Author Spotlight: Balint Erdi
by Dennis Field on March 2, 2017
For our second Author Spotlight, we have Balint Erdi the author of “Rock and Roll with Ember.js” joining us. I hope you enjoy!
Tell me about yourself. Where do you call home? What do you do for a living? Why do you do it?
I’ve been working as a freelancer for more than 6 years now (with a 2.5 year “break” in the middle when I was working as a key employee of a startup), and I thoroughly enjoy it.
It gives me a lot of flexibility, which is really great when you have kids and need more of it. It’s also great to be able to just decide to take a Friday off and go for a hike in the sunny spring weather.
I started my freelancing career in Rails but switched to Ember about 4 years ago and there was no looking back.
Tell me about your book. What is it about? Why did you write it?
Rock and Roll with Ember.js is a book for beginners. It guides you through the building of an application while introducing you to the building blocks of the framework one-by-one. By learning while building a “real” app, this ensures that the new knowledge sinks in.
Ember is fantastic framework but it has a bit of a steep learning curve. My book helps overcome the initial hardship and sets you on your way to Ember mastery.
I also keep the book up-to-date with the latest stable version of Ember (updates come about every 6 weeks and are free!)
What are your goals for the book?
My goal is to help developers who may be wanting to learn Ember do so quicker and internalize the few core concepts that really make Ember a great framework.
Have you ever written or self-published a book before? Why did you choose to do so for this book?
No, this is my first book. I chose to self-publish because it did not seem that hard and I did not like the constraints some of the other publishing platforms would have put on me.
What steps did you take in writing your book?
I first started with a free screencast series. This helped me begin to build the app to a basic level. I then realized that this could serve as a great starting point for a book.
So I switched mediums and based the book on the screencast’s content and then extended it by several steps (which became chapters).
I had to make modifications as I’ve found that writing and screencasting are different types of content creation processes but it gave me a head start.
What were some of the tools you used when writing your book?
I used Gitbook which is a simple (yet powerful tool) that allows you to write your book in markdown and create the different e-book formats from the command line.
It was fine for the epub and mobi versions, but I did not find the pdf it produced fancy enough. So I asked Sacha Greif whose book on Meteor was stunningly beautiful how he did it. It turned out he just used a static site generator to produce the html content and then used the “Print function” of the browser to generate the pdf.
In the end, I did the same thing. However, I ended up writing a lot of ruby scripts to make it look the way I wanted to.
I also wrote a handful of other scripts to automate producing a new version as I have to go through making a new one once every 6 weeks.
What are some of the methods you used to promote the book? What has worked? What has not worked as well as you would have hoped?
From the day I launched the screencast series I had an email list that I grew to about 1200 subscribers for the book launch. I did this through publishing a blog post each week on my own blog and through guest blogging.
The latter did not work as well as I’d hoped, probably because signing up to my mailing list was not a natural extension to the post content.
I’d also made the html version of the first few chapters of the book available for free a few weeks prior to the launch. Doing this gained me about 100 potential readers.
What was your biggest struggle when writing this book? How did you overcome it?
The biggest struggle was actually sitting down and making progress with the book. I’d reserved Fridays for “content generation”, writing blog posts and the book itself. That was not enough though. This also meant I had to write for a couple of hours in the evenings.
What ensured I got it done was setting a deadline for the release date.
What have been your proudest moments throughout this process so far?
The fact that I published it, on the day I’d promised to publish it on makes me proud. I’m even happier about the fact that a lot of the people who’ve read the book really like the book. They have written me to praise the book and thank me, which feels great.
What do you hope your readers takeaway after reading your book?
That they simply internalize the few core concepts that one needs to understand to like Ember.js and be very productive with it. I also hope that by reading the book it gives them proficiency with the framework and the necessary confidence to take it further.
What’s the single piece of advice that you’d give to someone else getting ready to write and self-publish a book? What did you learn from this process?
Set aside time to write the book and have a regular schedule for doing it. “I’ll write it when I have some time” won’t work. Also, start a mailing list from day one and nurture it, send them materials on a regular basis.
What’s next for you and your book?
Two years after its publication, I still spend a significant amount of time polishing it and keeping it up-to-date with the latest version of the framework and the changes in the Ember ecosystem.
I contemplated a sequel to the framework and I already have the title figured out (“Rock and Roll with Ember.js – Encore”) but I’ve not yet made the final decision if I will do so, because I now see how much work writing and maintaining a single book can be and I’m not sure if I can maintain both.
However, having written the application that we build in the book, I can build other services on top of that, like workshops so perhaps that may be an option.
What book(s) or blogs are you currently reading?
I really like the EmberMap blog. It’s full of great Ember-related content and resources.
I love to read. I read a bit of everything. Sometimes even at the same time. Novels, “educational” books on parenting, economy, the art of consulting, probability and psychology all fascinate me. I also get my fair share of tech books to keep my skills sharp.
Thank you Balint for the time! Where can readers find you online?
The easiest place to go is my personal website. Here you can read my blog and keep up with everything that I’m working on.
I hope you enjoyed this Author Spotlight! If you have any questions for Balint or myself, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you’d like to be considered for an interview, please email me here. I’d love to chat with you!