Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Moving from Blogger to Wordpress

After a bit of internal discussion and a lot of googling, I've moved my blog to a wordpress site - my website.

I've changed because I prefer the look and feel of my website (plus, it offers a bit more functionality).

You can find me here.

Now I know that this is the sort of thing that gets the blogger excited but is relatively boring for the readership, but if you're about to do this too, here's some resources that might help.

How to move from blogger to 

(assuming you already have a site)

- import your blog content. Here are step by step instructions (from
- set up your blog page. Here's the you tube video I followed . This video is by Mike Hill; it's a little dry, but it's nice and slow and really easy to understand.

And having done all that (which took me a whole frigging week because I am so non-techo..) I DELETED all the old blog posts from my new site. Why?

Because on my new site, I'm starting again from scratch.

Oh yes, and don't forget, I've got a new story coming out soon. So don't forget to sign-up for the freebie!!

Here's the link again.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Sharing the Love

Today I'm actually writing on another blog - Ada Maria Soto, another NZ-based writer, has kindly opened her blog up for guest posting. This is what I'm posting there, and I'm sharing it with you now:

"Thanks to Ada Maria Soto for inviting me to post this on her blog. Hi Ada, and congratulations for all those nominations, that is awesome! (If anyone's wondering what I'm talking about, check out this blog post for the total list of all of Ada's nominations by Goodreads readers)

I'm Rachel Stedman, writing as RL Stedman. Like Ada, I live in beautiful New Zealand, but I live in the south of the country, where the weather is colder and the roads are empty.

I write YA and middle grade fiction, mostly with fantasy elements. I've had a blast writing a romantic trilogy, a futuristic thriller, and most recently, a ghost story for kids. I've been fortunate enough to win a number of awards, but I've never been nominated like Ada has! You can read more about my writing here.

And...the reason I'm coming onto Ada's blog is to let you know about a lovely little gift that I've got going. See, I love my readers. They are an awesome bunch! So to say 'thank you' I've created a giveaway, and I'm sharing it with Ada's readers, too.

Here's the Giveaway! 

I've written an EXPANDING series of short stories, called Upon a Time. These stories are based on fairy tales - but they're told with a twist. I have a mirror programmer (how do you define 'fairest', anyway?), a shoe salesperson and of course, a fairy Godfather.

Four times a year, I'm emailing an installment to my readers. The first installment was on Christmas and the second will be next month, on Valentine's Day. It's all about roses. And love, of course! It's called Death and Roses, and will be sent to readers in two parts (Valentines and Easter). The final installment will be sent to reader's inboxes at Halloween.

So, if you're wanting to grab yourself a copy of this expanding series (you'll get the Christmas ones, too), click here to be taken to the email list. You can choose between pdf, kindle or nook/itunes formats.

Upon a Time Giveaway

Oh, and if you're a teacher or librarian, please do feel free to copy and share these stories with your classes. The only thing I ask is that you retain the original formatting, as it is especially designed for these stories.

So that's it! Happy Valentine's Day in advance, and thank you again Ada, for the opportunity to share this with your readers.

May all your days be full of love."

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Writer's Contracts: How to Get What You Want and Not Lose your House.

Negotiation is an undervalued art. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't become easier with practice. It just gets less hard.

On average, I negotiate two to three contracts per week, for all sorts of things - uniforms, food, software. Hospitals, rest home beds - even christmas hampers! I've negotiated agreements from $5000 to $50 million. Each negotiation is different; each has its own challenges. 

But by far the hardest contract to negotiate was the one of least value. Value on paper, that is. To me, it represented an enormous amount of work. The reason it was the hardest contract was because this time I was not buying anything - instead, I was selling. I was selling my own work to a publisher. I felt as if I was selling my own soul.

AZ Quotes

Publishing Contracts

Publishing contracts have lots of fishhooks. These can (and have) included: 
  • No expiry
  • Payment delays or discounts
  • Unlimited liability (that is, in the event of a law suit you will fully reimburse your publisher all their costs)
  • Restriction on what you may and may not write next

Writer's contracts are discussed in detail on line - see this Savvy Writers  blog post, or this legal advice courtesy of the Authors Guild

Many Authors' Associations - such as the New Zealand Society of Authors or the Science Fiction Writers of America  - offer a contract review service to their members.

But NONE of these posts ever tell you how to negotiate a better agreement. And this is where I return to the first sentence of this post. Negotiation is an art and it's hard.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Disclaimer: This isn't legal advice; it's guidelines only. If you need legal advice, please see a legal professional.

