What is Your Brand? : Unique Selling Point

I get a lot of questions regarding branding. Not only am I a writer, but I'm a small business owner. Branding is everything, especially in a competitive world. I've had a lot of practice, some failures and even success in this field. Now it's time to help you brand yourself as a writer.

So let's break this down into a few different blog posts. Today we're going to start with your unique selling point or unique selling proposition (USP).

Your USP is what makes you different than every other writer out there. And it needs to be more unique than "historical writer" or "fantasy writer". Why will people want to read your horror book when they can pick up Shirley Jackson's books? Why give a new romance writer a chance when Nora Roberts is a proven joy to read?

It's all about what you bring to the table.


Let's take a look at some known businesses and figure out their USPs:

M&Ms. Think about it. What do we all associate with M&Ms? They melt in our mouths, not in our hands. The company didn't come up with anything fancy. They took something everyone already loves - chocolate - and put their USP on it. Can you think of another chocolate candy that won't melt as fast? Me neither.

Tom's Shoes. What does Tom's do that other shoe companies weren't doing? (Although many are doing this now) Tom's donated a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every purchase. Sure, companies have copied them. But we know that Tom's did it first, and they appealed to a wider variety of clients. Their USP was successful.


Dominio's Pizza: Okay, they don't do it anymore, but I bet a lot of people still remember their 30 minute delivery or it's free promise.

Now let's look at some writers and what makes them unique:

Susan May Warren - When Susan started writing, she wrote Love Inspired Thrillers. Unfortunately, so did hundreds of other writers. But she stood out in the group due to her experiences as a Russian missionary. She incorporated her experiences and boom! She was the Christian Russia themed thriller author. Now that's a niche. And once she gained an audience, she was able to expand her brand, and now she writes a variety of contemporary themed Christian fiction novels.

Nicholas Sparks - Reading his name has probably pieced together some sort of image in your mind. Romance. Loss. Redemption. Regret. You know what you're getting when you open one of his books.

Chuck Palahnuik - If you go to his website, it says "The Cult". I think that's a fair assessment of his fans and the vibe he releases into the universe. He's gritty, raw, gross, witty, satirical and he goes for the artery. He's the cult leader of the lonely, the light at the end of the used condom lined dark tunnel, the scar after a particularly gnarly scab.

Each of these writers have defined themselves through every aspect of their presence. They have mastered their USP.

So how do you do it?

Start simple. What are three words or small phrases that describe the emotion your work invokes and / or yourself? Try not to stray too far from your authentic self. Make a long list and keep crossing out words until you get down to three, each unique from the other two. Write them on a sticky-note, put it somewhere you'll see every day and let them marinate. These will be the three words your entire brand will revolve around, so take your time. Ask people who know you best. Ask your critique partners.

Here are my three:


Eccentric. Open Door. Hatch Alice. - My stories are dark with odd characters facing despair. Eccentric fits the mood I'm creating as well as my characters. Open door describes how I want my writing to feel. I want to be inclusive, not only to readers but to my characters. Hatch Alice...well, you'll be tumbling down the rabbit hole with me.

Every time I get stuck, whether in marketing or during a work-in-progress, I go back to these three words and ask, Am I living up to them? Have I included all three in my work?

These three words are what I use to define my USP. I am the Purveyor of the Weird, the dark fiction writer who writes about death and pain and depression. I push my characters beyond their comfort zone and then I push more. And I want everyone to come along this crazy wide.


I once had someone say "your stories are so weird and depressing." Boom. My USP.

It may take some practice. I've tried a few different USP ideas before landing one my current brand.

Next blog we'll talk about how using your USP plays into your website image. Leave your comments and questions below or hop on @nicobellfiction and drop your USP!