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Self-published works are those in which the author and publisher are the same. There are many bestsellers that are or were self-published works, like The Joy of Cooking, including some all-time bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey. As such, self-published works are acceptable in Wikipedia so long as certain conditions are met.
There are three questions to consider about a possible source:
Any combination of these three traits can produce a source that is usable for some purpose in a Wikipedia article. Identifying these characteristics will help you determine how you can use these sources.
This page deals only with the first question: identifying and correctly using self-published sources.
Identifying a self-published source is usually straightforward. You need two pieces of information:
If the answers to these questions are the same, then the work is self-published. If they are different, then the work is not self-published.
In determining whether a source is self-published, you should not consider any other factors. Neither the subject material, nor the size of the entity, nor whether the source is printed on paper or available electronically, nor whether the author is a famous expert, makes any difference.
Be careful in identifying the publishers of books. In some cases, authors will create a trade name so that it will look like a separate entity has published their works. If the author directly controls the decision to publish the books, then those books are still self-published. Self-published books may be printed by a vanity press or a publisher that prints books by only that author.
If the author works for a company, and the publisher is the employer, and the author's job is to produce the work (e.g., sales materials or a corporate website), then the author and publisher are the same.
Self-published sources can be primary, secondary, or tertiary sources.
A personal blog is always a self-published source. Here are examples of how different postings on the same blog could be classified:
Self-published sources can be independent sources or non-independent sources.
Anyone can self-publish information regardless of whether s/he is truly knowledgeable about the topic in question. For that reason, self-published works are largely not acceptable to use as sources, though there are exceptions.
Self-published material is characterized by the lack of reviewers who are independent of the author (those without a conflict of interest) validating the reliability of contents.
Some self-published works are sometimes acceptable as sources, so self-publication is not, and should not be, a bit of jargon used by Wikipedians to automatically dismiss a source as "bad" or "unreliable" or "unusable". While many self-published sources happen to be unreliable, the mere fact that it is self-published does not prove this. A self-published source can be independent, authoritative, high-quality, accurate, fact-checked, and expert-approved.
Self-published sources can be reliable, and they can be used (except for claims about living people). Sometimes, a self-published source is even the best possible source, such as when you are supporting a direct quotation. In such cases, the original document is the best source because the original document will be free of any errors or misquotations introduced by subsequent sources.
Properly published sources are not always "good" or "reliable" or "usable", either. Being properly published does not mean that the source is independent, authoritative, high-quality, accurate, fact-checked, expert-approved, or subject to editorial control. Properly published sources can be unreliable, biased, and self-serving.
According to our content guideline on identifying reliable sources, a reliable source has the following characteristics:
A self-published source can have all of these qualities except for the second one.
Self-published sources are largely not acceptable on Wikipedia, though there are exceptions. And even though a self-published source might be acceptable, a non-self-published source is usually preferred, if available. Examples of acceptable sourcing of self-published works:
Self-published sources may not be used for any claims about living people, except for claims made by the author about himself or herself.
Never use self-published sources as sources about any living people, except for claims by the author about himself or herself. This holds even if the third-party author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer.
Acceptable: The website for a company to support claims about itself or its employees.
Acceptable: The self-published autobiography to support claims about the author.
Unacceptable: Someone's personal blog about his neighbor, business partner, or friend.
Self-published and questionable sources may be used as sources of information about themselves, usually in articles about themselves or their activities, without the requirement in the case of self-published sources that they be published experts in the field, so long as:
Self-published sources are never useful for demonstrating the notability of any subject.
An unpublished source is any source that has not been made available to the public in some form. Examples include:
Unpublished sources may not be used in any article. There are no exceptions to this rule.