Relay: Color Me Obsessed

First-time authors are allowed to obsess

I became an author in 2015. For those who weren’t around when I was tooting my horn: I became an author of a coloring book for grown-ups. Because it was totally my illustrations — my book didn’t have any words — it was easy for it to be “translated” into foreign editions. A Russian edition (Hello, Mr. Putin?), a Portuguese edition (Hello, Brazil), a Polish edition, and a Czech edition. (Yes, I have them all.)

The Russian publisher changed the cover completely, not to mention using the Russian alphabet. On the other editions my title, “Color Me Cluttered,” appeared to be crazy mash-ups of letters and accent marks. What did they really call my book, how did they word the subhead, and what did they say in the promotional copy on the selling page on Amazon? What were the Brazilians expecting when they bought my book? Or the Russians? 

First-time authors are allowed to obsess. I read that somewhere. What author wouldn’t want to find out how accurate the translation of their subhead is? My book’s subhead is “A Coloring Book to Transform Everyday Chaos Into Art.” Not an easy concept to translate, right?

Getting a look at the promotional text for the Russian book on Amazon proved to be problematic. (It has since disappeared.) Mr. Putin, do you color in coloring books?  

The title of the Polish edition translates to “Color Your Mess,” subhead: “Coloring book for adults from the inside” (“Pokoloruj swoj balagan — kolo­rowanka dla doroslych od srodka,” for those who like to do their own translating). 

In Portuguese the book is “Casa Em Cores” (“Color House”). Part of the Portuguese sales pitch on Amazon says: “Arrumar pode ser terapeutico, mas colorir e muito mais. Um sossego que funciona tanto para arrumadinhos quanto bagunceiros. E so adicionar cores.” Which, in Google-translated English, becomes: “Tidying up can be therapeutic, but coloring and more. A quiet place that works for both neat and rowdy. And only add colors.”

Rowdy? Gotta love the Brazilians. 

Energized by the first book, last year I illustrated a second one. This one had words in the drawings. No doubt daunting to translate, there were no foreign sales. Both “Color Me Cluttered” and the new “Color Your Happy Home” received good reviews on Amazon and people began to post colored pages from each of the books along with their comments. 

I became a bit obsessed by my reviews. You published folk out there might know what I mean: For a while I checked the reviews every day. On Amazon you can comment on a review, and I always write thank-you notes to reviewers. And yes, you can post a review of your own book (I gave myself five stars!). 

Then there is the mini thrill of typing just my first name into a search on Amazon and popping up at the top of books attached to my name and similar, the point being that of all the Durells who might have written a book, I was at the top of that list. And of course, since I looked every day, Amazon figured the coloring books were very popular. 

For months I enjoyed being the first listing. How exclusive. How cool. I got a smack-down when PBS broadcast that lovely series called “The Durrells in Corfu.” All of a sudden, there was a flurry of interest in that literary family. (No matter that they had two Rs, and I only have one; Amazon was willing to allow for a typo.) And thus, with the focus on those Durrells (Lawrence and Gerald and the rest), I fell from first in line to fourth on the Amazon search for Durells. I moved below “The Corfu Trilogy” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” 

My incipient narcissism erupted with this affront to my position. However, on consideration I have to admit in that context I am in excellent company. Onomatologically or even alphabetically speaking we are all sort of namesakes. I enjoy being vaguely associated with them. They were a zany family, after all. I wonder what they might think of hanging out with a couple of coloring books for company. I rather think the young Durrells might have enjoyed my books. I surely have enjoyed theirs. We are all a bit rowdy, no? 


Durell Godfrey is a contributing photographer for The Star.