I am currently writing a book that I want to self-publish, so that I can keep the rights to it to write sequels for it later on. How do I self-publish for free and make it popular?
If you work with a legitimate POD (print on demand) or e-Publisher, there are potentially no up-front costs. Amazon's CreateSpace and Lulu were the two major players in this area last time I researched the topic (nearly a decade ago). However, this requires you to do all the book design, copy-editing, manuscript-preparation, promotions, sales, distribution and so forth. This can end up being quite expensive to farm out, or end up being visibly amateurish if you do it yourself.
Popularity is an often unpredictable combination of book quality, and effective salemanship/promotion, which can be especially difficult with a self-published book. As a veteran of self-publishing, I always advise people not to do it UNLESS they are very good at sales and promotions, and prepared to sell every single copy of their book personally.
Your best bet might be to publish solely electronically, and put a lot of time and effort into promoting your book. This has worked very effectively for some authors, although generally only when the book is well-targeted to a specific and interested niche audience.
I wont reiterate what others have already said about popularity, but I would suggest looking for your niche audience and marketing to those interested in reading similar books to your own.
When it comes to publishing, there are many options for low-cost/free self-publishing options not just E-Books, but also physical books. While Amazon has various options within its ecosystem to assist, such as a cover designer and CreateSpace for POD (Print On Demand), I've also listed a few options I've used to publish my own pieces.
https://www.draft2digital.com/ - Draft2Digital is a distributor that will publish your ebooks to various marketplaces for a small percentage of the royalties. What I like about this site over others is that it will include the back matter of your book (e.g. Teaser, Author Bio, Other Books By page, etc...) and it has universal links to act as a sort of portal for people to find their favorite marketplaces (This is a universal link for a short story of mine if you'd like to see first hand how the page looks https://books2read.com/RevivalPrologue).
https://prowritingaid.com/ - Pro Writing Aid is editing software which points out problem areas in your manuscript such as grammar & spelling, sentence length, overused words/adjectives, readability and tons of other things that otherwise you would need a second set of eyes to see. Now, this site WILL NOT outright replace a human editor/beta readers, but it is a good starting point and will cut out some of the cost when it comes to copy editing and proofreading.
https://www.canva.com/ - This is a great site with stock images (Can be used alongside sites like https://pixabay.com/ & https://unsplash.com/) and design layouts to create free or low-cost covers that still look awesome and like some effort went into them.
https://reedsy.com/ - I haven't used this site outside of its blog as of yet, but I will be using it in when the time comes to look for the editor of my next manuscript. Reedsy is an awesome website which helps authors and publishers connect with industry professionals who provide quality services such as editing, cover design and marketing for self-publishing authors in one place, with a range of prices to suit their needs. They also have a decent blog with tips for writing and publishing, one of which is about the cost of self-publishing, which you may find helpful - https://blog.reedsy.com/cost-to-self-publish-a-book/
All in all I would suggest doing more research into traditional publishing through small presses, the pros & cons self-publishing, and low-cost/free marketing options before jumping into publishing a book. I completely understand wanting to keep the rights to your work, this is the main reason why I've chosen to independently publish, but it's not as simple as it seems at first glance. If you're looking for more resources, there are great communities of authors on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Reddit putting up tons of resources for those who want to self-publish and improve their craft without spending and arm and a leg doing so. All you have to do is google around a bit and if you're ever stuck, Stack Exchange and Reddit are great places to ask for help.
Hope this helps and happy writing.
-- Trynda E. Adair
You really can't get a free lunch. If there were a way, it would be overwhelmed by any novice writer capable of Googling, and quickly become useless.
That said: The people that do this "for free" are called agents. They actually work on commission, the standard is 15% but IMO can range to 35% and remain within the realm of "ethical" if they are taking on a first time author (there is so much more work to do to get a sale).
Another option is to self-publish on ITunes, they will also charge you fees and commissions, but I have read of authors doing quite well there, developing a following of many thousands.
Any other place you imagine selling for free, you can't. If you have some kind of following, a local bookstore might let you set up a folding table to sell your book, they like the traffic and novelty. But you will pay them something, a few dollars per book sold. If you don't sell any books, or sound like a carnival barker, or they get any customer complaints, they will tell you it isn't working out. The manager may want to read your book before he decides (my end-of-block neighbor manages a large bookstore); if your writing seems unprofessional to him, he will turn you down. If you try to charge him for a copy or get a deposit, things he has experienced, he will refuse immediately --- Obviously you don't realize he would be doing YOU more of a favor than you would be doing HIM.
And finally you aren't going to find places to sell your book without paying some hefty commissions; bookstores are struggling and have to earn money, so they pay much less than the sales price and (almost) always get very liberal rights of return, including full refunds, for any non-selling books you place with them.
Off the top of my head another option (which will cost you tens of dollars a month) is to create your own website, and offer free chapters with an option to buy. I don't know if that works; I have heard of it being done.
If it is only greed driving you to self-publish, I'd suggest letting it go and concentrate on writing well enough to get an agent. If you are aiming to self-publish because no agent will represent you (without an upfront fee, and stay away from those guys), let go of of writing instead.
Createspace is a subsidiary of amazon. They publish independent authors. You only have to pay if you want professional editing or a custom ISBN. They do direct print paper backs, which means they print books on demand when they receive a order (you can buy your own book at whole sale price). Another option is Kindle Direct Publishing with amazon. They also have a paperback option with kdp (you can not buy your book at wholesale with KDP print), it's still in the early stages. Just keep in mind you will have to either pay a graphic designer to do your cover or do it yourself. A cover can make or break book sales, because sadly books are judged by their covers. Also marketing is all up to you.