Guest post: USPs, an author’s biggest challenge?

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Accent author Gilli Allan to my blog today to talk about her work, which she defines as ‘Romance for Grown Ups’, and finding her USP. Welcome Gilli.

Cover FOFIf any of my school teachers were still alive – and still remembered me – (the latter is as unlikely as the former) I suspect they’d be amazed to discover that I have four published novels to my name, a fifth in the pipeline and a sixth in progress. I was an indifferent pupil, useless at maths, physics and chemistry, poor at French and geography, a bit better at biology and history, and OK (ish) at English lit’ and lang’. As for sport – gym, hockey, tennis, netball, cricket – we won’t even go there. The only subject I unequivocally excelled at was art. It wasn’t until I was well into my middle years, when writing and researching my book TORN, that I realised I’m dyslexic. Admittedly I’m on the mild end of this spectrum condition, but there is no doubt about it.

All the above is my long-winded way of finding an excuse for my various failures – dislike of the telephone, inability to tell left from right, poor memory and fear of instructions. Dyslexics in general, and it’s certainly true of me, are bad at decoding. For example, initialism -“a group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression, each letter being pronounced” – is the bane of my life. For a long time I thought a USP was something to do with computers. I’d written my first book (in the modern, online era) and was baffled by the advice that a USP was something I needed to find. It took time for my inefficient brain to grasp – and, more importantly, remember – that USP refers to a Unique Selling Point. What I needed was not a gizmo to attach to the PC, it was a short pithy sound-bite to describe my style of writing. A phrase I could use when promoting myself – to differentiate mine from the mass of other novels out there, aimed at women.

When I first started in this business there were no authors I’d identified whose novels were similar to mine (or visa versa). At the time you either wrote “Romance” – related to which there were a few other sub-genres, like Sagas, Historicals, or Bonk-busters (Chick Lit was still just a glint in some marketing man’s eye) – or you wrote ‘Women’s Fiction’ which had an air of the ‘literary’ about it, as it dealt with issues and gave no guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’ ending. I felt I straddled these two camps.

9781783756872_FCI wrote then, and still write, romantic contemporary fiction about real women, in real and challenging situations. They deal with the slings and arrows of life in whatever way they can. They, and the people around them, are not necessarily noble or perfect, rich or drop-dead gorgeous. They don’t always make good decisions. They trip and they fall. But there will always be a developing love theme within the story. And in the end, though there may not be the Cinderella transformation scene, there will be a positive and upbeat conclusion.

In the last ten years publishing has gone through a revolution. It is now easier and cheaper to get books out there in front of the public. As a result, a new wave of women’s fiction is emerging, which I can link myself to – novels which have a developing love story at the core, but which touch on more challenging issues than the drama of getting tipsy, breaking your heel, or not being able to afford a designer frock. Before anyone starts shouting, I know I’m being unfair, but I am dramatising just to make the point!

God bless Jo Jo Moyes and Jenny Harper and Linda Gillard and many many many more. We all write – and here comes the USP – ROMANCE FOR GROWN-UPS!

Gilli’s latest novel, FLY OR FALL, is out now. Here’s the blurb:

Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the safe and familiar?
But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark side. Everyone – even her nearest and dearest – has been lying. She’s even deceived herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the wreckage of her life, she believes it is doomed.
The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself?

About Gilli

GilliGilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal.

To connect to Gilli: (@gilliallan)
To Buy Gilli’s Books:
TORN (universal) or

FLY OR FALL- (universal)

Thanks for coming by, Gilli, and best of luck with your books.



9 thoughts on “Guest post: USPs, an author’s biggest challenge?

  1. gilliallan says:

    Thanks for having me Laura. I very much enjoyed talking to you. Rereading what I’ve just written, I cringe a bit. But it’s absolutely true! I’d get on better in this world if I was less daft! gx

    • I’m not dyslexic, but I’m daft in different ways that make life challenging at times. I really like what you say here about the new wave of women’s fiction. I consider myself part of that group. I hope the future brings us a wide audience and much success as we suppoer each other and readers discover the value of our work.

      • gilliallan says:

        Here here, T A Munroe! It’s about time that more nuanced women’s popular (as opposed to literary) fiction, achieved its share of the limelight. Gillix

  2. Surprising how many people slipped through the net at school and ended up years later with a diagnosis of dyslexia – this happened to a younger brother. It held him back for years. When I see someone rising about it and excelling in their chosen field, I am so happy. I have Torn on my TBR pile Gilli, and I hope to live long enough to read it. I’ve had to be strict and go in order of purchase to be fair to one and all. Wishing you much success with all your books and number 6 when it is completed. 🙂

  3. gilliallan says:

    I was at school before the term dyslexia was widely known. And I’m not claiming to be profoundly badly disabled by it. But when I made the discovery it was a Eureka moment, as it explained so many things about the way my brain works (or doesn’t!).

    I hope you enjoy TORN when you get to it.


  4. Helen Pollard says:

    Hi, Gilli. Gosh, I used to hate the P.E. – they seemed to delight in looking down my reports at the good grades from most subjects and thinking “This girl needs to come down a peg or two.” No matter how hard I tried, C+ was the best they ever begrudged me 🙂
    I’m so pleased you found your forte ‘despite’ the dyslexia!
    As for genres … it’s so hard if you don’t quite fit into one or the other, isn’t it? I wrote my first two to ‘fit’ but my WIP doesn’t quite fit any single one. Goodness knows if I’ll find a publisher for it, but I love it so much that I’ll keep trying.
    Thank you for the interesting post!

  5. gilliallan says:

    And thanks for the comment, Helen. I do appreciate you taking the trouble.
    So many people say that their schooldays were the best of their life, that for a long time I thought there was something profoundly wrong with me. Why didn’t I enjoy school? Why did I consistently do worse than I believed I was capable of? Having an explanation – even though it’s a self-diagnosis – is reassuring.

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