of the few “social” things I do 🙂 I am not sure how long I spend of a night dreaming about coloring books but I know I go to bed often thinking of some beautiful coloring book cover that is enticing me…..
Q. Do publishers provide the books you giveaway?
A. No, I purchase them myself. I would happily accept them though if any publisher would like to offer? Hello?????
Q. What annoys you about reviewing coloring books?
Printing – Often there’s things that bug me like my Beatrix Potter book that had the duplication of images in it three times! Or my Trolls book that the pages fell out of when I finished photographing. Both times the sellers issued replacements, and in the case of Beatrix Potter a refund was issued. I understand that things happen in the printing process. It is just one of those things in life. My hubby used to be in the printing industry so maybe that’s why I feel a little empathy, but give me a book with an error in it three times and I’ll be reaching for the sweary books!
Time – The thing that annoys me the most about things like this is the time waste. I really value time. I have spent over 20 years in a corporate environment where I had to account for every 6 minutes of my time. I’m trained like Pavlov’s dog to value that time. Once time is gone you can’t get it back again. So the thing that bothers me the most is wasting my time. I have so little spare of it to start with, and so much I want to do with it, that I hate wasting any of it.
Rudeness -The other thing that annoys me is people trying to force me to review their book. I often politely decline to review a book and then have the artist/representative email me insisting, or even demanding that I review their book, or allow them to advertise on my site. I really do not understand why anyone would do that, as you would catch far more bees with honey. Again, I don’t work for anyone I’m free to choose who I review and who I don’t. Being pushy instantly puts you in the don’t column.
Bright Shiny Object Syndrome – Something that saddens me, but doesn’t annoy me, about coloring is our willingness to only focus on what’s new. Often we can get so caught up in new releases that no-one is willing to look at the beautiful books that were released last year, or the year before. They are still filled with gorgeous art, mostly and some of them are completely undiscovered. Of course, I’m guilty of jumping on the new release bandwagon as well, but I feel that’s my role here. I also do consciously try to find artists that are unknown, or have great books and not enough publicity.
Q. What do you look for in a coloring book?
A. Something original, appealing, colorable, good value – There are more things but that will probably be a separate post on its own as it is too big for this one.
Q. Do you color in all your books?
A. No. I have a few books that I like to color in. There are others that I have set aside for when I feel more confident about my coloring. There are some that I probably will not color because although I like the imagery, they are too detailed for my old eyes 🙂
Q. Favorite medium to color with?
A. I love pencils and they are my favorite thing to use. However, I have an old wrist injury that makes it painful to color with pencils for a long period of time. For this reason, I often use inktense pencils or markers (tombow are my favorites).
Q. Will you buy (insert name) and review it.
A. I’m always happy to hear your ideas for coloring books that you would like to see reviewed. The best way to do that is to open a discussion on my Facebook page so everyone has an opportunity to voice an opinion. However, with the amount of coloring books being released, it is not possible for me to buy them all with my budget. If it is a good fit, and I think that a lot of other people will enjoy it, then I will certainly consider it.
Q. I’ve just created my first coloring book. Will you review my book, it is coming out next week?
A. No, I am not accepting submissions from independent artists in 2016. In 2017 I will update the site to allow people to request a review but it is a request. I only will be reviewing books/artists that I personally like or that I think subscribers will like. Not every book will fit this criteria and, as I do not work for anyone, I’m free to decide what I will review and what I will not. I apologize if this sounds harsh, but I’m still reeling from some very demanding review requests – despite my site clearly stating I’m not accepting books for review grrr.
If I agree to review a book there is always a delay in the review being published, as I always have plenty of books to review. When you consider the amount of time that I put into doing a review, I need to be certain that it is something that I want to do initially. If I do not think it is a good fit, then I’m not going to review the book.
I always like to support independent artists and that may be in other formats, eg interviews, contests and the like.
Q. I see that you have reviewed my book will you post your review to Amazon?
A. No. I am also an author and it is against Amazon TOS for me to do this.
Q. Will you host video color alongs?
A. No. I color like an enthusiastic, color blind toddler. There are far greater talents on You Tube that you can watch 🙂 I do have a number of Pinterest boards set up for coloring books with completed pictures that you may find inspiring.
Q. Whats going to happen in the next 6 month
Health – The thing that I want to happen the most in the next 6 months is for my health to improve. I still don’t feel tip top so that is going to be my main focus. Changing my routine, spending more time with my little dogs and walking them each day, being conscious of dietary factors and avoiding stress are all things that are top priority for me going forward. In the next 6 months. I also want to make sure that my time is spent well and balanced with other things in life including looking after myself, my pets and my hubby. I have previously worked in the corporate world with no work/life balance and grew to hate my career because of that. I want to make sure that I’m careful with balancing what I do here, so it is always a fun thing for me to do that makes me happy.
Productivity – I also want to improve my time and productivity. I have very little time in my day after I fulfill any obligations that I have, so I want to make sure that the time I devote to coloring and this blog is used wisely. I am going to make sure that I am more efficient so I can spend time doing other things, not just reviews.I have a lot of things on my ever growing “to do” list that I would like to achieve. I would love to start crossing some of these things off.
Coloring – I would really love to be good at coloring. My current skill level is toddler grade. I haven’t had as much time to color as I would like to due to being sick, and the backlog of books that appeared while I was sick, which I’m slowly trying to clear. I would really like to focus on and learn some techniques and improve the skills, limited as they are, that I currently have. I truly believe it’s okay to just color and have fun, but there’s a part of me that would like to improve what I do.
I’m going to update this in 6 months and see what has changed.
Happy coloring x