They Met in AHN, Now They Started a Tech Venture to Revolutionize Publishing

In a world where AI is all the rage, two AHN members are using AI to champion authentic storytelling in the publishing industry.

As entrepreneurs and advocates for change, Yobe Qiu and Serena Li have made it their mission to champion diversity and inclusion in children’s literature, ensuring that every child, regardless of their background, sees themselves represented and celebrated. Now they are building a new platform together  – – which uses machine learning to make it easier for schools, organizations and corporations to book authors for events, and buy directly from authors.


We had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Yobe and Serena, whose journeys began with a chance encounter on the Asian Hustle Network community. Yobe is a serial entrepreneur in education and founder of By Yobe Qiu Multicultural Books and Toys, while Serena is the founder of Duck Duck Books and Eco Goods. It was here that Yobe and Serena found common ground:

Yobe: We were both members of the AHN group and I have posted a few times in the group to connect with other “hustlers.” One day I posted about looking for an editor in our community for our newest book, “I Am an Amazing Asian Girl”. I wanted to make sure my editor is someone who my book can speak to and Serena commented on my post that she could help. That was the start of our relationship, and AHN was our matchmaker! 

We started working together on that project and I was extremely impressed with her talent, dedication, and brilliance, we went on to do a few more projects together. What initially drew us to each other’s work was our experience in our fields, our respect for each other’s work ethics, and our support for each other to help one another grow. 

Serena: I am incredibly grateful that Yobe took a chance with me. During the pandemic, where in-person interaction was close to none, Yobe trusted me with her book – a stranger across the country. Our relationship is a testament to the power of community. 


Together, Yobe and Serena embarked on a mission to promote diversity and representation in children’s literature, culminating in the launch of the “Asian American Books Everywhere All At Once” campaign in April 2023. The campaign aimed to provide books featuring AAPI characters and stories to schools across the United States, championing authentic storytelling and cultural celebration:

Yobe: I was inspired by Michelle Yeoh when she said at the Oscars, “Every little girl who looks like [her] to know what’s possible. Dream big.” I wanted to provide books to schools that feature AAPI children, families, and cultures, to help our children feel represented and celebrated. That night, I called up Serena and two other author friends to join forces. We named the campaign, “Asian American Books Everywhere All at Once” as a spin-off from EEAAO’s huge win for the AAPI community in media! The name, despite being very long, received tremendous support among the community. It was very timely. Within a month, we exceeded our original goal and sent over 1500+ books to 20 schools across 5 states and donated books to them. 

Serena: All of the books we donated either featured AAPI characters or were written by an AAPI author. Our effort was a direct response to the book ban that was happening across the U.S. Instead of sitting still, we rallied our community at a grassroots level to support the schools around the country. 


Yobe and Serena grew up from different backgrounds, but together, they draw upon their rich experiences to advocate for greater inclusivity and representation in children’s literature, ensuring that young readers from all walks of life feel empowered and inspired by the stories they encounter.

Yobe: Growing up surrounded by diversity and a very strong Chinese community in NYC’s Chinatown, I am proud of who I am and my culture because it was celebrated in the city. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t because of the environment I grew up in. I’ve learned to be curious and make friends with people from all cultures growing up in the Big Apple. The hustling culture and welcoming spirit of New York Chinatown is ingrained in my DNA. 

My first job after graduate school was teaching. I wanted to discuss the Lunar New Year with my students, but there weren’t any materials that covered the diverse ways many Asian diasporas celebrate their New Year. I had students who were Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai in the classrooms, but most of the books were about the Chinese New Year. In my opinion, it was important not only to discuss the culture I was from but also to acknowledge the blended cultures my daughter’s generation would grow up in. So I took the initiative and wrote my very first book, “Our Lunar New Year: Celebrating the Lunar New Year in 5 Different Asian Communities.”

Serena: My experience was a bit different than Yobe’s. I moved to a suburb in Houston, TX at the age of 14 with my family. I didn’t speak any English. At that time, Houston wasn’t nearly as diverse. I remember my neighbors and classmates genuinely asking me, “Do Asians speak Asian?”. The road to immigration was hard, but I survived it. Being a 1.5-generation Chinese American, I identified equally as a Chinese person and as an American. 

Fast forward, now that I have children of my own, I look at them daily and ponder how they would identify themselves. I want them to grow up being proud of exactly who they are, their family history, and their blended cultures. I want to write books that hone in on the social emotional themes that are cross-cultural, so children can be kind to themselves and kind to others. I want to write books that are bilingual, so children of different cultures can learn to be open-minded. 


Building upon the success of their campaign, they set their sights on a new endeavor: This innovative platform, set to launch on April 15, 2024, aims to connect authors with schools, organizations, and independent bookstores, making literary engagements more accessible and fostering a love for reading among students nationwide:

Yobe: For the same reasons why literature should feature more diverse characters and stories, coming out of the pandemic, we see an increasing need for in-person literary engagements. There’s nothing that inspires students more than meeting their favorite authors. Currently, there isn’t a platform available that helps schools and organizations discover and book authors for events based on their requirements and constraints. The diverse authors, especially those who don’t have traditional agents representing them, are having a hard time finding which institutions are seeking authors for events at the moment. We want to build an ecosystem that offers literary services in a comprehensive way, from discovery to booking, from bulk orders to fundraising. Our tagline is “Your Gateway to Literary Connections”. 

Serena: Both Yobe and I are passionate about helping other authors. We each have consulting businesses helping authors realize their publishing dreams. Book An Author naturally becomes our next step. It allows us to take the learning from our very successful Asian American Books Everywhere All At Once campaign last year and scale it to support not only our immediate network but also the entire publishing community. We are here to use technology to disrupt the publishing industry! 

With, authors can showcase their profiles, books, and expertise, organized by zip code, rates, and availability. This allows for efficient management of bookings, event scheduling, and receipt of valuable feedback from schools, ultimately improving services and expanding audiences.

For schools, the platform simplifies the process of finding and booking diverse, vetted authors for visits, workshops, and other activities. It offers flexible discovery and booking options based on location, rates, and genres, as well as the ability to release RFPs and review customized bids systematically.

Additionally, the platform provides access to educational resources, enables educators to share feedback and ratings, and includes money-back guarantees and security features for easy booking processes.


“We are so grateful to have this community and if anyone has any insight for us, we are all ears. We are also happy to help anyone else in the community if they need help with publishing!” – Yobe Qiu

Book An Author: @BookAnAuthor (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok) 


Yobe Qiu, Co-founder and CEO, CFO:

Serena Li, Co-founder and COO, CMO:

By Yobe Qiu – Multicultural Children’s Books and Toys: @ByYobeQiu (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Amazon) 

Duck Duck Books + Eco Goods – Multilingual, SEL Kids Books and Eco-conscious Gifts: @duckduckbooks (Facebook, Instagram, Threads, TikTok, Pinterest, Google, YouTube)