• John Lim

MF 257 : Finding a niche and a theme for your coloring book

Updated: Jun 23

We kick off a new mini-series on creating an adult coloring book. In this episode, I cover how to find a niche and pick a theme for your book. More at www.bemovingforward.com.


Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.


Part 1: Kicking off a new mini-series

This month, we’ll be looking at creating an adult coloring book. My story with coloring books started when I was four and ended at around age six. I had a long gap afterward until 2016. I had conversations with two people who separately told me they were going to create an adult coloring book. One of them even asked me for advice. I had no idea this was a thing!


I did some research and found that so-called “adult coloring books” were all the rage and are still very popular today. Many use them for relaxation and stress relief, and some even use them as themes for parties and get-togethers. I further learned that therapists recommend them to their patients. Next, I went and browsed both online and at a few stores and discovered hundreds if not thousands of different coloring books aimed at adults. Clearly, this was not just for kids.


I got into a conversation with two of my friends about coloring books and we thought, why not create one? The next question that came up is what should it be about? If you look at the adult coloring book landscape, you’ll see that there are many themes and niches.


This took us into a longer conversation about common experiences. While I’m no longer a corporate drone, I was one for over a decade while one of my friends is an executive at a major financial institution, and our mutual friend now works as a government contractor. The one commonality we all had was that we hear (or heard, in my case) office clichés all day. Back in my corporate days, I used to hear sayings like “all hands on deck,” “take it offline,” and “synergy” at meetings and conference calls.


We shared our favorite and least favorite ones, laughing at how absurd most of these sound. That’s when it hit us. This would make a great adult coloring book – take these tired slogans and create literal translations with illustrations showcasing how dumb they are. I did some more research and went down the rabbit hole of corporate clichés. I found articles in business publications with top 10 or 20 lists of clichés that need to be “retired” or are most “annoying to hear.” It wasn’t just us three. It seemed that the majority of working people hated hearing these in the workplace.


I next did a targeted searched on Amazon and to my surprise, no one had done a coloring book of corporate jargon. We had a niche and a theme that would resonate with anyone who ever held an office job.


We spent six months working on this and on December 1, 2016, we launched the Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book. To our pleasant surprise, it sold really well, especially around the holidays as an office “Secret Santa” or “white elephant gift.” We even advertised it as a such on Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn.


So, strap yourself in and get your creative on. This month, we’ll be looking at creating an adult coloring book. Oh, and don’t worry if you can’t draw. I can’t either.


Part 2: Picking a niche and a theme for your coloring book

Let’s begin with the first step.


  1. Finding a niche and theme: With corporate clichés, we hit on a specific niche – people who work in offices. The theme was humor – poking fun at clichés. With those two combined, we created a product that spoke to a specific target market that hadn’t been addressed – people working in offices.

  2. Brainstorm ideas, themes, and topics: Look at your industry or job. Is there a niche that hasn’t been put into coloring book form yet?

  3. Theme: Generally, coloring books are thought provoking, relaxing, or humorous. Ideally, you want to create something that’s all three. However, you should at least aim for one. For Corporate Cliches, we went with humor as we wanted to show the absurdity of the clichés through literal illustrations. Think about what kind of theme you want to convey. This will ultimately impact the design aesthetic, title, and brand messaging.


Homework: Start the ideation stage. From there, narrow down a niche and theme. Do some market research and see if anyone has created a book on your topic or theme but don’t shy away from it if one or several already exist. Take that as a sign that you’ve hit on a popular topic. But do think about how to differentiate your book from what’s already out there.


Part 3: What I’m reading

The Overstory by Richard Powers (**): A book about humanity’s connection to trees as told in several storylines and characters that exist within the same world. I learned about this book six months ago and was intrigued by the premise. It’s very popular and I was on the waiting list at the library for over four months, so was excited to read it. Unfortunately, I found it long, largely dull, overly preachy. Most of the stories and characters didn’t resonate, save for one fantastic storyline about an Indian-American computer programmer. Whenever the book picked up on his story, I was captivated. I think a better and more compelling book could have been created solely around him.


Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile.

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  1. The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.

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