Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Andrew Grant - An Interview

by Linda Della Donna

Meet Andrew Grant.

Andrew Grant is creator of http://www.moneyandmind.com/, a website dedicated to helping visitors grow in wealth, as well as self. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Andrew Grant for an interview.

Here's what he had to say:

Hi Andrew, please tell readers a little about yourself.

Hi Linda, thanks very much for agreeing to interview me. I have only ever been interviewed once before, by a major national newspaper in the UK about a business I was working in at the time. I spent hours preparing and was really nervous about the whole thing.

The interviewer was abrupt and offhand and I could tell didn’t really care about what he was doing, so I found it all rather uncomfortable and I was very worried about how he would write me up. Well after all that, the piece was spiked and it never appeared. So I’m hoping that my second time will be a little more friendly.

No problem, Andrew. I'm honored and privileged to interview you. Make yourself comfortable. This interviewer is all ears.

OK, about me. I am 49 years old, I live in a beautiful village called Sunningdale, in Berkshire, England. It’s about 30 miles west of London, so we have the advantage of being in the country but with easy access to one of the best cities in the world.

I have been living with my girlfriend, Ginnie for just over a year now and between us we have five grown up children, spread all over the UK, studying or working.

Sunningdale is just a couple of miles from Windsor Castle, the Queen’s country pile and we often go walking in Windsor Great Park, which is several square miles of woodlands, parks and lakes, which used to be the royal back yard, many years ago, but is now open to the public.

I’m just a tourist now like everyone else, but in a previous part of my life, I had a few encounters with the royal family. Mainly because I knew someone with royal connections. I won’t bore you with all the stories, but I did once break a chair that belonged to Prince Andrew.

Andrew, how exciting. Please, elaborate.

We’d been invited to tea (very English) with the Prince, The Duchess of York (Fergie) and their daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

The Prince gave us a tour of his house, Royal Lodge. It used to belong to the Queen Mother. H had inherited it after she died and had just spent a lot of money refurbishing the building and restoring the antique furniture.

After the tour we were ushered into the huge drawing room, probably 200 yards long by 100 yards wide, filled with sofas and tables and overstuffed chairs. The servants had laid out tea and sandwiches for us and we helped ourselves.

The Prince motioned me to a chair at one of the tables and I sat down. To my shock, the two front legs, snapped with a loud crack and the chair collapsed, dumping me on the floor with a painful thump.

Fergie rushed over full of sympathy and helped me up. I decided to use humour to cover my embarrassment so I turned to Andrew and said, “Ah, good trick, I bet you use that on all the new visitors”.

To my surprise, he took absolutely no notice of my scintillating wit, expressed no sympathy for my fall, or my embarrassment, but with a concerned face, he picked up the chair and it’s severed legs, and walked out of the room, muttering “That’s another chair I’ll have to get fixed”.
He returned a few minutes later and the incident was never referred to again. Very strange.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit, but I thought you might like that story.

Andrew, that is an incredible and believable story--Tell me, how is it you chose marketing as your writing niche?

I have pretty much always worked in sales and marketing for the last 25 plus years, so it’s an area I know, though I never gained any formal qualifications or training. I like to think of myself more as a guerilla marketer. Pop in, have a quick skirmish and pop out again, before the enemy has woken up, that sort of approach.

I sporadically work with small businesses to help them build their profile, increase their customer base, keep their customers around for longer and earn more from them.

On the writing side, like a lot of people, I’ve always wanted to write for a living but have found a thousand excuses not to do it. When I was younger I started a few novels, but didn’t finish any of them.

Then in the late eighties, I did some writing for a couple of trade magazines, in the recruitment industry, where I was working. That lead to a regular column which I used to write under a pseudonym, so I could say outrageous things about the industry without any come back. I enjoyed that, but eventually, the magazine folded (yes I know they all fold in the middle) and I didn’t really pursue things for a long time.

More recently, probably due to a mid life crisis (I’m on my third one now), I have decided to pick up the pen again and see if I can make a living from it in some shape or form. These days the world of writing is very different and the internet has opened up all sorts of possibilities that never existed before.

I would ultimately like to combine my marketing capability, my writing and my new found knowledge of the web to support myself by doing all the things I love.

So currently I’m pursuing two writing strands. I have built a website which offers a free newsletter to anyone interested in self development, goal setting, making money online and positive thinking. This gives me the chance to spend time writing the content for the newsletter and occasionally recommending affiliate products that I think are worth looking at.

I am also extensively using article marketing as a way to bring traffic to that site, so I get the chance to write even more.

My second strand is that I am about a third of the way through writing a book called Small Business, Big Ideas. It is a book on marketing techniques for small businesses – typically offline businesses, but a lot of the content will appeal to online business too.

