When Emma set out to write and self-publish her very first ebook within a month in the spring of 2020, she was afraid she'd screw it up.
She had been transparently and authentically sharing her knowledge and career experience with other developers for years, but she'd never set out to do a book before.
But as she landed her dream job at Spotify, she realized she had accrued a lot of knowledge and experience about technical interviews at companies both big and small that could help others. Even as someone with a degree in Computer Science, Emma found the process to be difficult and anxiety-inducing and felt there was a gap in existing resources.
"I purchased so many different online courses to help me study," she says. "None of them really worked out for me because a lot of the sites are backend language focused and didn't cover all aspects of the process like systems design and the behavioral conversations. There was no start to finish interview book."
She opened a pre-sale for De-Coding the Technical Interview Process and shared her progress as she wrote, designed, and marketed the book over the course of 30 days. Despite her fears, her launch went well. The response was overwhelming, with $40k in sales and a ton of feedback from people saying how helpful the book was.
Opportunity to collaborate to have a bigger impact
Having collaborated with Emma previously and seeing how she was nailing a huge pain that many developers experience and the value of what she was creating, we reached out to offer ideas on how she could iterate and build on the material even further to add more value, help more people, and continue to generate revenue.
Emma loved the idea of continuing to build on the work. She was much more interested in collaborating with an expert production team she could trust to support the planning, design, development and distribution rather than continuing to handle everything herself.
"When I did the initial sale, I spent a lot of time marketing, sending out emails, answering emails, dealing with payment issues," says Emma. "So if I can outsource that to someone I'm a lot happier. I create better content when I'm not focusing on all the minutiae."
While Emma was interested in designing a full interactive video course, we decided together to first focus on doing a revamp and re-release of the book before building out the Technical Interviews product further.
📖 Fine-tuning and revamping the book
Emma did an incredible job with the initial version of her book. The content was strong and she broke things down clearly and in an approachable way. After her initial sale, we supported Emma to elevate and improve the book even further to make it even more valuable and relaunch it.
As Emma reviewed her content, she saw opportunities to elaborate on some areas to add more value.
"For example, I added a ton more content to systems design, more to tips for hiring managers, as well as more in the coding project section to talk about the stigma behind coding projects and how they can be harmful to some candidates."
We worked with Emma to incorporate those changes and provided copy editing, additional reviewing and testing for errors. We also took care of all the logistic details to make the book available in not only a light and dark mode PDF (which was very well received with Emma's first version), but also HTML and epub formats so that people could read the book in the format of their choosing.
✨ Creating an elevated & delightful experience
Emma already has experience with visual design and was able to do a lot on her own for her initial sale of the book (including creating the great hand-drawn illustrations in the book to explain some of the concepts she teaches).
We helped her further elevate the look and feel of Technical Interviews with a punched up and captivating design — creating new branding, a new custom website, and a new design for her book, including the gorgeous 3D illustrations used throughout the book that add a special touch. Emma was involved in design decisions to make sure we came up with a visual experience that reflected her light and friendly vibe and style aesthetic.
Knowing how valuable design is, Emma appreciated how our collaboration allowed her to have the higher-quality visuals that not only improve the experience and make it more delightful for learners, but also help build trust and communicate the value of the product.
"Users expect high fidelity — if a user is paying money for something, they expect a high caliber of product," she says. "I'm not saying all pretty products should be trusted, but subconsciously, something looks and feels elite, people are more likely to purchase it. There was a limitation to what I could deliver as a self-producing engineer so having investment in branding and marketing is absolutely invaluable."
📧 Creating a self-paced email course for Emma to share her insights and expertise
As Emma and the team worked on revamping De-Coding the Technical Interview Process, we helped Emma deliver a ****self-paced email course to provide more even more value to people eager to learn what she has to teach as well as offering a demonstration of what she has to offer.
Emma wrote the content, while we provided guidance on structure and editing support based on our previous experience building email courses to help her make it as effective as possible. We also handled setting up the structure and automations in ConvertKit, setting up the quiz functionality on her website so people could test what they learned at each step, and fixing any technical issues that were revealed as the course rolled out.
The course was a hit and generated a lot of feedback. Within the first week of launching the email course, more than 200 people who took the course emailed to both share their appreciation of how deeply helpful it was and also to share their experiences with technical interviews.