How I Negotiated my Own Book Contract (and Didn't Lose My House)

My publisher was HarperCollins New Zealand.  I have to say that all the horror stories I read about in Writer Beware certainly did not apply with HC. HC were friendly, approachable and although they seemed surprised that a writer might even want to discuss some of the terms in their offered contract (I got the feeling that writers don't often negotiate very often), they were happy to take my comments on board. 

HC had a two contract model - a summary of offer (I forget the actual name of this agreement). This summary set out key payment dates, amounts and deadlines. They followed this up a few months later with their more detailed full contract. 

I signed the summary and started working with my editor. Once I received the full contract I scanned it for the commonest fishhooks (discovered courtesy of the internet and including unlimited liability) and asked a solicitor colleague at work to review it. She also had some concerns, and suggested alternative wording.

I phoned the number attached to the agreement - HC NZ draw up their agreements in Australia - and talked through my questions and concerns with them. 'Well, what would you like?' they asked.

I suggested Mary's wording and emailed it to her. She sent that to her legal team, and they came back with something slightly different. I ran this past Mary, she thought it was okay, and I signed the agreement.

My first book didn't sell as well as expected, and so eventually I began another negotiation. Please, can I have my rights back? Again, this was a phone call to the editor (after a series of emails).  Again, HC were understanding, and after some to and froing we came to an agreement and my rights were returned.

I would definitely work with HC again.

In hindsight: although I avoided the worst risks, I didn't obtain as much as an advantage as I could have (and an agent would have done). That's because at the time I didn't really understand the industry. If there's ever a next time I'd be more aware of things like international and national markets, expiry dates, digital, print, movie, TV rights and so forth. 

My Four Tips for Negotiation

Tip One: Plan. 
- What does the other negotiating party want?
- What do I want?
- What must I have?
- What are my risks?
- Where is our common ground?
I've set out more details in a downloadable cheat sheet.

Tip Two: Talk. (Face to face is best. Phone is second. Online chat is third)
- AVOID negotiation via email.

Tip Three: Build a relationship first.
- Emails are fine, but a couple of phone calls generally work better.
- This helps to break the ice.

Tip Four: Negotiation is not a challenge. It's a dialogue. 
- If you don't understand something, ask. 
- Be polite.
- Don't talk about money first.

Want More Information? - Downloadable Cheat Sheet

You can check out this online resource - the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's checklist for negotiations. (This sheet is quite detailed and really is more suitable for large-scale business to business negotiations, although some of the pointers are helpful).

Or you can sign up here for a free cheat sheet.

In this cheat sheet I've set out some of the main points to consider in your planning. 

Like I say, I do this all the time...and I've pretty much made every mistake by now. You may as well learn from them!

Sunday, 13 December 2015


In November 2015 I decided to run a giveaway for my readers - a series of downloadable short stories, called Upon a Time.

All the stories in Upon a Time are based on fairy-tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. Except they have a fairy godfather, a mirror programmer (how do you define 'fairest'), and specially engineered glass shoes.

Fun, right? Easy, right? Well, yes and no.

This blog post documents the process, partly for my own reference, so I don't repeat my mistakes, and partly for others, because I really wished I'd had something like this to read before I started.

The Story of My Giveaway

I wanted to do two things with Upon a Time

One: I wanted to thank my readers.

A side note: When you're independent, like me, your readers are the most important thing in your world. (Apart from family and friends, of course!). Traditional publishers have multiple customers: distributors, booksellers, book clubs. I have one: my readers. This does change the focus significantly - astute self-published writers have a very active social media presence for this very reason, and explains perhaps why some of the large publishers have taken a while to discover the power of directly engaging with their readership. My readers are wonderful, intelligent and so kind - I really, really enjoy talking with them on facebook and twitter. I felt it was important that I thanked them for all their support over what has been a very full-on year.

Two: I wanted to find out more about who buys my books.

So I decided to set my giveaway up as a lead magnet.

What's a Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet is an article of value for a visitor to your website. It's also a way to encourage customers to sign-up for more information from you ("to receive a free xxx sign up for our newsletter"). Why on earth would I want people to sign up for anything - I'm not a store, I'm a writer? A lead magnet is designed to extract email addresses from customers. The holy grail of marketing; a targetted market. This is a bit conflicting for me, because I wrote Upon A Time as a present, not a carrot. But what the hey, if it could be both that would be super.

