Books I've Published
To learn more about these titles, please visit the Arthur A. Levine Books website.
What I’m Looking For
Arthur A. Levine Books publishes a wide range of hardcover books for children and young adults, including picture books, middle grade and YA novels, and select nonfiction. We do not do a lot of easy readers, because those tend to be more successful as paperbacks; nor do we publish many novelty books or books for the very young, because those usually belong in Scholastic’s Cartwheel imprint.
Beyond that, I can describe the qualities of what I’m looking for more than I can name the specific thing. I love nuanced, fully developed characters, because I will follow a character I love just about anywhere. I adore characters who do things, who take action in their own lives, who love and lie and take risks and fight to get what they want, who are faced with and make difficult choices. I love books with Big Ideas at their heart, matched with action that is compelling to a children’s/YA audience.
Genre-wise, I like fantasies, I like mysteries, I like romance, I like thrillers –- but they have to be literary fantasies/mysteries/romance/thrillers, and really driven by their characters rather than the familiar conventions of the genre. I love genre books with a twist: the fantasy that begins as a romance, the mystery told entirely through letters. Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Year of Secret Assignments is a great example of genre-twisting, character-driven chick lit.
I’m very interested in projects from writers and illustrators of color, the better to reflect our whole range of human experience. If you’d like to read more about this, click here.
I’d love to see more school stories and sports books. I’m the child of two former teachers, so my life from the age of four to twenty-one pretty much revolved around school, and I played soccer, t-ball, volleyball, and basketball growing up (all badly, I cheerfully admit), but oddly I don’t see a lot of submissions on these common childhood/teenage experiences.
I’m interested in books that involve religion and religious questions (and including both Eastern and Western religions), although I’m not interested in books that exist solely to espouse a particular religious viewpoint. In other words, the religious aspect ought to be driven by the character’s journey, not the other way around.
I’d like to work on more nonfiction, of a narrative or descriptive stripe rather than a reference or prescriptive type. I’m not at all a science person, but I love the science articles in The New Yorker because they teach me how rich and strange our world is, and that’s what I think all good nonfiction should do, whether it’s science or economics or history or biography.
What does “literary” mean?
It means that the manuscript explores a situation in some depth, whether it’s emotional depth (you’re going deep into this character’s pain) or philosophical depth (your book is really about the meaning of life) or factual depth (by the end of your book I will be absolutely fascinated by sea slugs). Literary fiction delves rather than skimming or describing the surface. But it does have to be written well too: showing, not telling, all that.
Some people think that literary fiction doesn’t have action to it — that literary fiction is people sitting around and feeling and talking at each other. This is not true. In literary fiction, the writer is as interested in the characters’ emotional development as he or she is in the action the novel portrays, and particularly in the relationship between the two, even if that relationship isn’t spelled out in so many words.
What about illustration samples or portfolios?
Illustration samples are always welcome. If I like your style and it seems like a good fit for our list, I will keep the sample on file; if your style doesn’t seem right for me, I’m going to recycle the sample. (Sorry.) I am happy to do portfolio reviews as time and taste permit, and I’ve written a little bit about what I like to see in an illustrator’s portfolio here.
What do you not like?
Scatological humor — it just makes me feel ill. Also, if you’ve written a book, especially a picture book, for the sole purpose of teaching a practical or moral lesson to children, like “Be kind to everyone” or “Don’t play doctor with the pit bull”: Your manuscript will probably not be right for me. Everything else that fits the criteria above, I’m happy to take a look.
So how do I submit?
Alas, I'm sorry to say that due to the many demands on my time, I am open to submissions only from agents and writers who have attended conferences at which I've spoken. Arthur A. Levine Books as an imprint is open to submissions, however, and you can see that submissions information here.