🖥️ Handling all the technical logistics to make purchasing and accessing the book a smooth experience
We handled all the development and infrastructure work to create the components to ****handle the selling and access to the book directly on Emma's website.
As part of building the site, we handled setting up the eCommerce components (e.g. integrating Stripe Checkout, invoicing, purchasing power parity) and authorization routes. We used a template we've developed for these functions that still allowed us to tailor the design and copy to Emma's needs and style. After the checkout process we made sure that customers could quickly and easily access their content and handled any issues they might run into.
We synced all the previous purchases from Gumroad and single-use links to make sure the nearly 4,000 customers that bought the first version would get free access to the updated version.
"It's been so much less stressful not having to deal with the technical aspects of physically handling the asset management, the payments, the distribution pipeline," says Emma. "That's been so nice to pass off to the team and they've done a really, really great job handling all of that. I've also seen a lot of feedback how people are so happy about the pricing parity. That was a big win."
📝 Planning and preparing for a successful launch
Throughout the process, we collaborated with Emma to set priorities and provided guidance on what would be most valuable to focus on delivering for a high-quality experience and a successful re-launch of the book and what ideas would be good to explore down the road.
"I have all these ideas in my head and it sometimes can just be like one big void of ideas and trouble focusing," says Emma. "It's helpful having someone to bounce ideas off of and to help keep me accountable while still not being a hard ass about it. If something comes up in life, they're like, 'oh, we're on your timeline,' which I needed."
We took care of all the project management for the production, development and delivery effort and adjusted as needed. As the work to update and refresh the book was getting close to complete, we pulled together a plan to ensure a successful and smooth launch, pulling from our previous experience with product launches.
We planned and implemented a phased roll-out with previous purchasers and the people who most engaged with the email course so we could catch any technical issues before it went live to everyone. We also created promo assets (e.g. share cards) and made any last needed tweaks to the website.
We gave Emma a framework for which emails to write to get people excited and let them know about the launch and where to focus her efforts for marketing and community building (e.g. doing a YouTube livestream during launch week and using Circle as a community platform for people who purchase the product to share their experiences with technical interviews).
"I don't feel like I had a lot of anxiety about the launch, just because Joel and the team were so organized," she says. "They basically told me what we needed and took a lot of the burden off of me in terms of having to generate ideas and to having to know everything about the launch process."
🚢 Launch Results
On March 15, 2021, sales were completely opened for De-Coding the Technical Interview Process to anyone who wanted to purchase it, and a special discount was offered to anyone who purchased during the first week.
Emma was overwhelmed by the response, with 1,861 people buying the book within the first week. Within the first four months, those sales grew to 3,265 (which are over and above the few thousand copies Emma sold with her initial limited launch at a lower price).
"I feel positively overwhelmed knowing that I am able to share my knowledge with the community," says Emma. "I get a lot of messages from people who say that this helped them actually get a job, which is so rewarding and why I do this in the first place. Just the other day I received an email from a colleague who said that he was able to land the job at Spotify using my book. There is no more rewarding feeling than giving incredible developers the tools they need to pass technical interviews."
With so many sales and only so much time to dedicate to answering people's questions, Emma particularly appreciated how we helped handle all the payments and customer support — answering any logistical questions from customers that didn't need to be handled by her personally and clearly bringing to her attention which ones would require a response from her.
🎇 Future work and ongoing collaboration
We're continuing to work with Emma to build out Technical Interviews and other projects she wants to create under her own brand, collaborating with her on ideas and providing any needed production and distribution support.
It's a long-term effort and Emma appreciates having close collaboration with the team to help keep the momentum going.
"Sometimes it's also easy to forget why you're doing what you're doing with these long evergreen projects and what benefit it can have," she says. "After speaking to Joel or Taylor, for example, I get really motivated again, because they're excited about it."
Some of the things Emma is excited to work on next is a more in-depth course and other projects to help developers succeed in their careers and potentially shifting more on the hiring side of things to help companies improve the technical interview process itself. Emma appreciates having an expert team she can very much rely on to support her in these projects with high-quality work.
"I trust the team to get the work done and get it done to an extremely high standard." she says. "If I tell them I need something, they get it for me, whether that's setting up the email sequences or creating design assets or setting up a blog on the website. I've never had to question their abilities of anything. It's so nice. Honestly, I don't think there's a negative side to working with them."