Oh, to Work in Publishing in the Summer

Josie Leavitt -- June 13th, 2011

It’s officially summer. The calendar doesn’t say so yet, but the publishing houses have sure jumped the season. There is an annual tradition among publishing companies to close up shop by one in the afternoon. I tried to call or email five different publishers on Friday, and was told by each one’s voice mail message or return email: they were closed early for Friday in the summer. Now, before I get hopped on by folks who work in publishing, I realize there is supposed to be a protocol that requires that these Friday off-hours get made up during the week. But still.

So, let me get one thing straight, the publishing companies just close once a week four to five hours early, just ‘cuz. Is it too hot to work on books? Does the A/C in all the buildings cease to function after noon? I’m not aware of any other business that closes early for an entire season. I think it’s a pretty cool idea, as the folks I know who work in publishing seem to be hard workers. And if I worked in publishing, I’d be dancing out the door every Friday at one, too.

I guess I don’t understand how a whole industry can just stop working. I can’t get events confirmed, I can’t talk to someone who literally just called me because they’ve gone for the day. I’m on the East Coast, I can only imagine how frustrating it is for West Coast stores who must finish all their Friday business by 10 in the morning. That’s not a schedule I’d like.

So, while the bookstores actually ramp up their business, those lucky few get a really great weekend for three months. I just hope that some of the publishing staffers frequent the indies wherever they have their summer shares.

29 thoughts on “Oh, to Work in Publishing in the Summer

  1. AS

    Speaking as an editorial assistant, I think it’s worth pointing out that we all work many hours beyond the typical 9-5 just to get everything done. Summer Fridays often mean that instead of working “until 5” and really working until 8 or later, I get to work “until 1” and actually leave at 5 like a person without a crazy job (imagine that!). If I do leave at 1, I know that I’ll make up that time by staying later than usual on other days, or taking a whole lot of work home.

  2. Cari

    I used to work in publishing, and while I didn’t have summer hours, many of the publishers with whom I worked did have Friday afternoons off. I loved it! It meant that for four whole hours a week, I could be sure that no one from the publishing company would be emailing me, bringing up new problems, asking for more work, etc., and I could get my job done in peace and quiet!

    Not being able to reach someone about an urgent issue can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to take life at a slightly slower pace and recognize that not every aspect of our jobs has truly high-stakes consequences. Enjoy those Friday afternoons when you can be excused, for a few hours at least, for putting some business matters aside!

  3. Liz

    Wow – you corporate people have it made in the shade. At work by 9:00, leave by 5:30, and I bet you have medical benefits too? Um, as a children’s book illustrator, a.k.a. full time freelancer, I’m usually at my desk by 7:30, go down for dinner about 6:00, work weekends, and am reachable by email 24-7. Boy would I like Fridays off. And Saturdays and Sundays. Maybe I should go corporate…

  4. Peter Glassman

    As someone who has worked in the book industry for 35 years, I can certainly understand Josie’s frustration at not being able to reach people on Friday afternoon while busily trying to put together her fall schedule of events. It was even more frustrating in the medieval days before email!

    But, I also know how amazingly hard working and industrious nearly everyone I work with in publicity at the publishing houses are! I have picked up a phone to leave a voice mail with someone at 9pm, only to have that person answer the phone! I’m a crazy bookstore owner — of course, I’m here at ridiculous hours! The publicity people we all work with are just incredibly hard working, dedicated employees with a real passion for books and — perhaps even more importantly — for the authors and artists they represent.

    So here’s wishing them all glorious Friday afternoons through Sunday evenings filled with sunshine and margaritas sipped by the pool or ocean!

  5. Michelle

    I work in the consumer products industry, and we get summer hours as well. Our offices remain open, and we alternate fridays so that we can “cover” each others work load. Living the dream!

  6. David Rozansky

    I love that the big publishing houses take Fridays off. It gives my company a chance to make sales and woo authors when the big guys are caught sleeping. Fridays are very good to us, because we are here, working the phones, tweeting like canaries, talking to reviewers, and generally taking advantage whenever possible of our competitors snoozing through the weekend. (Yes, we are open weekends, too! It’s the best time to catch authors at home.)

    David Rozansky
    Publisher, Flying Pen Press
    Writing the book, Fishnets & Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book

  7. Jen

    Wow, jealous and jumping to conclusions, much?

    This is NOT a publishing industry phenomenon. Simply because NOT ALL PUBLISHERS DO THIS. I’ve been in this industry for almost 7 years, and have run into many publishers who don’t get a “special” schedule in the summer. Maybe the Big Six, sure, but there are hundreds of other publishers out there who work 40+ hour weeks, year round.

    I also worked in bookselling–before smart phones! Events people simply checked voice mails and emails when they could and there was never a problem.

    Sorry you’re bitter, but don’t paint all publishers with a broad brush, especially when there are a lot of us who’d rather be at the beach, but sitting in traffic on a Friday at 5:30 instead.

  8. Claire

    I work in publishing and we also have an early close on Friday. It makes those summer weekends seem so much longer and it is such a treat–like having cream in your coffee!! Our office works hard. They put so much of themselves into each book. We constantly trade work emails after supper. Regular office hours are a bit of a joke in our company anyway. I think a little reward for two months is a terrific moral booster and a way any publisher can say thank you in these tough economic times.