So I decided to ask readers to provide their email address before receiving the link to the short stories.

I wanted to set up this short story collection as an EXPANDING collection. I love serials, and I love the idea of special stories for a select group. I also love advent calenders, the idea of opening a little door and seeing something secret inside. So I wrote this set of stories kind of like an advent calendar. Nutty, I know.

The plan for my Giveaway was that, four times throughout the 2016, I will release another bunch of short stories, for readers to download. By signing up to this collection, they will end up with, by the end of the year, a substantial free book. And hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll have enough content that I can actually put it up for sale in 2017.

Sounds simple, doesn't it?


Martin Scorsese from AZ Quotes

There is no such thing as simple 

Here are the steps (and costs) to doing this Giveaway:

  1. Write the stories. Edit, repeat. Re write.
  2. Create digital files for your giveaway. I splashed out on Vellum to produce epub and mobi and I used a template I'd already created to do the pdf. Another side note. Oh wow, Vellum is so AMAZING. I did all this formatting in an afternoon - it would have taken me all day to do this earlier. I purchased a single use license, but you pay per title, and because this is an expanding book I won't have to pay again.
  3. Engage a cover artist, or do it yourself. I engaged Paper and Sage. Because I'm fussy with my covers, I didn't buy a premade, but if I had this would have made the process a little cheaper.
  4. Build a newsletter on mailchimp. This means figuring your way through the mailchimp software. Not hard, but takes time. (I went with mailchimp because my web wizard, Doug, said it was the best for me. That's how I select website plugins: Doug tells me what to do and I do it.)
  5. Build an email header on Canva. Again, not hard, but takes time to learn the software.
  6. Build a Facebook ad on Canva. Ditto. And, oh no, because I haven't got the pro option (because I'm trying to keep everything low cost), I can't resize the email header. Solution: download the email header as a jpg and upload it again into Canva's uploads files. This means I can't change the elements within the image, but it saves me starting again from scratch.
  7. Test the newsletter. Test the newsletter link. Test everything a hundred times. It won't work the first time (or it didn't for me), so repeat and repeat.
  8. Load the files onto your web page.

Wordpress Issues

This is where it all went pear-shaped. Turns out that does not accept mobi or epub files. I spent a couple of hours googling 'troubleshoot' and finding bunches of code written by enthusiastic developers that might or might not work. But I'm not Doug: my idea of coding is to write a formula in excel. I didn't want to break my website by adding in something off the internet.

A couple of hours later I found cloud-up, a file sharing site, and recommended by wordpress so I figured probably compatible and not dodgy. I put my precious mobi, epub and pdf files on there. More testing of links, an error in the pdf, a few more fixes. Then - the files wouldn't download from cloudup onto my ipad. Aargh!

By then it was six on a Saturday and my kids and sick husband were hungry. I ordered takeaways.

Oh yes, and I'd sprained my ankle that week. It was huge and swollen and purple, but fortunately not broken. So a day sitting down was actually really good for it, but isn't it always the way, that life gets in the way of your plans?

Next Day:

  1. I embedded a pdf into my giveaway page, and that seemed to open fine. Fingers crossed.
  2. Double checked the links on the newsletter.
  3. I crafted a boosted post on Facebook, using my newly made Canva graphic, and set it off into the world. 
  4. Sent out the newsletter (with its Canva-generated graphic), into the world. 

Outcome so Far:

5 new sign-ups to my newsletter. 5! After all that work. I do wonder about this writing lark sometimes.

50 odd hits on my website. A few shares on Facebook.

I realised I might have made a mistake with the mailchimp software - I forgot to ask people to confirm their email address, so quite possibly they retrieved the file without signing up.

That's not a problem - it was a giveaway, anyway.

Motto: If you're going to give stuff away, don't expect payment

But if these people want to get the rest of the story - if this was you - you'd better get in touch, like my facebook page or something, because otherwise you'll be left hanging on, never knowing what happens to Aroha and the rose.After all, says David Mitchell, there's nothing worse than a story half-finished. It's like a half-finished love affair.

To those of you who did manage to download, Merry Christmas! I do hope you didn't have any technical glitches. And I hope you enjoy the stories.

Don't forget to check in for more. Next release is Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

My Personal Experience with Censorship

Yesterday Into the River, an award-winning Young Adult novel, was restricted for sale by New Zealand's Censor's Office. You can read the background to this decision here .

