How to publish a niche book?

I am an editing consultant for someone who has written a book-length manuscript proposing a water quality monitoring program for a specific locality. Now, obviously, such a book is not going to have wide consumer appeal – it’s not going to be New York Times Bestseller material, or displayed in the foyer of Barnes and Noble. It is more suitable for government/regulatory, nonprofit, or academic readerships. The problem is that he has twice asked me to submit it to vanity publishers. I respect what he is trying to accomplish, and i don’t want him spending excessive amounts of money ineffectively. Accordingly, my most recent communication to him was to recommend some better self-publishing outfits if that’s the way he wants to go, but I would like to advise him better than that. I don’t know much about this myself, other than to steer clear of vanity publishers. Have any of you brought such a niche work to fruition?

I could benefit from advice on this sort of thing myself, too, because I am working on some writing of my own that will face similar problems.


I’ve published in academia, which has similar niche issues, but has a group of libraries who are reliable customers and hence subsidize printing runs. I’m not sure your client has that and hence doesn’t get much economy of scale.

Like you, I respect what he is trying to accomplish – but maybe the easiest thing is to self-distribute his work as a PDF or ebook, or to self-publish using a print-on-demand company to produce hardcopies as needed. (My grandfather did the latter with his memoires, and we descendants are glad to have it.)


Here you can publish online in ridero, there should be an analogue site where you live.


The best choice for self-publishing is Kindle Direct. It’s owned by Amazon, which has its own problems, but it has about the best options for distribution online, it’s SUPER easy to use, you can publish both paperbacks and ebooks of the same title, and if you want to order paperbacks for gifting or resale the wholesale cost for the author is very reasonable. The only downside is that it’s really hard to get KD books into actual bookstores, but if you do get a shop interested you can decide what your wholesale price is going to be and then the shop pays you. If you don’t have enough books in hand, you can just have an order shipped directly from KD to the shop. Feel free to message me on iNat if you have further questions :)


I’ve used the print-on-demand publisher to “publish” three books. I have no idea if it’s any better or worse than other print-on-demand services, it’s the one I picked 15 years ago and I’ve never had a problem with them. It’s very easy to use, you just pick a format (paperback, hardback, spiral-bound) and size, upload a pdf of the contents and cover photos, and set the price. Then anyone who wants to buy one can go there and order it, and they get it in a few days. If you ignore their extra add-ons (like editing and marketing services), there are no up-front costs (which is what separates it from a vanity press). The cost of the books is reasonable, too; I sell a 300-page, spiral-bound statistics textbook for $18 US, and I make a couple of dollars in profit. Here’s the link if you want to see what a book looks like to a potential buyer.

An author I read uses this platform. I’ve no experience with it personally, though.

I don’t know much about them , but another similar option is
I’ve gotten some books on microscopy from an author that used blurb and they are of good quality.

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Agreed, I like the PDF option which can be posted online, easily shared, and printed if a user needs a hard copy.

I agree to check out Kindle Direct, or Amazon Self Publishing in general. Someone recently gave me a book they made with their family history and stories. I was astounded and asked about it, and he said that it costs about as much as a greeting card, so he gives them away. I checked into it, and sure enough, it is extremely reasonable to self-publish a physical book on demand

Here is a calculator.

I haven’t tried it, but it looks like you can list a 300-page paperback for $7.99. If you just want to buy a batch and distribute yourself, you can do that, and you make $.34 back in royalties. If all you want to do is publish something to shop around in small quantities, or send links for people to purchase, you can’t really argue with that. Again, the premise isn’t that the writing is for direct income generation, just information distribution in a physical medium. This doesn’t come with any marketing or distribution engine that you may get from a traditional publishing house. This bypasses any vanity publishing middleman and gets a book in your hands for a reasonable price. If you have other motivations or goals, evaluate the tool accordingly.

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I actually knew about Lulu. I “published” with them too, long ago, but I knew (and know) nothing about marketing and promotion, so I haven’t made any sales. That’s not really a problem with the publisher, though. I think I will advise him to go this route.

Another option may be They seem to have fees associated with it but there must be open academic publishing opportunities.

I remember doing some stuff with Lulu but not recently so I just had a look. It seems their service somewhat imploded over the pandemic. From what I can gather, they changed their website in early 2020, ran into technical issues plus I assume challenges getting things fixed due to the pandemic on top of that, and changed customer service to an automated response system. Their rating on BBB currently sits at 1.47 out of 5 with lots of complaints - ouch. I’m not sure where they are on the recovery curve from this. So I’m somewhat hesitant to recommend them at the moment.

Sorry I accidentally flagged your comment an there’s no way to unflag it for me.