Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Marketing Tips From The Belmont Racetrack

Everyone thinks they have a strategy when it comes to gambling.  I see it when people bet on sporting events, and in the casinos, and even when playing the lottery.  I saw it firsthand when my family went to Belmont Racetrack on Mother’s Day.  There’s a book marketing lesson to be learned from it.

Now, before you get any ideas that I’m some degenerate gambler who dragged his wife and two young kids to the track to bet rent money, let me tell you it was our first time to the famous raceway and it was my wife’s request to go there on the day we celebrate motherhood.

The idea came about after we watched The Kentucky Derby on TV. We live less than 30 minutes away from the 107-year old track that finishes off the third of the Triple Crown races. We didn’t plan to go in June when 120,000+ people will descend upon the massive track, so we went on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the middle of May.

The entrance fee is just $3 per adult; kids are free.  Parking was free, too.  They get your money when you bet.  Surprisingly, the minimum bet is only $1.

In New York, they did away with the OTB.  Somehow an industry long accused of fixing races, doping horses, and manipulating the odds-payoffs managed to lose money.  Going to the track made it seem like a fun experience, instead of just standing in front of a TV set and being surrounded by strange men who look like they live and die with every bet.

I was surprised at how big the stands are.  They hold a lot of people.  And there’s an even bigger area under the stands that can house a ton of people.  Then there’s an outdoor picnic section, complete with food stands, a playground, kiddie games, and of course windows to place bets.  The place only held maybe 5% of its capacity on the day we went.

Of course, horse racing only exists for betting. Even if you love horses, few follow it as a true sport.  Horses come and go.  So do the trainers and the owners.  The industry uses up animals and people until they no longer make money.

We started the day watching the first race just a few feet from the finish line.  We were right by the clay dirt that the horses would kick up just before nosing across the finish line going maybe 45-50 miles per hour.

After watching one race without wagering, we bet on the next four races.  My eight-year-old son adopted a strategy I’d suggested – bet the favorite to show.  This means you bet on the horse that is favored to win but you bet he’ll finish in the top three.  My son won all four times.  But at a buck a race, he only netted $2.30.  Still, where else can you get a 57% return on your investment in two hours?

My wife took not only the odds into consideration but also the horse’s name.  She won two and lost two but was down a little because she couldn’t make up her losses with her winnings.

My daughter, five, went for horses she liked the names of.  I had to talk her out of betting on a 50 to 1 cripple.  Instead, she picked Hot Splash to show.  It actually came in first.

Teaching my son, eight, about the odds was tricky.  I tried to explain how 9:5 is better than 3:1 but he thought if you subtract one number from the other that the lowest number is best.  Once he grasped what the odds meant – the statistical chance of a horse winning (according to who and why, I don’t know) – I explained that the odds can change up until showtime because the payout, as reflected by the odds, changes based not on how good a horse is, but by how much money is wagered on a horse.  It seems unfair, but that’s the system.

I lost my first three races, following a different strategy.  I decided to try a few long-shots and one with medium odds, thinking I just needed one win to get a nice payout. On the fourth race I took the horse with the best odds and bet large.  After going a dollar a race for my trio of losses, I bet $20.  Small, compared to the addicts at the track, but big for me.

I won.

The payoff was only $3. I won back what I had lost. So I broke even.

It goes to show there are different strategies to horse race betting and there are different ways to promote and market a book. Sometimes you need to know when to switch strategies or take a risk.  Of course the key lesson is that you have to be in it to win it.  You can’t win if you don’t bet, if you don’t try.

And if you don’t succeed at book marketing, come down to the track and bet on your lucky number or the cute horse or the funny name or the statistical oddity.  You may just win!


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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