The Swinging Vine Brand Theory

With five back-to-back and two simultaneous releases at Buzz Books this fall and a busy caseload on the branding front, I’ve been thinking about Discoverability and Action. You can’t have one without the other, but what surprises companies and authors the most is just how MUCH action is takes to get traction. I got an email from an author yesterday sharing how disappointed she was in not getting return emails from people she’s pitching and reaching out to. I assured her it’s totally normal. Emails fall into a similar camp as direct mail. Yes, the intended target may “see” your name, but that doesn’t mean they’ll open it. Open rates in email marketing can be abysmal, even if the content goes by the rule of thumb to ask an engaging question or use the “top 5” list method. If you’re at 30% open rate, consider yourself blessed. If they actually click on the links within the email, kiss your own hand. It’s tough to get and maintain people’s attention.

Each week I do a social media report for one of my clients (and I should do one for myself, but it’s the Cobbler’s Shoes thing), and I see the spreadsheet not as rows and columns but as Swinging Vines. Your brand is the monkey in the tree. Let’s say your products are bananas on that tree, but all the other monkeys have bananas on their trees, too, so you have some stiff competition. And maybe you’re at a disadvantage because your tree isn’t next to the beach like some of the other trees. How do you ensure your message gets out there?


Swinging vines are all the ways you are connecting with your audience. And the way that you communicate with them will vary based on the delivery and purpose of the channel. You’ll be funny with quips. You’ll be serious with statistics. You’ll be friendly with responses. You’ll be kind with RTs and Shares. But if you’re doing all those on one channel, you could be missing a bunch of monkeys who aren’t fond of that vine.

This is the tale of Reach and Frequency, certainly – you want your vines to reach the most people you can with a frequency that they will see your messages multiple times – but so many vines just hang there. A hanging vine is not communicating anything or spreading buzz about your brand. And if a vine swings at you but you don’t send it back, you’ve lost that opportunity. That’s the engagement piece of swinging vine theory.

As I’ve posted previously, you don’t want to be a cranky monkey and you want to be seen as an expert in your field, but most of all you have to be an active monkey. Even though you’ve petered out of talking about your brand – and engaging others – by Friday, that’s the day social media is on fire. And just when you feel you’ve spent your last dollar on advertising, that’s just when you’ve gotten the monkeys’ attention so you can’t stop now. You have to keep telling them, switching up your story enough to make it interesting and new and forging on with more swinging vines.

Here are the Swinging Vines I use for my business clients:

  • print ads
  • web ads
  • TV ads
  • Radio ads
  • Monthly e-newsletter
  • brochures
  • events
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • tumblr blog
  • WordPress blog
  • Pinterest
  • Letters and postcard direct mail
  • PR (preferably setting up lunches and live pitches)

And what about for the author monkeys out there? At Buzz Books, we rely heavily on social media because we have a small budget, but we do invest in Facebook ad campaigns (you’re only charged when they click), galley promotions (printing and mailing books to reviewers) and event marketing (posters, PR and the event costs itself) and web ads.  We do bookmarks with the newest title releases to send to reviewers, take to events and give to our authors to pass out. It’s useful. It’s shiny. Here’s the latest one.

But even though there aren’t as many Swinging Vines for the author, the hope is that the publisher does some, the author does some and then the readers take that vine and swing it out to their audience, too. Getting shares, mentions, interactions – it all contributes to the total reach and effectiveness of your efforts, whether it was time or money that you invested. Additional Swinging Vines for authors could include:

  • writing organizations (you can find online and in real life in nearly every city and every genre)
  • participating in group blogs in addition to managing your own
  • guest blogging
  • actively commenting and networking on forums and writer blogs (I like Writing on the Ether and Writer Unboxed)

So what are you swinging (not slinging) for your brand?


Castle & Quill Novel Prep Academy is just a month away (in OKC). I’m nervous and excited. Thrilled YA author Tara Hudson will be joining us along with debut crime novelist Lucie Smoker and our own comedian Heather Davis, whose travel essays debuted this week (TMI Mom Bites the Big Apple). We’re giving away a Kindle at C&Q, too so if you know any writers in OK/TX/KS, send them our way. We’re going to prep the hell out of that novel.

Also nervous/pumped about the release of Something Wicked. Big contest happening starting Monday and a trick or treat blog tour. f you like Halloween, you’ll want to check it out. And the stories are age appropriate for 11+ but you may certainly read it first and then share with your kiddos if you have them.

If YOU have a blog, I’d love to be a guest in November as I increase my Swinging Vines for the launch of Something New. 




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