RAAPA MAGAZINE «ATTRACTIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT» №27, OCTOBER 2019
Interview with author of Fantastic Park
Back in March Pavel Timets, entertainment industry expert and analyst and founder of Russia’s largest entertainment parks in Saint Petersburg (Maza Park), Kazan (FUN24) and Smolensk (Galaxy Park), published his first book — Fantastic Park. Entertainment Centers: From Projects to Happy Guests. That was a big event, as there are really few samples of professional literature on entertainment industry. We interviewed Pavel, and he shared his experience of writing and promoting his book.
Was it a coincidence that the presentation of your book took place at the same time as the RAAPA EXPO 2019?
No, it wasn’t a coincidence. When I started working on this book, I knew it was going to be an example of pure professional literature meant for representatives of entertainment industry. Participants and guests of the RAAPA exhibition would be specifically interested in a book about building and managing amusement parks.
Right after the 2018 exhibition, we planned to have first copies printed by the end of February 2019, so that we would be able to present the book at the next RAAPA come spring. We did everything in our power so that our book would be attracting attention throughout all three days of the exhibition. We ordered a bookshelf with a distinct design in advance, printed promo bookmarks, built a book cutout (scale 1:5), and organized an official presentation followed by book signing on the stage of hall 75 of the VDNKh. The book is a product, so potential buyers would want to see it with their own eyes. Visitors had the opportunity to shuffle some pages, communicate with the author and have their copies signed.
Why do you think the market needs your book?
I’ve worked in entertainment industry for 20 years, but I’ve seen almost no professional literature on it. Books on entertainment business are published ever so rarely. Of course, there are translated versions of foreign works, but they’re ill-suited for Russia. You can read about Walt Disney’s parks and parks in Orlando for you own entertainment, but these books have little to do with entertainment business in Russia. Our climate and economy have distinct features, while our mentality is vastly different from European or American. And it can vary even depending on which region we’re talking about! That’s why I’m writing about building and managing projects in different parts of Russia. Differences are massive.
As I felt the need for such book, I figured I’d have to write one myself. As of now, Fantastic Park is the only book that offers detailed overview of roofed amusement parks in Russia. You could find information if you wanted to, but it is scattered, not systematized. You could collect pieces of the big picture at webinars and coachings, learn from colleagues, friends or the Internet.
Your work is neither a manual nor a textbook, and not even in a trending genre of business novel. Why did you go for good old business book?
More than anything, I wanted to write a pragmatic book that would be interesting and clear to both students in the beginning of their entertainment career and entrepreneurs with functioning businesses. The book contains applicable experience and readymade cases. Information is delivered in an exciting rather than academic way. Some of the materials are ones from my personal blog; they’re meant for a wider audience. Generally, these are cases that are applicable not only to entertainment parks. Some of them might be suitable for any business centered around working with Guests — hotels, cafés, restaurants, etc.
In your opinion, which parts of your book were of most interest for your readers?
I think, or at least I hope, that everyone liked all of the book. It covers absolutely different aspects of the entertainment center: building and opening, corporate culture, HR, service and quality, food & beverages, security, marketing, PR and some others. That’s what’s exciting about this book. Some of these aspects receive specific attention; for example, corporate culture. Anyone can apply my schemes and patterns to their Guest-oriented businesses.
Some companies bought a handful of copies to distribute among their employees, as a kind of «office Bible». Some of my colleagues would even approach me with a suggestion to republish the book under their brands — to be handed to employees of their amusement parks.
What would you recommend to authors who wish to write their own book?
There’s a lot of courses, coachings and books on how to write your own book or novel, but I chose another way. I must issue a warning: in order to write a book, it is imperative that you have experience, system, desire, enough time, money and eagerness. Then, you just start writing. I value personal experience and systematic approach above all for a reason. If you don’t have unique knowledge and sufficient skill to use it, you probably shouldn’t write a book at all.