  9. Laurel Book Store

    I don’t begrudge anyone their summer time off, I know how much those in publishing and elsewhere put their time in and work hard. But I had to chuckle a little at KBs list. Substitute customers who run into you all over town and ask you to get them a book for #5, add in cleaning the store and office areas, requisitioning supplies, arranging the events as well as attending them, payroll, employee training, maintenance and relations, buying, returning, tax preparation, budgeting, business development and retention, serving on committees like merchant groups and buy local, and probably sixteen other things that I can’t name right now for likely less money than many publishing jobs and you too could OWN a store! I’d love regular Friday afternoons off. Any season really….

  10. Josie Leavitt

    I would like to clarify a few things. First and foremost, I know how hard folks work in publishing. There are many off-hours spent reading, reviewing, planning, etc. Secondly, I am totally jealous. Our summers at the store tend to be really, really busy, so leaving early is not really an option. So, I’m green with envy when I call and can’t reach someone on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

  11. Cinda Chima

    I am a writer who knows what kind of hours some of these publishing professionals work. Maybe summer Fridays help make up for evenings and weekends spent reading manuscripts when everyone else is watching TV.

  12. Kitti

    No one’s lives depend on a publisher staying in on Friday afternoon. It’s just paper and ink. (or e-ink…). No real reason to stay in when the weather is nice!

  13. KB

    As someone working in the publishing industry, I’m thankful for summer Fridays! Technically, we make up those hours by working from 8:30-5:30pm Monday – Thursday, but most of us work many hours more than that each week. Most people I know in the industry:

    1. Come in early.
    2. Leave work after 6:00pm (I’ve often pulled a late night and didn’t leave until after 9:00pm)
    3. Attend author events or “networking” events in the evening, after working all day. Did I mention there’s NO OVERTIME?
    4. Work on weekends from home.
    5. All their authors have their cell #s, who don’t have any problem calling late nights, early morning, or Sunday afternoons and expect you to pick up.
    6. In this age of Smartphones, deal with media, authors, and others who demand an immediate response and can’t wait until the next day. Or if you do, you’ll come in to a nasty email or voicemail about how you aren’t doing your job.
    7. Are “on call” pretty much 24/7 without any recognition, apparently, of that fact.

    I know every person in every industry is busy, so I see this 3 month time period with 4 hours off as a “thanks for working so hard, team!” Besides, isn’t everyone else just jealous that the publishing industry has this awesome summer perk – and you don’t?

  14. Stephanie Scott

    My company (not publishing) used to utilize summer hours about 20 years ago, so I’m told. Every single year employees ask why we cannot have summer hours again. Every year we get the same answer: our customers still need service during the standard work week. Some people have brought up flexible hours, so that the office itself isn’t closed, but employees work longer hours some days to make up for a day off. I think a lot of companies in this economy are not willing to give in the area of customer availability for employee satisfaction; if we don’t like it, another person is waiting to take our job.

  15. Ellen Scott

    Working for a big publishing house to get Friday afternoons off does sound wonderful. The only thing better might be to work in France where they get the whole month of August for holiday. Our big dilemma here is always whether to be open or closed on the Sunday of the holiday weekends of Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day!! We generally go with being open!

    1. Ron

      I was wondering when someone was going to play the French card! Summer Fridays were on the wane when I worked in publishing 20 years ago. At the last publishing company I worked at, we had flexible hours to allow for some time off on alternating Fridays, but still needed to cover phones, etc. While I can understand customer service being extremely important, especially in this economy, I also think it’s nice that there are still places where somebody remembers that there are things to do in the summer that don’t involve work (like maintaining friendships and family bonds by doing some warm-weather activities together).

  16. Kevin Sheehan

    This is far from a publishing industry phenomenon. My company works with market research departments of almost every Fortune 500 company in the country. We do Friday summer hours because we’ve found that our clients do them as well. We’re talking major and minor companies from every industry you can think of. It was designed so people can get a jump on the weekend or hit the beach or vacation that afternoon. I noticed this started becoming a standard about 10 years ago. Can’t say it’s a trend that I dislike.

  17. Patty

    I work in publicity and my department alternates every other Friday. Three of us will work all day one week and then we’ll have the next Friday off completely, and vice versa. It pretty much rules.

  18. Ari

    When I worked in advertising I had summer Fridays as well. It’s very common in any industry that touches media. Some publishers alternate days (people work a full Friday, then have off the next Friday) and some advertising companies give employees 4 or 5 floating Fridays to just take off for free. Totally not an uncommon practice.

  19. SuzzyPC

    I work in publishing, albeit as a sales rep & my summer Fridays are like Fridays the rest of the year – although with more longing to be outside, particularly if it is gardening weather.
    My company does not currently have summer hours – even if they did I’d have too much to do to take advantage. Does sound like a nice idea, doesn’t it?

  20. Cassie

    Summer Fridays are a benefit given to folks in the publishing industry in lieu of other benefits that might cost the company money. I’ve never really understood the “everyone leave at one” way to do it though; my department does every other Fridays, so that we all get regular three day weekends. We alternate Fridays though, so there’s always SOMEONE in the office to answer a phone call!

  21. Lexie C.

    Actually the company I used to work for, Bristol Meyers Squibb, would do it July/August and then November/December–work extra hours (usually until 6:30pm instead of 5pm) and then leave at noon on Fridays. During the summer EVERYONE took advantage of this every week, but during the winter only a couple each friday.

    I actually thought it was more a corporation thing, I had no idea Publishers also did such!

  22. Becky

    Summer Fridays aren’t just a publishing thing. Seems to be a New York/Chicago/other big city thing, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I’ve worked for a publisher for 9 years now, and the only year I can remember being offered a summer Friday schedule happened to be the summer I was going to be on maternity leave.

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