Get to know Ayanna Coleman (MS '11), literary agent

[image1-right]An assistantship with The Center for Children's Books (CCB) during her time at GSLIS provided Ayanna Coleman with the knowledge and skills she needs to navigate the publishing world, and now she is launching her own literary agency, Quill Shift Literary Agency.

Where do you work and what is your role?

I'm the associate manager of events and programs as well as the librarian at the Children's Book Council (CBC), the national nonprofit trade association for children's book publishers. In that role, I plan educational programming for CBC member publishers, care for the CBC's noncirculating children's book library, and perform liaison duties for the CBC-ALA Joint Committee, CBC Forum Committee, and the CBC Diversity Committee. I also had the pleasure to coordinate Walter Dean Myers's National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature appearances for Every Child a Reader.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the fact that I get to talk with everyone involved in the publication of children's books, from the editors to marketing and publicity professionals, designers, booksellers, agents, and librarians in my role of planning events at the CBC. My job is figuring out what our publishing house members need to succeed in the ever-changing market by asking questions and listening to their answers, and then finding the right professionals to help them think creatively to create and market the best children's books possible.

How did GSLIS help you get to where you are today?

I couldn't have gone into the publishing industry with only the knowledge I had acquired through my undergraduate education. I didn't know anything about the publishing industry besides what I read in magazine and newspaper articles. Working at the CCB, talking to reviewers at The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, attending classes about collection development and genre fiction, and learning the theory behind how and why readers read—those interactions prepared me to enter the publishing industry with an arsenal of information that allowed me to differentiate myself amongst the thousands of other applicants vying for jobs in the field.
What advice would you like to share with GSLIS students?

Be sure of yourself and your knowledge and meet as many different people as you can. When I entered the publishing industry as a digital intern, I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew I could learn fast, and I was determined to prove myself. That faith in my abilities carried me through that internship and landed me the job I have today, even though I had never worked in the nonprofit sector (outside of the university).

Everyone always says that connections are key and network, network, network (or at least they did when I got my business undergrad degree). I would definitely not be where I am today if I hadn't met the people I have by putting myself out there, asking questions, and telling people my dreams. If people can help you, and they believe in you, then they will. This fact has changed my life.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Cooking! I love to watch cooking shows and competitions, and one of my favorite things to do when I come home from work (if it's not curling up with a book) is turning on the TV, pouring myself a glass of wine, looking through my Pinterest page for the latest recipe I pinned, and then creating something delicious and new. It's so relaxing and satisfying after a day running through the noisy, crowded city.
What’s next for you?

I'm still working at the CBC, but on the first of December I launched my dream company, Quill Shift Literary Agency, for which I am working to raise support. Ever since I was little, I wondered why my friends didn't love reading as much as I did. I figured it was because they hadn't yet found the right book (or it hadn't been written) to really spark that hunger for the written word and the stories that could transport you anywhere in the world or galaxy. Quill Shift Literary Agency not only finds those great books, but to ensure their best chance on the market, it asks readers to check out the manuscripts beforehand to make sure there's a need/want in the market for that particular story.

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