It’s always wonderful to hear about new publishers that are passionate about bringing meaningful stories to life for young readers. Green Bean Books, based in London, is a new, independent publishing company. They have select titles available, including translated works from some of Israel’s “best loved authors and illustrators.” I find it fascinating to view the publishing process from through the lens of a publisher. Lucky for me, I had the chance to learn about Green Bean Books from Michael Leventhal, head of Green Bean Books. Welcome, Michael!
How did you get into the publishing business?
I’ve been publishing history books for more than twenty years but, after become a father myself, I became more interested in books for children. I was blissfully naive about how challenging it can be publishing books for children and I’ve had to learn a great deal in a short space of time.
You are based in London. Are you specifically interested in stories based in London and/or Europe?
The short answer is no. Although I’m happy to be in London I think that any publishing companies could be run from anywhere in the world – ideally a hammock on a desert island. I work with freelance editors and designers who happen to be based in England but very rarely live in London.
I can’t think of any books that I’ve published or commissioned that are based on stories from England or Europe. I want to publish books that have a universal appeal. I would want to read books about important events in British-Jewish history – the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 for example – but it’s more important – and also more commercial – to publish books that will be enjoyed by readers in Auckland, Atlanta or Aberdeen.
What kind of list do you hope to create in the coming years?
I want to publish a list of books that I’ll be proud to read to my children, relatives and friends for years to come. One of my authors, Shoham Smith, has said that some books have a shorter shelf life than yoghurt. I want to publish books that will pass the test of time and be in print for decades not months. That’s partly because I want my books to sell and generate income but mostly because I want to be building a library of books that people can enjoy for years.
Can you tell me a bit about the books Green Bean has published thus far?
All the Green Bean Books that I’ve published to date are translations from Hebrew. I’m in touch with a lot of Israeli publishers and I look at both their brand new books and books they’ve published over the last twenty years. For newcomers to publishing I think it’s quite common to start out with translations so that you can see the story and artwork from the word ‘go’. There are incredible authors and wonderful illustrators in Israel that do not have the international recognition they deserve: I want to change that and bring their works to a wider English-language audience.
I am looking at publishing more translations and selecting not just Hebrew language works for translation but also Russian and French stories that have Jewish content. I’ve also now commissioned two brand new books with Israeli writers and illustrators. It’s nerve-wracking but tremendously rewarding to see a project develop from an idea to a final book.
Are you open to submissions from authors or only agents?
I’m open to submissions from anyone with a work that fits the Green Bean criteria: books that have meaningful Jewish content but are original, creative and inspiring. Children’s book publishing is a terribly competitive and overcrowded field: books really have to be outstanding to get attention and I think that authors have to work harder than ever.