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On Book Publishing’s Drinking Culture

6 December 2017

From The Literary Hub:

‘Tis the season to be jolly. In publishing it’s that time of year when holiday parties are in abundance. If it’s not a mingle here, there’s a gala there and an office happy hour right before the next literary magazine party begins. It’s that time of year when it’s easy to see the same faces two or three or four times a week and everyone around you is drinking alcohol. Or it can feel like everyone is drinking alcohol. Some evenings, you are also a part of the scene and you are also drinking alcohol.

Come to think of it, the holiday season is the same as the rest of the year in publishing as there are always events going on in New York City, always parties to attend, always book fairs to prepare for or festivals to organize. It’s part of what keeps the industry buzzing, and it’s part of the job to participate in some capacity. At each evening event it’s a given that alcohol will be on offer. It will be served cheaply or, most often, freely. The non-alcoholic beverages will include sparkling water, sometimes also orange juice. The non-alcoholic beverages often come with a frown, a question (What’s with the water?  Are you ok? Are you pregnant?) or a personal statement from whoever is standing next to you (Yeah, I really shouldn’t be drinking either but, you know, it’s been a long week).

I started working in publishing straight after university, which means I was still growing up as I was starting my professional career. Early on and at previous jobs there were times when it felt like I was drinking more with my colleagues or bosses than with my friends. It seemed crucial for the career I was told I could have and the lines sometimes got blurred because I thought these people were also my friends. Time and experience (some of which included awkward and even terrible incidents) helped me see the difference. But the drinking in publishing has remained.

. . . .

The Bookseller recently published the results of a survey on sexual harassment in the trade industry and among the many disturbing findings they also wrote that “well over half of respondents (59 percent) said that the social aspect of the industry often puts employees in vulnerable situations, and many respondents suggested a check on the industry’s drinking culture and steps to protect more junior members of staff at such events.”

. . . .

It’s been almost ten years since I started in publishing and the drinking culture feels as prevalent as it did when I first started. This has bothered me for quite some time and while it’s not been difficult for me to turn down a drink when I’ve not wanted one, it’s only recently that I don’t feel embarrassed by not drinking at all (people are sometimes too tipsy to notice anyway). Even if I don’t let the industry decide what’s best for me at social work events, it’s not with ease that I write this. It is not my wish to criticize any single person in publishing. Having a drink or not having a drink at a social work event is a deeply personal decision. It plays in with how we want to participate in our surroundings as social creatures.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Perhaps at least some of the problems with traditional publishing have something to do with decisions made when under the influence or hung-over.

Or perhaps the managers in traditional publishing are drinking to forget those problems. And succeeding in their goal.

Big Publishing

2 Comments to “On Book Publishing’s Drinking Culture”

  1. I’m pretty sure not all tradpubs are NYC booze hounds. Even in NYC there are two, maybe three teetotalers in publishing.

    By now it’s clear Literary types are way too quick to ascribe their habits and motives to others.

    (This thought bought to you by today’s word: overgeneralization.)



  2. Lots of people like to drink alcohol at parties, lots of people like to drink something other than alcohol, and lots of people drink different stuff on different days.

    If you’re the host, it’s not your business.

    If you’re a fellow guest, it’s not your business.

    And nobody in polite or friendly society should be applying pressure to drink or not drink unless they’ve been invited specifically to a winetasting or something, and someone accepted despite being a teetotaler. And even then, it would be dumb. More for the rest, right?

    (Although I’m sure some people do stuff like this, just like some vegetarians won’t tell you until they get there. Even if you specifically invited them to a steak dinner or a barbecue. You just have to have Plan B in mind, because people are weird and stuff happens.)

    Why the heck is this even an issue? Are these people not adults, or junior high students?

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