Does the drinking culture in book publishing affect your career?

Jun 17, 2014

Whether you like it or not, there is a drinking culture in book publishing.  You cannot go to a publishing event without the compulsory glass of warm white wine being served.  Quite a few of us on twitter talk about ending the day with ‘a large gin and tonic’ and I’ve worked for numerous companies where it was custom at the end of the day – or on completion of a successful project – to go to the pub or celebrate with alcohol in the office.  Both London and the Frankfurt Book Fairs are drink-fuelled events, where often the best deals are concluded in the bar, or at a boozy dinner.

The days of the traditional alcohol-led publishing lunch may be all but over, but you cannot deny that when you work in book publishing, there are numerous opportunities to drink alcohol throughout your career.

But what if you don’t drink, either for religious reasons, health reasons or personal choice, where does that leave you?

I’ve been to several publishing parties over the past few months where the welcoming drinks were restricted to white or red wine.  When my guest asked for water they were looked upon disdainfully.

If you are someone who doesn’t drink, and work at an office where the working day often ends with an alcoholic beverage, do you feel excluded because of it? Does it affect your career path because you are not seen as ‘one of the team’?

Perhaps you’re someone who wishes to cut back on drinking but finds it impossible to do so because of the drinking culture around you. When you’ve tried to say no, has your boss still pushed a drink into your hand saying ‘go on…just the one’? Or maybe, even worse, you’ve made a clear decision not to drink but someone has slipped Vodka into your orange juice to help you ‘lighten up’.

Is one of the factors holding book publishing back in the equality and diversity stakes the fact that those who don’t drink for religious reasons find themselves unable to pursue particular careers?  Would you employ a publicity assistant or publicist who refused to be at an event where alcohol was being served, or agreed to attend but refused to hand out drinks or help clear up glasses afterwards?

Alcohol has always been a part of book publishing. I’m not asking that it stop; only that we are more accommodating  and considerate towards those that don’t drink, rather than exclude them.

Are you a non-drinker in a book publishing career? Has alcohol affected your career choices? Or are you someone that drinks who finds it difficult to relate to those that don’t? The drinking culture in book publishing is the elephant in the room. Maybe it’s time to have an open discussion about it.