So there’s this book out called “The Field Guide to Chicks of the United States.” It was written by a dude named Joe Bovino (Joe Beef?) and it’s a how-to-tell-them-apart/how-to-nab/what-to-expect/what-the-ladies-expect guide to the all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow range of women that exist in the USA. People love it; people hate it.
TSJ talks to the author about his “research methods.”
The Smoking Jacket: How does one go about discerning the various species of American Chicks? How often did you say to a woman, “Wanna be research for my book?” How often were they flattered? How often were they pissed?
I didn’t ask women about themselves per se. I focused on the bigger picture – subculture.
So, for example, if I knew or met a Colombian American woman who I wanted to interview, I’d tell her that I was writing a book about different subcultures of American women and ask if she’d like to help me and other clueless gringos to understand what was most distinctive, special, and interesting about Colombian American girls. I’d make it clear that I was asking about Colombian American girls, not Colombian girls.
Then I’d follow the outline of my book, looking for content to fill each section of the species profile. What are the best physical clues to spot a Colombian American girl on the street? How could we distinguish a Colombian American girl from other Latin American girls? What kind of guys do Colombian American girls tend to go for and why? Where do they hang out? You get the idea.
Seven or eight out of ten women were glad to have an opportunity to talk about the subculture(s) that they identified with the most – ethnic, regional, or otherwise – as long as it was clear that I wasn’t trying to pick them up and was only asking general questions, not personal ones. Some were flattered; some were intrigued; some just liked to talk about themselves; and some just wanted to help me get it right.
Honestly, women rarely got pissed during the research process if I was sincerely interested in what they had to say, and I was. The ones who wouldn’t help me usually declined by saying they weren’t comfortable opening up to a stranger (who writes books about women) or worried that I’d misquote them or say something about them personally that they didn’t agree with. Others were just too busy to bother.
TSJ: Some of these chicks, like, say, the “Nice Auss,” or “Bootlelicious” seem like they’ve been observed up close. True?
True. But most of the “up close” observations occurred prior to writing the book or incidentally along the way. Really. I learned quickly that it was best to separate my social and work life, as much as I could.
This was important for a couple reasons.
First, if a girl thought I was dating her for research purposes or that she might end up as a story in my book, I was fighting an uphill battle. I’d cringe every time I was on a date, told the girl about my book, and then heard her say “So, I’m not just research for your book, am I?” No matter how I responded, she’d be suspicious, and I had to work harder. After that happened a few too many times, I started making sure that every girl I dated knew about my book before the first date and knew it had nothing to do with her. It didn’t totally solve the problem, but it helped to avoid surprises.
Second, women on a date will rarely give you the straight scoop about their subculture or themselves. We all tend to send out our best representative on the first few dates, right? They’d only share the good stuff, and that wasn’t helpful. I needed women who were willing to tell the truth – good, bad, ugly, and funny – and that meant I had to rely on friends, acquaintances and strangers, not dates.
TSJ: You go to great lengths thanking every woman in your family at the beginning of your book. Have you found expressing love for the women in your family helps get you laid?
I used two short paragraphs on the dedication page of my book to thank my parents, two sisters, and departed grandmother, all of whom I love very much and without whom I’d never have finished. That page is one of the few serious ones in the book and has nothing to do with getting laid. It is what it is. If I had any brothers, I would have mentioned them too.
Having said all that, if expressing love for the women in my family helps me get laid, I’m all for it.
TSJ: Were you concerned about not being able to classify all women? Are all women classifiable?
I wasn’t concerned about whether I could classify all American women. And I wasn’t concerned about political correctness because I knew the book would suck if I was. I was concerned about whether I could write a great book that many men and women would read and enjoy. That’s it.
I knew that I couldn’t identify ALL regional, ethnic, and other subcultures of American women. I also decided not to include any chick profile in the book if I didn’t think (a) it was funny; (b) it was generally true, based on the information I had; and (c) the illustration was great. That meant that some chick profiles didn’t make the cut – and a few barely made it.
But that’s okay with me and most folks who’ve read my book so far. I didn’t set out to write a comprehensive, scholarly classification of American women. I set out to write a humor book – a funny but clever guide to different subcultures of American women that are present in significant numbers within the US under each ethnic, regional, or other group.
“I was concerned about whether I could write a great book that many men and women would read and enjoy.”
I also point out in the book that many American women identify with more than one subculture. I encourage chickspotters of both sexes to cross-reference between species profiles when this happens and not worry about misidentification. Birdspotters don’t have to deal with this “multi-species” complexity with birds – or at least I don’t think so – but that’s all part of the challenge and fun. This is chickspotting, not a bombing mission over ‘Nam.
