In this day and age, you don't need a publishing house to publish a book. Self-publishing is possible and happening. There are several popular web serials (including, but not limited to, fan fiction). Do works have to be professionally published to count as literature, and if so, what counts as "professional"?

Relevant comments:

  1. How would you distinguish fan-fiction from any other literature without professional publishing? Clarifying the defition a little might help answering the question (or resolve it altogether).
  2. @muru Fanfic no. As brilliant as fic can be (which can easily eclipse formally published work), we're discussing formally published work. I would lean more towards "adaptations" and pastiches like Clueless and Emma because a novelization is, to me, a prose treatment of a script. - I'm assuming that "formal" is equivalent to "professional" here.

2 Answers 2


Solzhenitsin's The Gulag Archipelago was samizdat (self-published).

I think that conclusively proves the answer to be "no".

  • 1
    Ah, so that's what samizdat means. I first saw it in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and then got another experience of Baader-Meinhof.
    – muru
    Jan 19, 2017 at 17:07


The literature definition already goes beyond just being "professionally" published, else everything ever "professionally" published would be on-topic. So the same standard of differentiating "professionally" published non-literature from "professionally" published literature should be applied.

  • 2
    While agree with "no", I disagree with the next line - all x are y does not mean all y are also x.
    – muru
    Jan 19, 2017 at 15:51
  • @muru And if all y are not also x, then why?
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 15:53
  • Then why what? O.o
    – muru
    Jan 19, 2017 at 15:53
  • @muru Just quite literally, what I typed: Why can it be that all y are not also x? The only explanation I can see is that there is some form of criteria being applied separate them, so this criteria be applied elsewhere.
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 15:56
  • For the simple reason that y can be things not x - for example, a professionally published photograph is not literature.
    – muru
    Jan 19, 2017 at 15:58
  • @muru Why is it not literature?
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 16:00
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Paul
    Jan 19, 2017 at 16:15
  • 2
    I agree that your wording in a bit confusing, maybe reword it a bit to make it clearer?
    – DForck42
    Jan 19, 2017 at 16:38

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