Today, an author does not need a publisher, necessarily. It is entirely possible to publish your own creative work through a number of free publishing options. It may even be a better way to get your work widely read and/or performed, and can be more lucrative than traditional publishing. But free publishing is not without work.
A web site is the easiest and most readily available way to be your own free publisher. A number of Web hosts offer free publishing capabilities: Wordpress.com, Typepad.com, Yahoo, and Google are just a few examples. Using free online publishing tools that these companies provide, you can create a written and illustrated narrative publication, publish digital art, and make digital forms of music available for download or streamed play. That's publishing, and it's free.
Book publishing free options include electronic books. One simple free book publishing option is the PDF (Portable Document Format) created by Adobe Corp. A PDF document preserves formatting exactly the way it is laid out, and gives the creator the option to protect the file against copying and re-distribution. While the Adobe Acrobat software suite costs several hundred dollars, there are alternatives out there which are free or just a fraction of Adobe's price. The Foxit PDF Suite is one example.
There are other e-book free publishing software packages that compile books in various proprietary formats. The problem is that they require the user to download proprietary reader software of an executable file containing both the document and the reader software. Many users are reluctant to download executable files for fear of viruses and other forms of malware, and that fear is often justified.
Of course, simply making your work available online doesn't mean people can find it or will be willing to pay for it. A lot of free online publishing work involves getting a work indexed and highly ranked by search engines such as Google and Bing; this is an art known as "search engine optimization" or SEO. Collecting money for one's work is also important; a shopping cart and credit card merchant account are handy for this.
Several free publishers will let you post your PDF file or other digital work on their sites, index them for SEO, provide previews of your work to shoppers, and handle the collection of payments that you set. Scribd.com is one such service used by many authors. It collects a small percentage of your sales as they are made.