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Does the drinking culture in book publishing affect your career?

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.

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6 Responses to Does the drinking culture in book publishing affect your career?

  1. peter 23/06/2014 at 09:58 #

    I’ve worked in publishing for over 10 years now – 5 of those as a drinker and the remainder as a non-drinker. I found the first Christmas as a non-drinker difficult, especially since I was one of the carousers and was usually the last (or one of the last) out of the pub. In the first year of non-drinking the smell of familiarity of the wine was difficult to deal with and I did make excuses that I was on meds so I couldn’t drink. That sort of got me by. Several colleagues were shocked that I’d given up on the booze but they were understanding and made it a little easier for me (I’d been with the company for a bit of time by then) so the transition wasn’t that bad.

    I think the ‘culture’ of drinking is less now – I’ve moved around a few publishing companies now and it does seem a lot less than it used to be – or certainly in the editorial side of things. I’ve had one or two comments about not drinking but usually make a joke of it and that works fine.

    I guess it depends how you play the non-drinking card – like with everything there are people that can be heavy-handed about the issue and also those that just play it less seriously. I hope that I’m on the latter side. My non-drinking is a personal (non-religiously based) choice and I’m not trying to convert anyone. If people ask me in more detail why then I’ll maybe tell them, maybe not – usually though it doesn’t come up. Personally I do still miss those publishing lunches a little but then I’m just as productive (or not) as the next person.

  2. anonymous 24/06/2014 at 15:54 #

    I have worked in publishing for 6 years, and for the last couple of years have been cutting down a lot. Now I’m on medication and can’t drink, but I am still made to feel that I am being OTT, neurotic, etc about saying I don’t want to drink despite the meds. When the drink comes out at the end of the day and I say no, I usually have to explain to several people again and again why I’m not drinking which makes me uncomfortable. I wish people wouldn’t see drinking as the only recognisable way to socialise in publishing (but, arguably, I do think that the same hard-drinking attitude exists in other industries, not just publishing). I like the odd glass of wine, I just don’t need to drink each and every day, and unfortunately most of my colleagues do and I am made to feel odd for not drinking. I once even said I didn’t like drinking that much (as in, I can live without it) and was told I was really strange and how could I live like that? When I mentioned that I thought it was strange that they needed to judge me, I was told I was being prickly. It does frustrate me and is one of the reasons why I’d like to leave publishing (though as I said above, which industry doesn’t have some sort of hard drinking culture). I’m so worried about what people think of me, I don’t even want to put my real name here.

  3. Sebastian 25/06/2014 at 15:50 #

    I would say the UK in general has a heavy drinking culture. Not simply the publishing industry.

  4. Suzanne Collier 26/06/2014 at 09:02 #

    I’m sorry to hear that are having issues with your employer and you wish to leave publishing. If you’d like to have a free confidential quick chat about your situation please contact me using this form and I will be in touch with suggested times/dates.

  5. Suzanne Collier 26/06/2014 at 09:05 #

    That is interesting. Other industries though don’t seem to have some of the same diversity issues that book publishing has. Would you say that the drinking culture does or doesn’t affect diversity?

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