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Agent Spotlight: Steven Chudney

This week's Agent Spotlight features Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency.

chudney_agency About: After more than fifteen years in book publishing, Steven Chudney founded The Chudney Agency in 2002, specializing in children's books. Previously he held various sales and marketing positions at Viking Penguin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and Simon and Schuster where he was the first marketing director and then director of licensing and brand development. His last publishing position was with Winslow Press where he held the position of Senior Director of Marketing, Sales & Subsidiary Rights. He has sold and marketed every type of book imaginable to wholesalers, independent bookstores and chain stores, and his work experience has given him strong contacts with editors and art directors in the industry.

For his complete bio, see The Chudney Agency website.

Status: Accepting submissions.

What He's Looking For:

Interests: Children's picture books (author/illustrators only) through young adult as well as select adult material including general wonderful fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and some humor. He is not looking for fantasy, paranormal, or nonfiction for children or adults.

From the website:

"At this time, the agency is only looking for Author/Illustrators (one individual), who can both write and illustrate wonderful picture books. The author/illustrator must really know and understand the prime audience's needs and wants—the child reader! Storylines should be engaging, fun, with a hint of a life lesson—and cannot be longer than 800 words.

"With chapter books, middle grade and teen novels, I’m primarily looking for quality, contemporary literary fiction: novels that are exceedingly well-written, with wonderful settings and developed, unforgettable characters.

"Some favorite authors of mine are Gary D. Schmidt, Sharon Creech, Polly Horvath, John Green, Garret Freymann-Weyr, Lisa Yee, Sarah Dessen, Mark Zusak, E.L. Konigsburg, Ann Martin, Sara Zarr, Janet Tashijian, Gabrielle Zevin, Blue Balliett, Christopher Paul Curtis and Cynthia Kadohata. On the adult side, John Irving, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Joanna Trollope, Donna Leon, Sue Monk Kidd, Sarah Waters, and Oscar Hijuelos, are favorites.

"I am completely open to all kinds of subjects, including coming of age, gender, faith and spirituality (but not religion) and humor, etc. I am also interested in books that cover cultural issues, both here and abroad—I grew up in Israel and so love books about the Middle East. And I’m open to all other genres like mysteries and historical fiction (see below).

"I do love historical fiction. But note that due to lack of publisher demand, I'm not looking for Civil or Revolutionary War era novels. Also, Dust Bowl and Depression era novels aren't of interest now, as well as novels about the slavery era too, which are not in great demand right now (unless they are highly unusual and superbly written.)

"I'm looking for historical fiction that will excite me, young readers, editors, and reviewers, and will introduce us to unique characters in settings and situations, countries, and eras we haven't encountered too often yet in children’s and teen literature." (Link)

From an Interview (11/2007):

"I like all the different age categories, especially middle grade and teen novels. Here I really love a meaty, wonderful novel with great and memorable characters. I tend to shy away from genre or 'hot,' trendy type books. I'm not a fan of fantasy and must be one of the few agents not looking for any of that or science fiction. So, to use gardening terminology (I just moved into my first house ever), I prefer to work on novels that will become perennials, rather than annuals." (Link)

If you're interested in the adult projects he's interested in, see this page on the agency website.

What He Isn't Looking For:

Fantasy, science fiction, trends (i.e. vampire or gossip girl type books), picture book text or illustrations (unless you're an author/illustrator), board books, novelty or lift-the-flap books, leveled or early readers, fables, folklore, traditional fairytales, poetry, 'mood pieces,' stories for 'all ages,' message-driven stories, non-fiction, most adult novels, plays screenplays, film scripts. (Link)

"Due to lack of publisher demand, I'm not looking for Civil or Revolutionary War era novels. Also, Dust Bowl and Depression era novels aren't of interest now, as well as novels about the slavery era too, which are not in great demand right now (unless they are highly unusual and superbly written.)" (Link)

Editorial Agent?

