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At Writer’s Relief we’re committed to informing our clients and our free newsletter Submit Write Now! readers of publishing industry trickery when we see it. Below you’ll find an article that discusses the possible pitfalls of “who’s who” organizations that target writers. There are many “who’s who” organizations—organizations that claim to be the definitive list of professionals in a given industry. Some are legit, some are not, and some are just questionable. In this article we refer to all such organizations as “who’s who” directories, since many of these companies use the term “who’s who” to describe themselves. Writer’s Relief is not referring to a specific company. So before you add a “who’s who” credit to your bio in your cover and query letters, be sure that you are not being sucked into a money-making scheme.
A letter arrives, informing you that you are being considered for inclusion in a prestigious directory for writers, professionals, and executives. This is a reference publication containing brief biographical information on a particular group of people, supposedly people of note, and as a writer, you are thrilled to be included among the nation’s top professionals. What an honor! Just think of the networking possibilities! You can’t wait to add your who’s who credit to your cover or query letter, since you’re sure it will impress literary agents and editors. The letter encourages you to fill out the enclosed application and turn it in—with special emphasis on this line: There is no cost to be included in this fabulous directory.
Well, that’s all you need to hear, so you fill out the online form and sit back, feeling good. A few weeks later you receive a congratulatory phone call from this esteemed directory, and the caller has quite a few questions for you, which you confidently answer. After this lengthy interview, you are feeling rather important and validated. Finally, your talent as a writer has been recognized.
Once you’re feeling good about being included in a who’s who listing, that’s often when you’ll be hit with the hard sell.
If you’ve felt this way when a who’s who company got in touch with you, don’t feel bad. Writers have to deal with rejection on a daily basis, and sometimes our need for validation can lead to costly mistakes. At some point, the lure of a who’s who or a shady contest tempts everyone. Writers must be careful not to fall prey to such pitfalls.
No, there is no cost to be included in this directory. There is, however, increasing pressure to purchase a membership so that you and your friends and family can access the directory. See your name in print. Peruse the competition. Plus, for a mere thousand bucks, you’ll get fabulous travel vouchers, gift certificates, even a nice award certificate to put up on your wall. Some who’s who directories even (gasp!) send you a personalized press release announcing this great honor.
When you fall over half-dead from shock at being asked to pay so much money, the friendly salesperson relents and decides to offer you a super special deal—the same price offered to nonprofit charities and libraries—but this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer, and you’d better sign up quickly. How can you refuse?
How can you not?
The sales tactics of who’s who directories can be downright aggressive. Aside from the “prestige” of being listed in their directory—and you’re likely to find prisoners and people who have been deceased for quite some time among this prestigious group—the focus of the sales pitch is often the promise of social-networking opportunities. But in this age of online social-networking sites, do you really need a thousand-dollar directory? Especially when its listings are randomly solicited? You’re more likely to make a useful connection through LinkedIn or Facebook, and the best part is that they’re free.
Many who’s who directories are not legitimate credits to add to your publishing bio; they work the same way as many poetry contest schemes. If you list a who’s who credit that literary agents and editors do not recognize as legitimate, you’ll peg yourself as an amateur and a dupe. When a who’s who organization calls you and asks for your money, do your research before you commit to anything. Then, if necessary, head for the hills. Ask that your name be taken off of their list.
One final note: There are legitimate who’s who directories out there—one of the most respected is the Marquis Who’s Who, an organization that actually researches its candidates (rather than randomly harvesting names from the Internet) and only includes those deserving of inclusion. Marquis doesn’t care if its members actually purchase the directory, and there are no high-pressure sales calls. Who’s who directories that are NOT illegitimate can be a great asset to your writing bio. We at Writer’s Relief watch for such schemes and keep our clients from mistakenly listing dubious credits in their cover and query letters.
QUESTION: Have you ever been approached by a fishy Who’s Who?