Who’s Who
The first edition of Who’s Who got published in 1849. Then a compact, 250-page volume (less than one-tenth of the size of the 2017 edition) comprised an almanac followed by thirty-five lists of military ranks and appointments and the names of those holding them.
Fast forward to the epic ‘20-80s. Who’s Who had become the “go to” reference (yellow-pages telephone book) of important people. Author? Scientist? Artist? There was no choice. You had to be listed in the Who’s Who. Why? An entry made a normal person into a “celebrated” person, and the publication stood as proof. To cement your standing, you would update the profile annually with your latest accomplishments, projects, and certifications.
Of course, at the beginning of the book, there was a fee and all kinds of expensive options, such as photographs, graphics, and premiere placement. Plus, you needed a copy of this “industry standard” to see yourself. And to do “research” on the other people in your given field (see how your profile compares to others). My father was a talented ceramics author in the ’70-80s and paid dearly to have his entry in the Who’s Who.
Well, what happened? The myth was that everybody (of importance) would have a copy and use it to look up critical facts about the industry leaders. However, this was a fantasy, and people eventually realized the “reference” was useless. Let’s use my father as an example. Would a ceramic artist buy this expensive reference book, look up my father’s name and then buy his books? That was certainly the sales pitch.
No, they would go to the library. And what would people do at the library? They would research the available books and either check them out, request them, or go to a bookstore.
There is a more fundamental problem. Who cares?! The Who’s Who of ceramics lists all the ceramic artists, sculptors, teachers, authors, and amateurs. Dredging through the alphabetical list takes a long time to gain limited knowledge.
And what about this “knowledge?” Were the entries fact-checked? Of course not! The entries only built ego.
By the late ‘80s, the public had caught on, and these books were no longer popular. In America, the major publishers of these directories were Vanity and Uniondale, who ceased publishing Who’s Who in 2017.
An upcoming author like myself does not need to waste money on such a useless publication. Yet, I see a few hands raised among my blog readers. Why are you writing about this? The company is gone. Right?
When I graduated high school in 1988, every student got onto a mailing list (the school districts got a kickback for providing a list of their graduates). One of these companies published the “Who’s Who of the class of 1988.” Wow, what an honor. For only $$$, I could be in Who’s Who?! Then everybody would know me! Think of the doors that would open. At least, that is what the try-fold brochure claimed.
Of course, I did not pay for an entry because I asked my father about it. Side note. I knew kids that paid for an entry. But wait, there’s more! When I graduated from college, another letter arrived. Yes, I could be in the exclusive club of people in the Who’s Who of Electrical Engineers graduating in 1993!
That was long ago, and I still see a few raised hands. Why now? Three months ago, my daughter took her pre-SAT test, and they sold her name to EVERYONE. Did you know she was pre-qualified to submit her (paid) application to every university? Did you know they nominated her for an AWARD?! It’s true. She can claim her “Congress of Future Medical Leaders Award of Excellence.” Wow, I am so proud and see my blog readers clapping. But I cannot take all the credit; my daughter can open mail too.
To claim the award, she (accompanied by an adult) will fly to Miami, stay at the Marriot hotel, and pay for the banquet, where she will receive her award. Plus, a transaction and booking fee. My daughter immediately saw through the ruse, but she put the award up on the refrigerator as a joke.
But then, it happened. My daughter got another letter. Guess who? That’s right; she can be in the “Who’s Who of the class of 2024!” What an honor.
This got me thinking about why I write. I do not write for fame or fortune. I write to share my stories. However, some people write for fame. But what if your books are less than popular? You can pay for fame, and Who’s Who is a path to glory. “Bill Conrad, a celebrated author featured in Who’s Who.”
I suppose it is cool to see yourself in print, and I recall looking myself up in the phone book. “Everybody else can look up my name and get my phone number. How cool!” Now, it is super easy to “Google” yourself. Perhaps my blog readers could Google my books and buy one or two? Maybe then I can have enough money to pay for my daughter to be in the Who’s Who of the class of 2024!

You’re the best -Bill
March 23, 2023
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