At the Romantic Times Convention, BookBaby interviewed Cat Johnson, an award-winning author of steamy contemporary romance who writes in genres including military, cowboy, and paranormal.  One of the things we find fascinating about Cat is the way she employs creative research and marketing practices; she has an uncanny ability to transform social networking from the virtual world into genuine interactions in the physical world.

When Cat set out to write her first military romance, she first began interacting with soldiers online; she knew nothing about the subject and wanted to learn from the source.  So she reached out to the community, hanging out with deployed soldiers on the Internet. These interactions have proven to be a great boon to her career in the following ways:

The soldiers helped her research and improved the authenticity of her novels

For example, she asked them about details such as their flak jackets – do they have zippers or Velcro? – for she knew that if she were wrong, her readers such as military wives would immediately know.

Her online interactions led her to discover new stories and even work in new genres

One of Cat’s online military friends told her that a Bravo team leader was a rodeo cowboy before he joined the army: would she like to hear his stories?  Cat communicated with the cowboy and began to fall in love with the sport, and she subsequently met other bull riding cowboys – as well as stock contractors and clowns.  This led to her writing a work of fiction which hit her publisher’s best seller list.

Cat’s interaction with the community has increased her sales, driving new audiences for her work

Now, she sponsors real-live bull riders, and these riders physically wear her name on their shirts (as well as her slogan “Let’s buck”) and hand out bumper stickers at the shows.  (“Looking for more than an 8-second ride? Let’s buck!”)  In effect, these riders serve as her living billboards.  This enables Cat not only to preach to the choir (marketing to genre fans of romance) but also to expand the market by marketing to the people who love the topic she’s writing about (bull riders).

Her marketing efforts have led to genuine friendships

Cat sends emails and care packages to troop members, and when she reads news of a bomb going off in Afghanistan, she takes it personally, since she knows soldiers who are there.  Of all of her endeavors in writing and marketing, that’s what’s most rewarding to her: the fact that in her creative journey, she’s developed genuine, treasured, real-world friendships along the way.

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