My position is that there is an awful lot of rubbish and jargon talked about marketing and I’m trying to cut through that and show that marketing is actually pretty simple, anyone can do it. I’m also keen to show that it affects every part of a business, from the look of your store or your van, through the reception your customers get on the phone, right through the choosing, buying and after sales process. It’s not just about adverts and brochures.

MY aim though is not to have it published as such. It will be available as an e-book on the web and will be promoted through articles I write, online press releases and a modest pay per click campaign.

I’ll have to finish it first though, and as every writer knows, that’s the toughest part.

Andrew, where do you submit your articles?

I always submit my articles to EzineArticles.com, first. I do submit to other places, but EA is my favorite and they seem to get very wide distribution.

I also just discovered a site called http://www.howtodothings.com/ where I have posted a couple of pieces. Their approach is a bit different in that all their articles have to be titled “How to do…” and they insist on having proper numbered lists, which entails a bit of fiddling about with html – though I think they might be prepared to do that for you.

They are quite a recent site, so I guess they don’t get much traffic yet, but one thing I like is that they have a feature called “suggest a topic”, where people can put in a request for articles they’d like to see, which is a great source of article ideas if you’re stuck for them. Last time I looked there were over 1800 topic requests on everything from relationships to rocket science.

Another site I use a lot for my articles is SubmitYourArticle. (Here’s a link to it; www.money-and-mind.com/sya.htm ) It’s a paid for service but you post your article there once and they send it to, I think at least 20 other sites automatically for you. They also have a thing called Article Leverage, so you can create lots of slightly different versions of your article to avoid duplicate content issues, which might downgrade your article on Google.

What brought you to the Summer Writing Challenge with Suzanne Lieurance and Kim King? What do you hope to gain by participating in the Summer Writing Challenge?

Chris Knight, who runs EA, has a blog and he wrote about the challenge in there. I thought it was a brilliant way to help keep me motivated and meet some of the goals I had already set myself.

I signed up a few days after the start of the challenge, the 6th I think. . It’s the 10th today and I’ve got 10 articles completed so I’m pretty confident of beating the target.

Since I signed up, I’ve been really pleased with the interesting discussions I’ve seen, the encouragement I’ve received, not least from you Linda and the great feeling you get from knowing that there are other people out there working away with similar aims.

It’s easy to forget about the outside world when you’re sat at a desk in your own home, tapping away and sending off your articles on the web, like little boats on a huge ocean. You never know where they’ll go or if you’ll ever hear from them again. So, just knowing that there are others just like you, is a great help.

Andrew, can you tell us your writing goals are for the year? What your greatest writing obstacles are? And perhaps share with readers your greatest writing accomplishments.

I started writing articles in mid-June and by the end of July, I had done about 55, so I was reasonably pleased with progress. But I’ve been very mindful of the fact that you need to have about 250 articles out there before you start to see real volumes of traffic. I’ve seen that figure quoted by both Christopher Knight at EA and also by Jeff Herring, the Article Guy and he’s got over 1,000 articles on EA, so he should know.

I promised myself that I would get my score up to 100 by September 21st, which will be the three month point from my first submission. That should also see me past the Summer Challenge score as well, so the two go together nicely.

After that, I’d like to get to 250 by the end of the year, which will only be a further 3 months, so I’ll have to go even faster, but I’m enjoying it, so it hopefully won’t be too difficult.

In a way, though, what’s more important, is the traffic that those articles bring to my site. I’ve been tracking progress on that and I reckon that my articles bring me about 20 visitors a day. That isn’t much, I know, but it continues to steadily grow and apart from my time, those visitors are completely free.

I also find that they are far more likely to sign up for the newsletter than the ones who come via pay per click, so it’s quality traffic. My eventual aim is to survive on free article traffic alone, but that will take a while.

I can’t really say I have any great obstacles, except for my uncanny ability to focus on the wrong things and I can be a terrible procrastinator – I write articles about how to overcome it, but I don’t always practice what I preach.

I’d say my greatest writing accomplishment is yet to come and will be when I finish Small Business, Big Ideas. Prior to that the thing I enjoyed having written the most was a silly little sketch that a friend and I performed at a party. It was a short parody of a popular Australian soap opera and it was really satisfying to see people genuinely falling about laughing. That’s a great feeling.

Andrew, you have a great sense of humor. Please share what your favorite book is, if you have one and who your favorite author is. Any reason?

When I was younger I used to devour fiction by the crate load and depending on which era of my life you’re talking about, my favourites have been EA Johns (Biggles books), Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Graham Greene, Ian McEwen.

