How I got my books (and art) published

In recent years many people have asked me, "How did you get a coloring book deal? How can I find a publisher?” 

There are many different paths that can lead to a publishing deal, so every artist/author has a unique story to tell. I’m happy to share my story with you, and hope you’ll find it informative in some way! 

Above: Surrounded by a bunch of my published coloring books

This blog post is going to be somewhat long because so far I’ve worked with 3 different publishers: Andrews McMeel for my calendars, F+W Media for my art instruction books, and Fox Chapel Publishing for my coloring books. In this blog post I’ll describe what led each of these publishers to contact me. 

I’ll start by saying that I never set out to become a published artist/author - it just happened as the opportunities came to me. In order to tell the story of how I got published, I have to take you back several years, well before the thought of publishing had even crossed my mind. Without realizing it, the choices I made back then - almost ten years ago - started laying the foundation for publishers to contact me with proposals.

Online Art Lessons

Art-making has always been a fun and therapeutic process for me, and back in the late 2000s I realized I wanted to share that joy with others. In 2009, I started an art instruction website (www.art-is-fun.com) to share everything I knew about making art - such as colored pencil tips, photorealism tutorials and pastel demos.

Above: Sample steps from my lesson on "How to draw a mandala"

One of the lessons that really struck a chord with my site visitors was “How to draw a mandala”, which to this date has received over 1.5 million pageviews! Not long after I posted the lesson, I began receiving messages from people who appreciated the instructions, but still didn’t feel confident enough to draw their own mandalas. Thus, in 2010 the idea to create printable mandalas was born!

Printable Coloring Pages

I decided to offer the mandalas as a downloadable e-book that people could print at home. This was several years before the coloring trend hit so in many ways I was fumbling in the dark, figuring out the process of how to create the e-book, and wondering whether anyone would actually buy it! I finished the coloring book in 2011 and offered it for sale on my websites and on Etsy. To my delight and surprise, the concept was such a success that I created 5 more printable coloring e-books over the coming years. 

Above: Three of the downloadable coloring e-books that I created before I got my coloring book publishing deal

F+W Media

2011 was a big year for me, because in addition to self-publishing my first e-book, it was also the year that I was contacted by a publisher for the first time! The Editorial Director for F+W Media's North Light fine art and IMPACT Books submitted a message via the contact form on my website. She said that she had been following my work for awhile and loved what I had created with my Art is Fun website. She felt that my drawing style would be a perfect fit for a new art instruction series they were working on aimed at kids. I was already familiar with F+W because they publish high-quality art instruction books that I often saw in bookstores, craft stores and libraries, so I excitedly said yes! After we exchanged a few emails, it took another 9 months before they actually sent over a contract. I worked on the book, Draw Groovy, for just over a year and it was published in January 2014.

Above: My first book, Draw Groovy, published by IMPACT Books (an imprint of F+W Media)

Andrews McMeel

Just as I began working on Draw Groovy in the spring of 2012, I was contacted by the Licensing Manager at Andrews McMeel Publishing. They were interested in publishing a Day of the Dead calendar based on my sugar skull art. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity so I enthusiastically said yes! I asked how they had come across my art and learned that the Design Director had admired my art for awhile and had purchased an iPod case with one of my skulls from Zazzle. She had brought my art to the Acquisitions Committee, they liked it, and the rest is history! I’ve been creating a Sugar Skulls Calendar every year since (6 so far) and will continue to do so as long as they keep asking me!

 My very first Sugar Skulls Calendar, spotted at the Whole Foods in Kailua, Hawaii

Above: My very first Sugar Skulls Calendar, spotted at Whole Foods in Kailua, Hawaii

Fox Chapel Publishing

One day in March 2014 I received an email from the Peg Couch, who at that time was the Editorial Director at Fox Chapel Publishing. She had been searching the Internet for a coloring book artist, and back then, there weren't tons of artists creating art specifically for coloring like there are now. At that time I was just about to self-publish my 6th coloring e-book, Groovy Animals. Peg spotted my promo images for Groovy Animals on Pinterest, which led her to my website. She liked what she saw, so she reached out via my website's contact form to see if I'd be interested in publishing some coloring books with her company. You bet I was! It seemed like the logical next step. Sales of my digital coloring pages were very strong and although my buyers appreciated that they were in PDF format so that they could print and color from anywhere in the world, I was often asked if they were available as actual physical coloring books, so Peg's timing was perfect! 

We had a brief introductory phone chat during which she told me more about Fox Chapel Publishing and explained some of their previous titles and successes. I was happy to hear that they had a strong relationship with craft stores like Michaels, JoAnn and AC Moore so the opportunity sounded very promising. Peg asked me to submit four ideas for coloring book themes. I had so many ideas running around in my head that I wound up sending her nine ideas, and to my surprise, Peg quickly replied that they wanted to contract me for all nine! We exchanged a flurry of emails to hash out the details, and within days we had a signed contract for a series of nine books. And that was the start of my coloring book journey!

Above: Some of the coloring books I created with Fox Chapel Publishing

Summary

So in a nutshell, that’s how I got started with my publishers. They all reached out to me after seeing my art online, which goes to show how beneficial it is for artists to have a strong online presence through their websites and social media. Working with these publishers has been a wonderful experience that has taken my work in new directions and exposed my art to a wider audience.

Sometimes people ask me for tips about submitting their work to publishers, but since I don’t have any experience with that, I’m afraid I can’t offer much help. But if you have any other questions about publishing feel free to ask in the comments below (and please note that I don’t answer those types of questions via private email - I prefer to handle Q+As publicly so others can also benefit from my responses). 

Thanks for reading! Take care & see you soon!