SWET 2018 Member Survey Report

Report by Winifred A. Bird

This February, as SWET approaches its 38th anniversary, we conducted an online member survey to get a better sense of your interests, your relationship with the organization, and your hopes for its future. Seventy-nine of you filled it out, a response rate of about 50 percent. A summary of the results follows. To view the full results, you may use this link to view or download the PDF file.

All About You

As you likely already know, SWET is a diverse and far-flung group of wordsmiths. We received responses from San Francisco, Doha, Melbourne, and throughout Japan (although the largest number were from the Tokyo area). While our membership skews toward an interest in translating (63% of respondents), a hefty portion of us are writers (43%) and/or editors (35%). We also have several members with an interest in publishing, design, or illustrated writing.

The SWET Connection

There are many reasons to join SWET, but the opportunity to meet other members tops the list: almost half of you said you signed up to enjoy our community. Wanting to support SWET, make use of the resources on the members-only website, or gain a professional advantage followed, with about a third of members selecting each answer. Several of you also mentioned wanting to network, access the newsletters, or find job information.

Once you’re here, you stay informed mostly through the website (62%) and bulletins (64%). A smaller portion use the listserve, SWET-L (29%), or the Facebook page (21%), while just 6% tweet your way to SWET connectivity.

     As for what you’ve gained from the organization, people power once again ranked number one. Many of you wrote about the value you have found in one another, whether through networking, making friends, meeting clients, finding inspiration and encouragement, or connecting with members who can take on jobs when you’re overloaded. “The sense of being part of an international wordsmith community means so much,” one member wrote, nicely summing up the general sentiment. Others mentioned benefiting from workshops and events, getting tips on how to do your job better, finding speaking opportunities, or benefiting from the SWET Style Sheet.

     There’s still room for improvement, however. Quite a few of you said you’d like more ways to participate beyond the Tokyo area, either through events in other parts of Japan (especially Kansai), more frequent write-ups of events, or remote (online) access to events. Beyond that, the wish-list was eclectic, ranging from a more active job page to a forum for sharing job opportunities we can’t take on ourselves. You also mentioned a number of specific topics you’d like more information on (translation technology and the business of writing, for example). The steering committee will be thinking about how to address some of these requests, but if there’s anything you’re particularly passionate about, we highly encourage you to take get in touch and take the lead in spearheading an initiative!

Your Event Wish List

Talks by nonfiction writers and workshops on the craft of writing got the most votes for writing events you’d like to attend in the future. Workshops on the business of writing ranked third, followed by talks by fiction writers.  You also made some good suggestions of your own, including a flash fiction workshop, a talk on how to write queries (preferably with one or more of the editors on the receiving end of such queries present), and lectures on issues outside our fields that we should nonetheless be aware of.

     In the translation field, your top choice was talks by editors at translation publishing houses, followed by talks by nonfiction translators, talks by fiction translators and craft workshops (tied for third place), and finally, workshops on the business of translation. Among your other suggestions were a workshop on translating Noh and Kabuki shishō, a series of Q-and-A sessions with experienced translators at which participants could both ask questions and hear stories about the speaker’s career, and a “show-and-tell” type gathering where members could showcase recent work.  

     In the editing field, you were interested in talks by book or magazine editors, as well as craft workshops. Workshops on the business of editing came in a distant third. You also requested workshops on techniques for self-editing and online workshops on the craft of editing.

     Sixty-three percent of you would like these events to take place in Tokyo, while 26% would prefer events in the Kansai region. Just over half said you might participate remotely if a means for doing so were available, such as video conference, live streaming, or recordings posted on the website. We’ll need to think about ways to implement this type of system without violating the privacy some speakers and members prefer, and also without imposing an undue burden on the organizers.   

     Thank you to those who offered to volunteer their time to help out with events or website maintenance. The more of us get involved, the more of these great ideas we can implement!