If you could invest $50 and get back $300, would you do it?

What if you had to gamble with that $50?

Is there really a difference between investing and gambling?

When I was in Las Vegas for an indie author conference this month, I did a little gambling. I don’t do the slot machines (totally not worth it), or play blackjack (who even understands that game?) but I LOVE roulette. For a very simple reason.

There is a real person involved. Which means the odds really can be in your favor.

The screens near the tables will tell you what the dealer has done the past 20 spins. And it even gives you a breakdown of what % has red/black, odd/even, dozens, etc. So when I sat down and saw the dealer was doing 68% red, guess where I put my chips?

A guy came up a little while later and played a few spins, putting his chips on just a few numbers. He said he always played the same ones. When he lost, it made me a little crazy. Why would you be so emotional when the numbers are right there on the screen, telling you where the safer bets are? Why would you base a decision on something that worked once, a long time ago, at a completely different table?

Now, I will admit that I did get very lucky when I stepped outside my usual safe bets, put a chip on a single number, and won! I walked away after that with some difficulty, thinking I should have kept going with even more money on red, knowing that it was a relatively safe bet.

I let my emotions take control in that moment. I was afraid of losing everything I’d just won.

The emotional roller coaster made me think of my experience with book marketing: getting a feel for things, looking at the numbers, being as logical as possible, placing safe bets before trying something a little riskier. But knowing when to walk away is still really hard.

With anything in life, there is risk. Whether you call it investing or gambling depends on your attitude. I think I have held on to the gambling attitude with regards to book marketing because so much is unknown.

There is not just one person standing there behind a roulette wheel, there are thousands of people seeing your ad, or interacting with you on social media, and there is no handy screen next to them to let you know what they’ve been doing. Sometimes those numbers are there but they are very complicated and would take so much testing and time to figure it out, it feels completely overwhelming.

Sometimes, there are lucky breaks that you could try to recreate but a month later it’s a different audience and the algorithm has changed again so it just feels safer to cash out.

We often talk about book marketing as investing. “You need to spend money to make money” is repeated all the time because it’s true. You can’t expect people to find your book on their own, so some type of marketing needs to happen. If it doesn’t cost money (like newsletter swaps), it does cost time. And time is even more precious than money, since you can’t make more of it by spending it.

I don’t really have any answers or suggestions for you today, unfortunately. I am thrilled that I managed to turn $50 into $300 by having fun and paying attention to the data I was given. I want to be able to do the same with my books. I am constantly learning and testing and reading.

Hopefully one day that book marketing finally feels like investing and less like standing in front of eight hundred roulette tables with five dollars in my hand, trying to figure out where I should place my bet.

Red? Or lucky number 11?

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