Burger King and Writers


There will be no more professional writers in the future. That was the headline for a Globe and Mail story last week, mainly about how free content, e-books and self-publishing are making it almost impossible for authors to make a living. You can read it here. The article quotes Writers’ Union of Canada chair Merilyn Simonds reporting the average annual income of members as $11,000.

The writers in the Globe and Mail article are mostly book authors, strugging to navigate a new digital world filled with free content and work with publishers also trying to stay alive.

There is no doubt, it is tough to make a decent living as any kind of a writer.

But it’s not impossible.

My first official job was at a Burger King in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. In the spirit of “All I ever needed to know I learned somewhere entirely unrelated,” here is what I learned about being a writer at Burger King.

  1. Customer service is number one. Give them exactly what they ordered. Make your clients (and editors) happy by submitting your work on time, on word count, and on topic.
  2. When you take a new order, don’t sigh and heave and moan and groan about how stressed you are, and how you just don’t know if you can get it all done. And isn’t this line-up huge? Make every client feel they are the most important one you have. Treat them as if they are special, because, of course, they are. Or they should be, especially to you. They should each get a cardboard crown.
  3. Ask them if they want fries with that. Make sure your clients know all that you are capable of and all you have to offer. Do this without being annoying.
  4. Throw in a free toy. Every now and then, with repeat customers, do some little thing for free to thank them for being such a great client. Believe me, this will be so shocking to them they will remember you for a long time.
  5. Say thank you. Smile.
  6. Don’t wear a uniform though. That would just be weird.



2 thoughts on “Burger King and Writers”

  1. Your advice also applies to editors. As someone working on a book of essays by 18 different customers–whoops, authors–I am grateful (as so often) for what you say. I often have several authors needing attention in totally different ways all at the same time, and I feel I am juggling different orders of fries, burgers, onion rings and milk shakes without enough hands. You underline the conviction that has been growing on me–that writing (and editing) is not just about technical skills (although it certainly is that). It’s also about human relations, diplomacy, tact, and (yes) love. “Though I speak with the tongues of angels . . . ” Thanks, Karen, And thanks, Burger King.

    1. The only problem with this conversation is that I’m starting to crave onion rings. You’re right though. Editors can actually crush writers if they’re not careful.

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