By the way, if you identify with a distinctive American subculture that’s not covered in the book, as you say, I’d love to hear about it and see if I can include it in the next edition. Same goes for other fun-loving gals who don’t find themselves in the book, or guys who see something missing. We’re actually launching a new website in a few weeks at www.chickspotting.com that’ll be designed to solicit as much of this information as possible. The more interactive and collaborative the process becomes, the better – and funnier – it’ll be.
We’ve got a Chickspotting app on the way too. It’s ready to go as soon as Apple approves it.
TSJ: What about men? Using these identifying factors, how would you qualify yourself?
Women have been asking me to write a “Field Guide to Men of the United States” for a few years now, and I’m sure it’ll happen eventually. It’s already in the works, actually, but there’s so much to do. I’m gonna to need a lot of help from my female friends with the interviews and other research, which – for obvious reasons – isn’t as appealing to me. We’ll see.
As for me personally, I’d say I identify most with the male version of three regional subcultures: Jersey Score (Jersey), Peace of Ass (Los Angeles), and Buckhead Betty (Preppy South). I’m a Jersey boy who went to college at the University of Virginia and then moved out to LA for grad school and work. When you move around like that over an extended period of time, you tend to pick up a lot of the regional subculture, but I’m a Jersey boy at heart.
TSJ: How did you get the illustrations made? What do you love about them? Do you think the book would work as well without them?
I hired two illustrators from Europe – Carsten Mell and DarlinDesign. They did a wonderful job.
Field guide to birds rely heavily on illustrations and/or photographs of each bird. So there was no question that I needed one or the other for my book to work. Photos would have been easier and allowed me to finish at least a year earlier, as it turned out, but photos of hot chicks are so common. You can see them in any magazine, newsstand, or online, all day long. And illustrations would give me more flexibility to create the look and feel I really wanted.
“Photos of hot chicks are so common.”
If all of the chicks looked alike or were doing similar things, it would defeat the idea of the book as a field guide to different types of chicks. Authors of bird guides don’t have to worry about this because the birds all look a little different, but I had to be careful that the illustrations didn’t start looking the same or otherwise get boring. They had to be as physically distinctive as the girls, and as funny as I could make them.
I also had to figure out how raw or cartoonish the illustrations should be. I discovered after some trial and error that women generally didn’t like illustrations that were too realistic – some were outright offended – and men didn’t like them if they were too cartoonish. So we tried to find a middle ground that kept everybody happy.
Now that the book is done, I’m very interested in bringing the chicks to life with photos and events. That’s what the new website will be about – actual American chick sightings (photos) from the field, discussions about them, and identifying new species. I won’t be satisfied until women are spotting themselves and their friends and having fun with it. It can’t just be a guy thing. I also hope to hold events and contests offline and am working with our publicist on that now.
TSJ: How did you decide on categories of behavior?
I don’t remember exactly how I decided on the five traits included in every chick profile, but some of them – like friendliness and neuroticism – started to look like good choices after I read this article in the Wall Street Journal.
Then I just asked myself and others which behavioral traits matter most to single guys. I also considered the results of the research and interviews at that point and tried to figure out where it was leading me.
TSJ: What have reactions to your book been like?
Several months before the book was available, I mistakenly allowed a publicist to send out poorly written blurb about the book and me to some of her contacts without reviewing and editing it first. Several online journalists and bloggers – who hadn’t read any part of the book because it wasn’t even available – took the liberty of slamming the blurb (as if I wrote it), my book, and me. They didn’t treat it like a humor book. They took the whole thing seriously, which lead to some dreadful initial reviews that are still hanging around. (How someone can write a book review of a book they haven’t read yet escapes me, but they did).
A few months later, things started looking up. I received promotional copies of the book and started sending them out to buyers at a number of prominent retail stores and bookstores. Within a few weeks, I started receiving letter and emails saying they loved the book and wanted to sell it. My favorite letter came from a representative of Barnes & Noble because I’ve always loved that store, but I also struck retail partnership deals with Spencer Gifts and smaller boutique stores like Kitson (in LA) and Misura (in Vegas), among others.
Then, on September 27, 2012, we officially launched the paperback book on Amazon. It shot to #1 on their “Movers and Shakers” list that day. And, just as importantly, the customer reviews have been wonderful so far, and they’re coming from all kinds of folks – men, women, straight, gay – who’ve actually read it, as you can see here.
Now, we’re ready to launch the eBook on Amazon, Nook, and iTunes at a low holiday price, which should significantly expand readership. There will be more critics, but that’s okay as long as they actually read the book. You can’t please everybody. But I hope to please – and amuse – a lot more folks before I’m done. Even if they’re totally not in my book…