Now, I've not read Into the River. But I'm upset by this decision. Why? Because now I want to read it, and I cannot. Into The River is unavailable from Amazon, I cannot purchase it in book stores, or borrow it from a library. I can download Grand Theft Auto, I can watch (or read) 50 Shades. But I cannot read a book written for teenagers.

The reason for this fuss? Into the River contains sex, swearing and drug taking. Shock, horror! Obviously teens never indulge in such behaviour, or at least the Family First Coalition, who brought the case, would prefer to think they did not.

But its not just the absence of the book that troubles me. It's my personal association with censorship. See, when I was fourteen, my (religious) mother wrote to the school library, complaining that they had leant me a book containing twin evils: sex and swearing. I was so embarrassed! Also I was angry. Couldn't I chose for myself? Didn't she trust me? The book - which I think was an Alistair MacLean, full of busty women and strong men, was a good story - well, sort of. Okay, it was entertaining. My mother didn't seem to understand that reading such stories allowed me to explore ideas and new concepts through a safe, fictional lens.

So when I read about the censor's office restricting a book for sale - particularly a book which has won critical awards - I feel for the kids, the intended readership. Why should their choices be restricted because of a vocal minority? Banning books has a long and ugly, ugly history. How can a democratic nation, that prides itself on its tolerance and fair-mindedness, allow such a thing to happen?

I have teenagers. Would it worry me if they read Into the River? Of course not. Teens understand the difference between fact and fiction. Do they want to read it? They shrug and go 'meh'. But if I say, well, even if you wanted to, you couldn't, they stare. "What? Why?" (And then I have to add, they appear to be interested in reading it. The most requested book at the school library is 50 Shades. Its not on the stack, but its the one the boys ask the librarian to buy ALL THE TIME.)

Which doesn't actually worry me. Because far worse than a kid who reads smut or horror or whatever is a kid who doesn't read at all.  Most of my kid's friends spend their time on-line; they rarely read. No-one talks about banning online gaming or social media, yet its far more immersive than any novel. It's also far more damaging to a young person's long-term opportunities.

When my sons leave school, they'll be looking for work, or study.  What are the chances of them gaining a decent job without literacy? A teenager who does not read is less able to understand the complexities of language, the nuances of behaviour than a teen who enjoys fiction. A teenager who does not read will have less opportunities.

Rather than banning books, we should celebrate that they exist.

After all, is it the books we fear, or the reality they portray?

Feel like commenting? Write to The Honorable Maggie Barry, The Minister of Arts and Culture,

Friday, 7 August 2015

Giving Up or: Getting on With It

One Year On

Nearly twelve months back I set out into the world of self-publishing. This post is by way of a farewell (for the time being, anyway) and a summary of this experience.

My main conclusion: There is money in self-publishing. I have not seen it personally, but I'm confident it's there, and it's increasing. This is evidenced in part by the increase in the numbers of on-line vendors and in part by the number of authors they support. It is also evidenced by the increasing interest in self-published writers by major publishing houses.

However, as in any market where barriers to entry is low, profits per player are also low. This means it takes a long, long time to make a return as a self-published writer (actually, it takes a long time to make a return as any kind of writer, self-published or not). To take this further, I have a suspicion that many self-published writers are not actually supplying content to readers, but are instead providing income to retailers. Over the last year my outgoings to Amazon have been nearly ten times greater than the income provided from Amazon.

In defence of the 'Zon, this is because Amazon's publishing arm (Createspace) is relatively easy to use and offers international distribution. But I had an epiphany the other day when I thought about where the money was flowing, and in which direction, because the money flow tells us who the customer really is. If I was Amazon, and Amazon is really really smart, so they've probably already started doing this, they'll offer tiered advertising - that is, advertising at various rates, and target the large publishing houses with deeper pockets than self-pub indies. And this will further increase their revenue from writer-as-customer.

Okay, so that's all very interesting and intellectual and whatever, but how have I gone this year? Have I achieved my goal of financial independence through writing fiction.

Um, no.

Goal Achievement? Zero

Here's a brief summary of my year-to-date performance - approx 10 months.

(Dollars are NZ dollars, all figures are approximate only. These figures represent only self-pub sales through on-line retailers, not sales through retail outlets or royalties from publishers.)

income $240
titles produced 3
outlay $7000
downloads/loans/sales per month       bw 4-100
platforms published on 8

  1. Obviously, I have not made a truck load of money.
  2. I suspect this is pretty normal for new self-publishers. Most authors say that its only after title #5 that things begin to gather momentum. Some say not until title #20!