"I am very involved. I read and critique every manuscript that leaves the Agency for submission, whether it's a picture book or a novel. I comment on voice, character development, storyline--the whole gamut." (Link)

"I do get involved editorially on all my clients' manuscripts, both picture books and novels. I routinely work with my clients on as many revisions as it takes to bring out the best in every manuscript. Once I've placed a manuscript with a house, I then switch gears and begin to work with the client on marketing, promotion and sales concerns." (Link)

Quotables:

"I have as much contact as is needed. We communicate heavily via email, but I also schedule lots of phone chats, especially with my novelists. I like to consider what I have with my clients a partnership, and I value good communication and trust between us. I've become very friendly with some clients, not quite friends, but enough that our friendship certainly takes the hard business edge off our relationship." (Link)

About the Agency:

"After more than fifteen years in book publishing I founded The Chudney Agency in 2002, specializing in the wonderful world of Children's books. [...] I have had the good fortune to work with new and established writers and illustrators, pairing them with the right editor at the right publishing house, and guiding and managing their careers. Working with sub-agents covering TV and film rights, as well as foreign language agents in key territories and countries all over the world, I continue to be excited about the opportunities for my authors and illustrators." (Link)

Peeves/Dislikes:

"Writing that really isn't ready to be submitted, sloppy presentation, and manuscripts that aren't properly formatted. Also, it never is a good idea to submit material not requested by the agent--make sure you send what was requested." (Link)

"I don't like receiving material I don't handle (like fantasy), or messy/disorganized submissions, or receiving incomplete submission packets. It seems lots of folks don't know how to properly and professionally represent themselves. And folks that vaguely refer to their submission as "stories" even if they may be novels--rather than be very specific about the category. And those that call their novels "fictional novels"--all novels better be fiction!" (Link)

Web Presence:

The Chudney Agency website.

SCBWI.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, & AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

A client list is available on the Chudney Literary website. Clients include:

Authors:

Jessica Alexander, Mary Jane Beaufrand, John J. Bonk, Julie Bowe, Dia Calhoun, Dorian Cirrone, Jan Czech, Tanita S. Davis, Elizabeth Stow Ellison, Tess Hilmo, Debbie Reed Fischer, Stacey Goldblatt, S.A. Harazin, Lisa Harkrader, Deborah Lynn Jacobs, Kristen Landon, Diane Les Becquets, Wendy Lichtman, Alice McGinty, Taylor Morris, Susan Heyboer, Leda Schubert, Michael Spradlin, Julie Stiegemeyer, Gaby Triana, Barry Varela, Amy Brecount White, Cynthia Willis, among others.

Author/Illustrators:

Jason Deeble, John Campanaro, Carol Baicker-McKee, Carlynn Whitt, Jeffrey Weigel, among others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Mr. Chudney is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 14 deals in the last 12 months, 1 six-figure+ deal, and 55 overall. Recent deals include 5 middle grade, 5 young adult, 2 picture books, 2 humor.

Mr. Chudney was a Top 20 Picture Books Agents in Publisher's Marketplace as of August 6, 2010.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

NOTE: Mr. Chudney will not review any submissions that do not follow his guidelines. Check the WEBSITE for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Picture books:

Snail-mail up to two dummys with full text and art, or art samples, with at least 3-5 full-color page. Do not send original art. Include a brief bio and a SASE if you want materials returned. Indicate if you're working on a new project. Include the full submission history (to editors, not agents).

For e-queries send a query ONLY.

Chapter books - Young Adult:

Snail-mail the first 50 pages or so (round to nearest chapter), a 2-page (max) synopsis of the entire novel, and a cover letter with a brief bio (do not send a resume). Make sure you indicate the age level and/or genre, word count or page count, and briefly describe the next novel you're working on or thinking about. Include prior submission history to editors (not agents).

For e-queries send a query ONLY.

Query Tips:

"The ideal cover letter should be pretty brief (no more than one page, and not in six point typeface!) and tell me a little about the project being submitted--just enough to whet my appetite. A brief and relevant bio about the writer is needed, too." (Link)

Response Times:

Mr. Chudney has great response times. It seems he usually responds to queries within a week, maybe two for snail-mail, and within a week to a month on requested material.

What's the Buzz?

