Marquis Who's Who, a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc., is the American publisher of a number of directories containing short biographies of influential persons. The books are usually titled Who's Who in... followed by some subject, such as Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and so on. Marquis Who's Who books are often found in the reference section of local libraries, at corporate libraries, and are also used for research by universities.
Who's Who in America, its flagship publication, is a registered trademark of News Communications, Inc. The New York Times referred to the 60th edition of Who's Who in America as "a librarian's Vanity Fair".
Marquis states in the Preface that Who's Who in America, "endeavors to profile the leaders of American society; those men and women who are influencing their nation's development".
Entries in Marquis Who's Who books list career and personal data for each biographee, including birth date and place, names of parents and family members, education, writings and creative works, civic activities, awards, political affiliation, religion, and addresses. The content is also now provided online to libraries and other paid subscribers.
Marquis offers some features associated with the vanity press business models, such as selling merchandise to persons selected as biographees, although this is not a criterion and there is never a charge for being listed, nor are aggressive sales tactics used. At the same time, many people think that Marquis Who's Who publications are among the most objective and selective listings.
Founded in 1899 by Albert Nelson Marquis (pronounced /ˈmɑrkwɨs/), the first edition of the publication contained concise biographies of more than 8,500 "distinguished Americans." Albert Marquis wrote that the book's objective was to "chronicle the lives of individuals whose achievements and contributions to society make them subjects of widespread reference interest and inquiry. "
Today, the company publishes over a dozen different series and offers an online database with information on 1.4 million individuals; Who's Who in America contains over 100,000 entries. In 2008, the company launched a second Web site (Who's Who in America) profiling the lives and careers of America's most noteworthy men and women.
Formerly owned by Reed Publishing, Marquis is now a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc., which also owns National Register Publishing and The Hill.
In March 2008, Marquis launched an online gallery version of Who's Who in American Art, searchable by artist name and media.
Marquis Who's Who states that selection of individuals for listing in its publications "is based on reference value. Individuals become eligible for listing by virtue of their positions and/or noteworthy achievements that have proved to be of significant value to society. An individual's desire to be listed is not sufficient reason for inclusion. Similarly, wealth or social position are not criteria. Purchase of the book is never a factor in the selection of biographees".
Some insight into the selection process can be obtained from William L Hamilton's article entitled "Who Are You? Why Are You Here?" that appeared in the New York Times in 2005. He writes about new owners acquiring Marquis in 2003, "an editorial team of 70, including 12 researchers, make the call on who's notable and who's not", a book sales based business model- "A total of 25,000 copies have been sold for shipment for 2006."
Tucker Carlson, in an article entitled "The Hall of Lame" that appeared in Forbes Magazine in 1999, wrote that the selection process is neither rigorous nor meaningful, and self nominators and thousands of people not particularly notable are included, such as bowling coaches and landscape architects. Carlson also writes that Marquis makes money selling addresses to direct mail marketers.
Marquis calls its selection criteria "stringent" and says that biographical data on candidates for listing are reviewed by its editors to confirm that its requirements are met. Once selected, a biographical draft is sent to biographees for prepublication checking. In cases where notable individuals decline to submit biographical data, Marquis compiles information itself.