Some metrics are trending upwards. For me, things like social media engagement, number of followers and number of platforms accessed have increased. Reviews are generally positive (I hate the review process. It's horrible. Like baring your soul to an uncaring world) and although sales volume is low, it is steady. Inner Fire (the only title I've put into booksellers) remains on the shelves stores, as does A Necklace of Souls. 

Plus, and this is a big plus, my outlay is complete. I don't have to spend anything more on these three titles unless I want to. The covers are done, formatting complete, across a range of platforms. I'm looking at new marketing angles and avenues, ways of introducing them to a new audience. I'm wondering about audio. 

I'm producing new content - I'm half-way through two new titles and I really really need to begin on the final to the SoulNecklace Stories. Plus, I have another title coming out next month called The Prankster and the Ghost. A middle-grade fiction, it's totally paid for already, so the costs set out above include the outlay for that item.

My costs per title are reducing. While my first self-published title, Inner Fire, cost over $4000 in editing, formatting, printing and publicity, my most recent title, The Prankster and the Ghost, has cost closer to $800. This is because I know how to format myself now, I don't bother with the marketer and I don't print any more than ten copies. A Facebook ad, a Goodreads giveaway, good word-of-mouth and clever management of Amazon's search tags seems more effective. 

Top Tips

If I had to give ten tips to myself of twelve months ago, they would be this:

  1. Don't do it for the money, but keep an eye on your outgoings.
  2. Write the best book you can. If you're not a hundred and one percent happy, don't publish it. 
  3. Endings matter. The end of a book is what a reader remembers, and often shapes their review. (As a sideline: I am really really really pleased with the ending of Prankster. I think it is by far and away the best chapter I have ever written. It has taken me nearly three years to get it right and every time I read it I'm so pleased I spent that long on it.)
  4. Learn to format for yourself. I am a last-minute editor. There's always something I want to change or improve, and it gets expensive if you pay someone else to do it. If I was starting out again and had all the time in the world, I would learn inDesign. (It is so cool to design and layout the interior of a book in the way you want. Writers always get excited by the cover, and the cover is of course important, but the way the book feels inside is also important.)
  5. Always do a print version. It's a bit more hassle, but printed copies are nice on shelves, and they are good as giveaways and my reviewers like to have them. Sales of printed copies are slower than digital but they happen and that's cool.
  6. The best way to proof read for errors is to order a printed proof. It costs a bit more, but its really worth it.
  7. Order printed copies with staggered delivery dates. Because I live in New Zealand, I have to allow a two week delay for delivery. So what I do now is order 5 copies at the fastest delivery (that's in about 10 days) and 5 copies at a normal delivery (about a month). This makes the total cost of print copies about $100, or $10 each, so if I sell 5 (which I normally do) I've paid for the delivery.
  8. Don't announce the book is published until you have printed copies on hand. Sometimes people want to buy them off you and its not smart to say 'oh they haven't arrived yet.'
  9. Unless booksellers ask to stock your book, don't bother with retail. It's a lot of hassle, you don't get paid in a timely way, and sale volume is low. I read once that one title across the US is doing well to sell 1200 copies in all US Barnes and Noble stores. I don't know if that's true or not, but in NZ you're doing well to sell 3000 print total, and that's with a publishing house behind you. So unless you're going for discoverability, don't bother.
  10. The only constant is change. This year Kindle Unlimited changed its payment model and Scribd reduced its titles.  iTunes is looking kind of interesting, as does Google. Ingram Spark is looking at moving into bookstores; there's a new platform to integrate with libraries; self-publishers are signing deals with publishers; established writers are going self-pub. Keep flexible in your expectations and continue a little longer in the day job.

End of an Adventure?

So, after nearly a year of blogging, of writing and working incredibly hard, that's it from me. For the time being, anyway.

Would I do it again? Yes. Will I continue in this self-publishing adventure?  Yes, at present. I have another three to five titles that I would like to write, and perhaps one day I'll summarise my learnings into a handy guide, as there's nothing really relevant to the small-market environment of New Zealand. 

However, as I said to myself above (I never listen to myself, though) it pays to keep flexible. As long as I can keep writing, I don't really care if I'm self-published, traditionally published or whatever. What really matters is that people are reading and enjoying my books. 

