As some of you know, I fancy myself a “Writer” who dabbles in fiction but also keeps his or her, sorry, Proper Writer Ettiquette sneaking in, MY eyes on more literary fiction, just in case I write a short story in which no crimes occur, no swords are swung, and nobody disappears into a quantum universe. Market research, don’t cha know?
In fact, I work for a living. Well, I write software documentation, and it’s true you can put an analogy on the SAT that says Work:Technical Writing::Play: and make the correct answer b.) Napping. I spend 40 hours a week, 49 weeks a year, turning the great Corporate Millstone. Oh, and I vote Republican. So I’m not exactly a typical Speakeasy subscriber.
So I was ever so pleased to read my May/June 2003 “Speak Out! Voicing Dissent: A Special Section On Writing and Politics” issue. Not only does it amuse me to read the prognostications and pre-emptive outrage for the coming war with Iraq that these sorts of magazines provide (read any Harper’s from the winter and spring for fun), but it included the Speakeasy Reader Survey.
I have such a blast shattering stereotypes of typical readership that I had to respond:
|How do you get Speakeasy?
|| X I subscribe|
_ At the newstand or bookstore
_ Borrow from a friend
_ At the dentist’s or doctor’s office
_ I’m a Loft member
|How do you read Speakeasy?
|| _ From cover to cover|
_ I’ll finish reasing most of the issue before the next arrives
X I might read a few articles that catch my eye
|What do you do with your copy of Speakeasy?
|| _ So far, I have been saving them|
_ I pass it on to ____ (this # of) friends
X It goes out with the recycling
|| _ A writer|
_ A reader
X A writer who reads
_ A reader who writes
|If you consider yourself a writer, what do you like to write?
||Genre fiction, essays, user’s guides|
|Where do you write (in a café, at home, in the garage…)?
||In a home office|
|Has your work been published?
|| X Yes|
|As a reader or writer, what do you value most in Speakeasy? Why do you read Speakeasy?
||I enjoy the brief, lightweight musings.|
|Which of the following actions has Speakeasy inspired?|
[I assumed they meant in me]
| _ I bought a book reviewed or advertised in the magazine|
_ I developed a colossal case of writer’s block
_ I read more by a consulting author
_ I brought a Speakeasy theme into my writing or discussion
|What types of books do you like to read (poetry, mysteries, fiction, cookbooks…)?
||Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction|
|Where do you typically get your books?
|| _ Library|
_ Borrow from friends
|Where do you purchase most of your books?
|| _ Chain Bookstores|
_ Independent, local bookstores
_ The Internet
X Garage Sales
|How many books (of all types) did you buy last year?
|| _ Less than 5 [sic]|
_ 5 to 9
_ 10 to 14
_ 15 to 19
X 20 or more
|What else do you like to shop for?
|| _ Clothes – I’m a fashion maven|
_ Music – I love (circle):
Rock and roll
_ Furniture, housewares – my home is my castle
_ Anything, but only on the Internet
_ The parking lots? The crowds? I’d rather read
_ Other __________________
|Where do you buy most of your food?
|| X Supermarket|
_ Farmer’s market
_ Health food or specialty store
_ Other ____________________
|What is the ideal beverage to accompany your reading or writing?
|| _ Hot cocoa|
_ Orange juice
_ A good martini or two
_ Other _____________
|While writing or reading, do you like listening to music?
|| X Yes|
|What kind of music?
|What other magazines do you read regularly?
|| _ Poets & Writers|
_ The Sun
_ The New Yorker
_ Bon Appetit
_ Rolling Stone
The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Family Handyman, Handy, St. Louis Homes, Intercom, Technical
Communicator, America’s 1st Freedom, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Spin, Esquire, FHM,
Writer’s Digest, The Writer
[I had to include an attachment to list these, which represent only my current active
|In the last year, how many times did you attend the following cultural events?
||Live music? _1_|
Live theater? _0_
Art gallery or museum? _1_
Publication reading? _0_
Spoken word event? _0_
Book group? _0_
Writers’ group? _0_
Environmental group? _0_
Political forum? _0_
Political demonstration? _0_
[Heck, I didn’t even go to that many hockey games this year.]
|Have you ever written a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine?
|| _ Yes|
[Of course, my current favorite magazine is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
You don’t write too many responsive letters of outrage to genre digest magazines. It has, however,
rejected my short fiction submissions.]
|What kind of television do you watch?
|| _ Only the news|
_ Cooking shows – as many as possible
_ I indulge in the occasional sitcom or dram–a good story is a good story
X TV? I never touch the stuff, give me books!
[Apparently, this question refers to what type of television content you watch, not
what kind of television upon which you watch it. We use a 25″ Sharp.]
|What is your favorite literary moment involving a car?
[Who can name any literary moment involving a car?]
|What kind of car do you imagine yourself driving?
|| _ Honda sedan|
_ BMW convertible
_ Hybrid vehicle
X Vintage muscle car
_ Why drive? I own a bicycle
[I doubt by “hybrid vehicle” they mean like a
DUKW, but that would be a cool vehicle to
have. Of course, by “Vintage Muscle Car, I mean a 1984 Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0 liter
|What kind of car do you actually drive?
||GMC Sonoma pick-up|
|What’s your favorite travel activity?
|| _ Theme parks|
X Activity? I prefer to lie on the beach [or sit in a coffeeshop] with a book
|Where have you traveled in the past year?
|| X The continental United States|
_ Alaska, Hawaii, or the Caribbean
_ Central or Latin America
_ Other ____
[Nobody tell Tim Blair that
Australia doesn’t get its own check box, the same as Antarctica.]
|How do you make travel plans?
|| _ I’ve had the same travel agent for years|
X Internet, Internet, Internet
_ Plans? I point wes (east, south, north) and drive
[Better answer for me: Say “Okay” to
|| X M|
|| X High school|
_ Technical school
X Some college
X Undergraduate degree
_ Advanced degree
[An undergraduate degree in philosophy leads one to recognize that an undergraduate degree
or an advanced degree would require some college as a prerequisite.]
|| _ Professional|
_ Business owner
_ Educator or academic
X Writer, artist, or other creative field
[I wanted to check “academic,” too, since no one really reads the friendly manuals so my
job is largely academic, but I doubt that’s what they meant.]
|| _ 1 adult|
X 2+ adults _0_ Number of children
|Annual household income
|| _ Up to $30K|
_ $30K to $40K
_ $40K to $50K
_ $50K to $75K
_ $75K to $100K
_ $100K to $250K
_ More than $250K
[It says check one, but what do you do if you make $30K a year? There are two check boxes!
Note that I have not filled this out for you, dear readers, because as my maternal grandfather, Grampa
Naperschevski, used to say, “Do not reveal sensitive financial information on the Internet.”]
|City of residence
|State of residence
I’ve subscribed to slicks every since I was a lonely conservative voice in Writing Intensive English program at college, when I spent twenty bucks on Harper’s instead of, well, textbooks. I hope that my answers to surveys like these remind the editors that a variety of viewpoints consume their material, and to remember that pick-up driving people in the reddest part of the red states can be thoughtful, inquisitive, and appreciative of good prose.
But it’s too easy for me to think that if the magazines do notice the low numbers who responded atypically don’t matter, or were merely shining them on.