Steven Chudney has a strong list of authors and sales, and is refreshingly clear on what he is and isn't looking. I've seen more than one client describe him as "fantastic" and "communicative," which suggests he's attentive. However, since posting this profile in 2010 I've received two negative reports (see comments) that he drops clients when they don't sell as expected. Prospective clients should take note and proceed as desired.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview with Agent Steven Chudney at Writing Snacks (2009?)

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency at Cynsations (02/2008).

Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency at Cynsations (11/2007).

Around the Web:

Agent Appreciation Day posts by clients Judy Palermo and Amy Brecount White.

The Chudney Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Steven Chudney on P&E and The Chudney Agency on P&E.

If you're interested in client stories and small bits of praise, look through Google blog search. Here is one that stood out to me by Tess Hilton.

Couple pictures and some notes including Mr. Chudney from a 2008 SCBWI conference at Judy Bryan's blog.

A few notes on Mr. Chudney from a 2005 SCBWI Iowa conference at Michele Reginold's blog.

If you have a MediaBistro account, there is a "Pitching an Agent" article on The Chudney Agency there (2004).

Contact:

Please see The Chudney Agency website for contact and query information.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

20 comments:

  1. I'm totally impressed that you posted a spotlight with all the work you're doing on the conference this week. Thanks for the spotlight even though he doesn't like fantasy. And a big thanks for all the work you are doing on the conference. It's awesome. I just wish I didn't have to go to work. It's torture. Sigh.

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  2. MORE AND MORE GENIUS. my goodness i love you.

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  3. Thanks for this one, Casey! I submitted a query and he got back to me VERY quickly, I think 2 days later? He was too busy to request pages at the time, but asked if I didn't have representation to please try again. I just sent out my partial last week, so wish me luck! He's A DREAM agent!

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  4. Just got one of the NICEST rejections. Great feedback with tons of details--query this guy! Now I will go crawl in a fetal position and cry. *Sniff*

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  5. Thank you Natalie, Tahereh, and Ammie!

    Sorry about the R, Ammie, but thank you for the feedback!

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  6. Casey, I love that you do this. Steven sounds like a great agent! Thanks for the info. =)

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  7. Thank you so much for all the work you put into this website and the WriteOnCon. You're awesome!

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  8. Just now that it's OVER I'm hearing about the WriteOnCon, but it sounds like you've done an awesome thing. And Steven's my agent - he is truly a generous, straightforward and lovely person -- good luck to all who are pitching to him!

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  9. Just wanted to say thanks for all of your hard work.

    Write On Con was amazing!

    Shelley

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  10. Another guy who doesn't follow trends, and this one doesn't take fantasy to boot. You gotta love people who are looking for something different. So many agents are listing fantasy and other hot topics in their list of wants these days.

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  11. Thanks all!

    Mr. Chudney has reviewed his profile. I've added what he's repping for adult material.

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  12. Mr. Chudney had a very quick turnaround on my submission (2 weeks) and while he ultimately rejected my manuscript, he sent a personalized, signed letter with a couple critique points to take into consideration for revision. I found his reply very professional and it was nice to finally have some feedback from an agent.

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  13. Chudney is difficult. He dumps clients and takes forever, forever and even longer to slowly submit mss one editor at a time, giving up after about two rejections. Beware!

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  14. I was very happy with the working relationship we had until the day I received an email saying he would no longer represent me or my book that was still on submission. BOOM.

    I asked all the right questions and went with my gut when deciding to accept his offer of representation, but you can never know for sure.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear this, Anon. I received your other details. From your report and the other ex-client above it sounds like he dumps clients when their projects don't sell as expected. I'll keep an eye out.

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  15. I've received word via e-mail from yet another client who was dumped by Chudney after just a few months. Like the above two clients they were dropped very suddenly after their project didn't sell right away.

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  17. Steven is my agent and my experience with him has been the EXACT opposite of the criticisms above about dumping people. My book has been out there for a year and hasn't sold yet and he's offering encouragement and suggestions and sending it out over and over again. He's prompt, professional and a nice guy to boot.

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