And, dear Reader, thank you for stopping by this blog series. I hope its been useful to you. And good luck in your own endeavours. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Good Health

Margaret Atwood was asked by the Guardian to provide advice for aspiring writers. Her reply: 'Take care of your back.' 

You want to get a bunch of writers talking? Ask them what chair they use, what keyboard, what desk.
Forget about asking about character or plot development or how to structure a novel. For most of us our craft is a deeply personal process and what works for one person may not work for another. But touch on the topic of seating, and man, that sure starts the conversational ball rolling.

Why? Because TOO MANY of us have bad backs, occupational overuse or gradual process injuries.

As an ex-physio (physical therapist) I find it scary and oftentimes sad, how so many talented writers work in chronic pain, pain that could have been easily prevented if they'd been more aware of their own body and acted before it became a problem. 

So today I'm going off-topic and ruminating on Health and how important it is and how you only miss it when you don't have it. (And also today, I need a break from writing my novel)...

Disclaimer: These are general guidelines only. If you have specific problems, see a doctor. And use common sense - if these suggestions make your pain worse, don't do them.  

How to Get a Bad Back

Do You:
  1. Adopt one position all day, every day. (Extra points if you bend, lift heavy weights or sit)
  2. Dislike getting out of your chair.  (Extra points if you move the coffee machine, printer and photocopier close to avoid having to stand)
  3. Never adjust your chair
  4. Write in the following places: bed, sofa or the dining table (using a dining chair)
  5. Only use a laptop
  6. Smoke
  7. Are too heavy for your height
  8. Never exercise
  9. Avoid all thoughts of stretching, walking, running or getting outside ( Extra points if you term hanging out laundry as exercise)
  10. You are passionate about craftwork hobbies
  11. Have arthritic hips and/or knees
  12. Drive around the supermarket carpark for thirty minutes to ensure you don't have to walk
  13. Have a history of spinal problems, such as spinal fractures, back surgery, chronic arthritis or disc damage?
  14. Have a history of chronic health problems?

If you can answer YES to all or some of these then congratulations! You are on your way to Bad Back Heaven.

Things you can do to reduce your risk - in order of effectiveness

  1. Start before it becomes a problem. If you can answer yes to many of the points above then back pain is not an if, it's a when.
  2. Try to lose weight. Seriously. Best thing to do. Note the word 'try'. The reason: if you are seriously trying to lose weight (and believe me, I know. I put on ten kilos this year so I'm in this process right now) you WILL exercise more. This increased activity reduces your other risk factors. Plus, weight loss involves an attitude change, a can-do mentality. This attitude is really important in managing pain.
  3. Move around more. Park the car at the far end of the carpark. Put the coffee maker in the other room, relocate your printer. Set a timer on your phone to act as a reminder to stand up and stretch.  Use a mobility tracker, like fitbit, or put a health app on your phone - it's easy to overestimate activity levels. Ideally, you want to get out of your chair at least hourly. 
  4. Exercise regularly. Ideally, exercise into positions you don't adopt during the day. So walking, netball, yoga, gardening, golf are all good options. Cycling or rowing are, on the other hand, mostly sitting, so if you're a serious cyclist and a serious writer you need to think about adding something like yoga. 
  5. If you are seriously unfit (can't walk up a moderate slope) start easily. Remember, anything is better than nothing. You may find investing in a personal trainer worthwhile. If you have significant health issues, like heart problems, talk to your doctor before starting on an exercise programme.
  6. Discourage sedentary hobbies. If you're a quilter and a writer, do something active as well.
  7. Stop smoking.
  8. Invest in decent office furniture. If you're short use a footrest, if you're tall make sure the desk height is right for you. Decent doesn't mean expensive, it means comfortable, well made and adjustable. Have a look at the products in government offices; generally, government buys good but affordable products. You can also consider more specialised products, such as a stand up desk (I had a patient who worked on top of a filing cabinet for the sake of his back) but if you're needing things like that its worth talking to an specialist clinician in ergonomics. Your practice nurse should be able to help you find a local practitioner. 
  9. If you're having back problems, talk to a professional. Do the exercises they prescribe, make the lifestyle changes. Do NOT rely on over the counter medication and hope it will go away. Meds are great for reducing acute pain but generally for chronic problems, they don't make the causes disappear. Sometimes, they mask the causes.

Most important: Prevention is always, always better than cure. Don't wait for your back to give way on you before you make lifestyle changes. 

If you're serious about writing, do as Margaret Atwood says, and look after your back.