Steven Chudney worked for 15 years in publishing in a variety of marketing, sales, and product development position before founding The Chudney Agency. The Chudney Agency mostly handles children’s and teen material, and the occasional adult novel as well.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): What attracted you to becoming an agent?
Steven Chudney (SC): After over 15 years in publishing, I was looking for another way to remain in the industry I love, yet not work in the traditional manner, for a publisher. My background marketing, and sales and subsidiary rights experience all propelled me to be an agent.
TWM: Does every children’s writer in today’s market need an agent? Why? Why not?
SC: I think it depends on the author’s goals. Certainly nearly all the major houses, and many medium ones, no longer accept unsolicited submissions. This is a bug hurdle for those unagented authors, and certainly working with an agent will open up those doors. But, many independent and smaller publishers are open and looking for material. Although everyone wants that deal, it’s important to also think about which house can best serve your project best.
TWM: You’ve mentioned that you’ve been disappointed with sales of Jewish-related content for kids. What do you think are the contributing factors?
SC: I’m not sure I really know. I have had some middle grade and teen novels (historical and contemporary) I love and feel ought to be published, to no avail. It took me nearly 2 years to sell a recent picture book. Even the Jewish editors I’ve submitted to who have passed, have cited the general, tough marketplace, but also the “niche” aspect of these books–which is really telling. I also wonder if the chains might have something to do about this–at B&N it’s all about paranormal these days.
TWM: How do you define a book of Jewish-related material?
SC: The protagonist or a few characters should be Jewish, and certainly the plot needs to have some sort of Jewish theme, storyline, or content.
TWM: Can you talk about the relationship you have with your authors? How much work do you actually do on a manuscript before submitting to editors?
SC: I read everything, whether a picture book or a novel, and offer my editorial perspective. The author will revise as needed, and I’ll reread as needed until we’re both satisfied and feel the material is as good as it can be.
TWM: What is the most challenging part of your job?
SC: Juggling everything! As I work alone, like many independent agents, I do it all: reading, reviewing, dealing with submissions, the accounting, the phones, etc.
TWM: What is the most satisfying part of your job?
SC: There are many: finding a wonderful writer, hearing an editor use the “L” word for a project (love), calling an author with the news of an offer, opening a box of a book I sold and holding it in my hands for the first time.
TWM: What do you think the impact of epublishing will be on children’s books?
SC: It’s too soon to tell. It’s lagging behind adult books, with the exception of the big kiddie bestsellers. In time, no doubt, e-book sales will grow and have a more important impact, and I imagine kids will find reading a novel on a device the norm (oy!).
TWM: What advice would you give an author wanting to submit to you?
SC: Please go to my website to learn about my latest wants and needs–as they do change. Study the books I have sold to determine if we might be a good fit–I find that most writers will submit anything to anyone.
TWM: How should authors submit to you?
SC: All that information is on my website–the first stop for any writer researching an agent is their website–and not a printed guidebook, which is always out of date. I think the best way is to query electronically–I’d say that 95% of my submissions are that way.