How to Start and Operate an Escape Room Business – Aleksei Kniazev [Book Review]

The quests to build quests

Author:  Aleksei Kniazev

Year:  2020

Page Count: 98

Price: $25 eBook and $39 paperback

REA Reaction

Overall this book was good in concept, but rough in delivery.

How to Start and Operate an Escape Room Business contained a lot of high-level information for someone new to the industry. A person considering starting their own escape room business would do well to read a broad overview such as this. There is a niche for this kind of text to fill.

However, in its current state, the issues with the writing style may be too much for many readers to ignore.

The book described financials and a business plan with real, but possibly optimistic, numbers. It assumed a tone of economic certainty that might not exist in a post-COVID-19 environment (although the author did acknowledge this).

This book would be for someone who seeks a conversation with an experienced owner, rather than someone looking for a textbook. You’ll get the most out of this book if you can think critically about someone else’s experiences, and how to apply these back to your own business in 2020 (or whenever you read the book).

Black & gold cover for How to Start and Operation an Escape Room Business

Who is this for?

How to Start and Operate an Escape Room Business was written as an introduction to the business of escape rooms. It contained some solid information and covered a lot of ground for those curious about entering the industry. Real-world lessons were explained by an owner with several years worth of experiences, both good and bad.

Structure

The book followed a somewhat linear path of business development. Topics covered included everything from selecting a location and hiring a team through testing games, advertising, and running the business. Entire books could be written on each of the subjects briefly discussed in this guide. This was a shallow overview of one person’s experience rather than a definitive authority on every aspect. The book was less ‘how exactly to open an escape room business’ and more of a reality check for those thinking about it. In fact, I thought the In Summary questions were a good place to start for curious beginners.

Analysis

➕ The many actual examples used to describe broader concepts added a good feel to the book. Parts of it felt like I, as the reader, was just having a conversation with an experienced owner. 

➕ It stressed that to be successful long term, you need to love what you are doing. The balance between learning specific skills and choosing to hire for them was explained by someone who has been there.

➕ When writing about designing escape rooms, the author had a good grasp of the desired emotions for both the creator and the players.

➖ English was not the author’s native language so the text really needed the attention of a professional editor. I found the book readable, but the grammar mistakes and strange phrasing should be corrected if the book is to be taken seriously as instructional business material.

Sample from page 16: “The first thing is to look for is the layout. From the very beginning, you should keep in mind that in order for this business to be successful and bring you income (not just cover salary), you need to look for premises where you can open at least two quests. One quest will give salary to you, your team and employees, and cover expenses. But you will soon feel that you need a second room.”

➖ There were a couple of places where the book shifted abruptly from personal story style into textbook style. I think the former style did a better job of reaching the reader.

➖ The topic organization could be better. The book would benefit from a more traditional chapter structure. At times I felt jerked in and out of relevant subjects.

➕ Given the author’s marketing background, it was not surprising that the advertising section felt stronger and more specific.

➕ The author had a slightly different explanation of the escape room “generations” nomenclature that might be more helpful to those new to the industry.

❓ The author often used the Russian term “quest” in place of the more common American terms “escape room” and “escape game.” I have always liked the term “quest” because it seems to infer a more epic importance to the experiences and encompasses a range of mission goals beyond escape. Your mileage may vary.

/➖ The book contained many pictures from the author’s own business locations. Some were helpful and on point, but others seemed to add a bit of confusion.

➕ The author acknowledged that customers have evolved, and building escape rooms for $7,000 won’t cut it anymore. Following the path of 2015 isn’t a guarantee for success in 2020. The reader can learn a lot from the author’s experiences, but cannot simply replicate their model for success.

Buy your copy of How to Start and Operate an Escape Room Business, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Aleksei Kniazev provided a sample for review.

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