As for practical advice, I recommend to make up a plan or approximate table of contents prior to writing. Just think about things you really want to put in your book. Yes, this will only be a draft, and you’re going to change it numerous times, but it had proved to be quite useful for me. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to tell people about building and opening an amusement park, recruiting staff members, corporate culture, increasing attendance, planning events, security and so on. I highlighted these aspects as the most important in the functioning of the facility. That draft jumpstarted me to the rest of the book.
Do you think today publishers are looking for authors, or are authors offering their product to publishers?
Publishers do not favor new, unknown authors. When you come to them, they want to know how many followers you have on social media, who’s going to read what you write. If your blog is popular, a publisher is far more likely to cooperate with you.
After all, publishing is mostly about business. A new author is always a risk: who knows how copies are going to sell. If an author insists on publishing, he may be bound by agreement to buy out a certain portion of copies. That’s how publishers guarantee they don’t lose income in case new books flop. Then, it’s up to the author to decide what to do with the unsold copies.
We didn’t want to involve ourselves with publishers because Fantastic Park is pure professional literature. It is meant for people already working in amusement parks, or planning to set up a business in entertainment. These people are really eager about this industry, but they are very few — certainly not thousands, as publishers would prefer. So, we decided to publish the book on our own.
Self-publishing has a lot of advantages. You can set up deadline of your own, choose typography and cover of your own liking, print out test copies and see if anything needs to be changed. Publishers tend to impose their design, terms and deadlines.
Did you invest in advertising to attract attention to the book?
Promoting the book has been our priority as of late. We didn’t spend money on advertising (only on the presentation), and we didn’t pay anyone to tell or write something about the book. However, we invested a lot of time and energy in promoting.
When copies are printed, there is a list of minimal requirements to meet, especially if you’re a self-publisher. But there’s something that’s important to do before the release. For example, for six months prior to the presentation I had been writing about working on the book in my blog. My audience knew that I was going to release a book, and they were waiting for that release.
Of course, we involved followers into the process. They voted for the book’s name, and they would also read small excerpts from it and then give precious feedback. Best comments and reviews can be found in the book. People who suggested Fantastic Park as the title are also specifically mentioned in the text.
As result of our activity in social media, 40% of those who approached us at the exhibition already knew about the book — and deliberately came to buy a copy. Thus, social media is the principal means of promotion both before and after book’s release.
Second important step is a presentation. Or, if you prefer, celebration of release! We presented our book at the professional exhibition; I communicated with our future readers and signed some copies. This was also part of promotion, as quite a lot of people got to see the book for the first time and developed interest in it.
After that, word of mouth comes into play. I recommend to pay a significant amount of attention to first sales. Monitor reviews and posts in social media, thank your readers personally and share posts with your book on your accounts. Back at the presentation, a photographer took a lot of pictures of people with their freshly purchased books. They can find these pictures at my site and use them to post reviews in their social media. In my turn, I share these posts.
By the time the book is to be printed, you should set up a site or landing page where it can be purchased online. It is best to include various means of payment and delivery across Russia and the CIS. We couldn’t get the site going right from the start, but now all’s fine.
Social media, web-site, presentation, promo materials are just bare necessities. They don’t require much money, but they do require planning, mindfulness, human resources and, of course, plenty of time.
You mentioned human resources. Does publishing require teamwork?
For me, any significant project requires teamwork. I can come up with an idea, inspire others with it, but I can’t always complete what I began on my own. So, if a project is really important for me and my business, I gather a team of experts.
Why would an author need a team? Well, writing a book is just the first half of your journey. Next up, you have to put it together, which means you’ll need people skilled in typography, art, editing and, most of all, organization. My governance experts are Anna Bessmertnaya, project manager, and Svetlana Erokhova, publishing producer.
They were monitoring deadlines and quality, approving illustrations, working with documents, making adjustments, organizing presentation and promotion, etc. This is hard labor behind the scenes, but people only see the final product.
If you open the last page of my book, you will see a huge list of people who helped publish it. A book is a period in a person’s life — a period in the lives of all who participated in its making. I, author, am calling this period Fantastic Park.
Interviewer: Igor Rodionov
Photo by: Nikolay Tsuguliev