For the last few years I have spent much more time reading non-fiction. I hated History in school but I rediscovered it in my late thirties and I’ll guzzle down anything on WW2 or more recent world history and biographies of Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin etc. I’m reading Robert Dallek’s great bio of JFK at the moment, An Unfinished Life.

My father served in WW2. He flew in bombers and got shot down over Berlin and spent two years in a prison camp. In a way it was like having a piece of living history in the family, but when I was a kid I didn’t appreciate it. I’m glad to say I did take the time to ask him about it before he died and one day I’d like to write about it.

He left me a few mementoes, such as his dog-tag from the camp and some cigarette tins hand-made from scrap aluminum, by Russian prisoners which they used to trade for bread and cigarettes. I’d say those are among my most treasured possessions.

But in terms of one favourite book – that’s tough. The two I’ve probably read more times than any other would be To Kill a Mockingbird. No wonder Harper Lee never wrote anything that came close to that book – it is absolutely perfect in it’s evocation of childhood. And the other one is One Hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – he creates such a wonderful, yet slightly off balance world with his mad extended Buendia family and the history of their town.

Recently I discovered Isabel Allende, another South American novelist who tells great rip-roaring stories in a similar vein to Marquez.

Andrew, what or who motivates you in your writing?

What motivates me is the pleasure I get from writing. I don’t claim to be a great writer, in fact I’m a bit of a hack and that used to bother me. I was always trying to craft the perfect sentence, with pretensions to great literature, but writing articles for the web has sort of liberated me and I’m content now to write in a purely conversational tone. I’m writing the book in the same style so I hope people find it easy to read because that’s one of my main aims.

The other great motivation is when someone reads something of mine and gives me good feedback. That’s a really uplifting feeling. I found a quote the other day from George M. Adams, who said “I don't care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause."

I think that is so true. We all need positive feedback.

Actually, I confess I don’t know who Adams is or was – perhaps someone can tell me.

Andrew, if you could meet one editor, could ask one question, what would that question be? Also, what would you want "your" favorite editor to know about you, and your writing?

A year or so ago, I wrote a series of light hearted pieces about internet dating and my experiences thereof. I thought it was pretty funny (but then I would, wouldn’t I?), and I sent it to a few editors. All of them rejected it. So I’d like to ask them what was wrong with it.

Apart from that I don’t really care about editors – they’re not needed on the web. Which, to be honest, I realise is not necessarily a good thing, but what I mean is they don’t really figure in my plans.

Your website is exceptionally good. I visited http://www.moneyandmind.com/ and came away with useful free information. I especially like your blog link and specifically your July 23, 2007 entry "My Mission Statement." Please expand on this.

Thanks, you are very kind about my site. I think it’s still very amateurish. I’m just pleased that I took the plunge and actually put it out there instead of endlessly tinkering with it and never actually making it available, which is one of my tendencies.

I wrote my mission statement because I always write down my goals. However I have never “published” them before. In a way it makes you accountable and that’s what I was aiming to achieve. However, it’s a pretty limited accountability.

I just checked my web stats (I’m a bit of a web stats geek) and I see that particular post has been viewed a grand total of three times since I posted it! One of those was you, one of those was me and the other one, I think was a guy called Ronnie who sent me a very nice testimonial about my newsletter, which I put on the front page because it is the only testimonial I’ve ever had.

So I figure that if I don’t achieve my goals, neither you nor Ronnie is likely to take ship across the Atlantic and berate me personally for my failure. I hope not anyway.

And finally, Andrew, what advice do you have for a budding writer working at a website, writing a book, maintaining a blog and writing interviews looking to earn a living off her site?

My advice comes not from a position of having achieved it, so I’m not best qualified, but I’ve come to realise two things. It’s a long slow process and you have to enjoy what you’re doing or what’s the point?

And the second thing is you just have to keep plodding on and believing in your goal, believing in the process of how you’re going to get there and it will come. I do firmly believe that.

I also think that one of the great motivators for me is that I hope in some small way that what I do, is helping people. You obviously have that same instinct Linda, given the work that you do with the bereaved – that must give you great satisfaction and I firmly believe that what we do for others will come back to us in some form or other.

Finally, from the writing angle I have found that the more I write, the more I enjoy it. It used to be tough to motivate myself, but now that I’m writing nearly every day, it flows much more easily, so ‘keep writing’ is my best advice.

Thanks very much - Andrew.

No, Andrew, it is I who thank you. You are a great writer and it is an honor and privilege to do this interview.

You can learn more about Andrew Grant by visiting his website, http://wwwmoneyandmind.com/ or reading his blog at http://www.money-and-mind.com/blog. You have permission to contact Andrew at info@money-and-mind.com

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