SHOP THOUGHTS | Adventures In Publishing … Your Own Thing


By Hannah Harlow

My business partner (and brother) Sam and I both have experience as writers, marketers, and editors.  We know good writing exists out there that struggles to find a home, particularly when the audience for that writing is small (or “small” as defined for most publishers, anyway, which are looking to sell thousands and thousands of copies).  That’s why early on in this bookstore endeavour, we discussed publishing books with a local interest.  

Actually, we started discussing this many years ago, before the Book Shop, or any book shop, was a glimmer in our eyes.

We published the second book under our Industry Books imprint just a couple of weeks ago, Seaside Towns of the North Shore of Massachusetts: A Coastal Coloring Book.  For local denizens who want to share or exalt in the communities we love so much, and for the tourists who become enthralled upon visiting, this coloring book is meant to celebrate the North Shore through engagement: putting colored pencil to page, bringing natural beauty to life.

Honestly, being involved in every part of the publishing process — from idea to sale at the register — is pretty thrilling.  When I worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, dozens and dozens of people were involved in the execution of each book.  I touched just a small part of it.  But when you run a micro-publisher, things are a little different.

In 2020, we approached Ipswich-based artist Ingrid Moller Potenza about the project.  She came to the store periodically to sell us her greeting cards, which featured art we adored.  When we learned Ingrid was game, we sat down with her to map out the towns we wanted to feature in the book — in alphabetical order, they include: Beverly and Beverly Farms, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Newburyport, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Wenham — and then the locations within each town that would work on the page.

Because we wanted the coloring book to bridge a wide age range, the art needed to be detailed enough to engage adults, but not so overly detailed as to scare off younger readers.  For example, we considered including Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, but ultimately found it difficult to include enough detail so as to be obvious that it was Singing Beach, and not some other random beach in Massachusetts, and interesting enough to color — huge swaths of sea and sand do not lend themselves to engaging coloring pages, unfortunately.  And so we opted instead to feature Tuck’s Point, with its distinctive rotunda.

We accompanied each page with text about that particular landmark’s history and significance, which I wrote and Sam edited.  We hired a designer for page layout and worked with him on gritty details like fonts and where the page numbers should go.  We worked with the printer on paper weight and binding types.

Add in the creation of the profit and loss statement, drafting the contract — let’s just say we learned a lot along the way, gaining tons of new insights about the business we’ve made our livelihood.

Interested to see the final result?  You can, of course, find the book for sale in the Book Shop, but we’re delighted that others are also spreading the love of the North Shore: Look for Seaside Towns at The Bookstore of Gloucester, Copper Dog Books, Willow Rest, and Muzio’s — with more spots to come!

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of what she recommends reading at

hannah harlow, ingrid moller potenza