Ladies Who Launch, #2: Amy Tipton of Feral Girl Books
Updated: May 15, 2020
I've been having a ball reading everyone's comments and reactions on social media over the past week since posting the very first installment of Ladies Who Launch, my new blog series where I chat with extraordinary bossladies and hear all about their brands, passions, and entrepreneurial journeys.
I'm so happy to see how everyone (especially women!) are responding to this series idea, and I hope to keep bringing you many new stories from women all around the world who have taken the leap of faith into entrepreneurial life.
Let's get to the newest interview!
Part of what I sought out to do with this new series is to tell the REAL stories of what it's like behind the scenes of taking the huge risk of starting your own brand, even when it may not be the easiest or most painless story to tell.
In my own entrepreneurial journey thus far, I know how many ups ups ups and downs downs downs there have been along the way. In today's influencer-heavy social media landscape, it can be easy to get sucked into chasing perfection and developing envious attitudes towards others we should be supporting.
So when I read Amy Tipton's personal story and company mission, I knew she would have tons of insight into this concept.
Amy Tipton is a freelance editor (and former New York Times bestselling agent) who heads up Feral Girl Books, an all-inclusive editing service that is committed to supporting marginalized authors and diverse storytelling.
The company is based in Oregon, and launched in 2018.
Amy is talented, funny, smart, and REAL. Ten years ago, at the age of 30, she suffered a stroke while living in NYC. She quickly discovered that though she loved the city, it was not very accessible to people who use wheelchairs and the subway system was not her friend. Her husband ended up buying a car as a solution, but after receiving way too many parking tickets, they decided it was time to leave the city. They've been in Oregon ever since, and she's been working non-stop.
"My disability is something I am so open about," says Amy. "Most of my publishing success happened after the stroke--so it hasn't slowed me down. People think disabled people can't do anything & THEY ARE WRONG."
I was eager to hear more about Amy's experience starting her brand, and the inspiration for how it came to be.
Q: What made you decide to launch your business?
I have always wanted to help shape the literary landscape—I was an agent for 13 (almost 14) years—and I believe in truthful stories, even if/when hard to tell. I knew women/WOC/LGBTQIA and disabled folx had a harder time breaking out—this industry is slow to change and there are “rules” to follow/accept (which hurts my anarchist/punk rock soul hahaha) and I knew I had a skill and wanted to use it. I say it wasn’t an easy decision to leave agenting/become an editor, but maybe it was? I love writers. ALL writers. It was a no-brainer I was going to keep working with them in some capacity. I just don't want anyone to feel excluded--which is really why Feral Girl Books exists. It was born out of this necessity. It's for all women (women-identifying and genderqueer) writers. I want the publishing industry to rep us, ALL OF US. I don't want these stories erased. Representation does matter. Idris Elba offers his take on diversity in the modern world, saying it "is more than just skin color--it's gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and--most important of it--diversity of thought." He is so right (in my opinion) because if you have diversity of thought, no one is left out.
Q: What does your staff/team look like if you have one?
HAHAHA I work alone—but I say coffee and my dog are assistants! I do have a social media manager—she is in the UK, actually—who handles my business Instagram, business Facebook, and sometimes Tumblr/Twitter.
Q: Who is/are your personal support system?
My husband is most supportive, and so is my mom, my BFF, and GC (my social media manager). Everyone has been super nice, enthusiastic even, about it.
Q: What is something you're REALLY bad at?
I wish I knew more about taxes and money and pay! I am REALLY bad at that stuff! I’m not a number cruncher—I’m not an accountant! (I’m creative/not a suit so math is not my friend…)
Q: How do you de-compress -- such as binge tv, activities, food, hobbies, pop culture guilty pleasures, etc?
I do enjoy bad TV - like, I am a fan of The Real Housewives of New York City and Vanderpump Rules, and I love Lifetime movies.
Q: Most-played track on Spotify?
I always listen to Bikini Kill (favorite band ever!) but my “most played” tracks change one day I’m listening to The Muffs or L7 then I’ll jam to Thao & The Get Down Stay Down or Lady Gaga. Lately, I love Lizzo.
Q: Favorite liquid refreshment?
It is always coffee time here—I mean, I do live in Oregon!
Q: Is there a woman who inspires you, or that you look up to?
There are SO MANY women who inspire me—it’s hard to choose one. I have always been drawn to females/female voices; feminine energy is something I’ve always been around. (No wonder I run Feral Girl Books, right?) My mom and my BFF are very strong females in my life (my BFF has been my partner-in-crime since 5!—we went from elementary school to junior high to HS together and we are close to this day—she was in my hospital room as I recovered from this stroke…she might as well be my sister). I was lucky growing up, having strong female role models in the form of family friends and a great lady lived across the street and kinda became my substitute grandma. But I also came of age in the ‘90s on the West Coast and I’d be remiss to not credit the riot grrrl movement—Bikini Kill in particular—as a driving force. I credit that movement for keeping my confidence/self-esteem afloat through HS and bad boyfriends etc.
Q: Favorite inspirational quote?
I’ve always been inspired by the Diane Von Furstenberg quote: “You know who’s gonna give you everything? Yourself.” Also Courtney Love: “I found my inner bitch and ran with her.” I put them together and now you have FGB!
Q: Everyone's got one... what's your favorite curse word?!
I swear a lot so I don’t have a favorite—I use them all!
Q: Last question: what about this job & lifestyle brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
I firmly believe writing is an act of resistance (the personal is political) and kids are the future. We must teach our children that doing what’s right is important and they should stick to their values and beliefs. I thought about opening up my own literary agency but talking to a friend (who runs her own) says you can't be creative or as creative as you want since it's more paperwork/business stuff—being a boss is hard!—so I just decided to go the freelance editor route. (Yes, I’m a boss but it’s creative so it feeds my punk rock/anarchist/progressive soul. Ha!) The feeling of guilt was heavy (the guilt of failing authors—not getting their books pubbed or not getting a higher advance for their book—which you know they deserved!)—it was all too much. I am only one person and tracking down editors (who just ignore follow ups) or arguing about higher advances with editors or scrambling to find an audio publisher or a film/TV agent (garnering their interest is almost another full time job!) and keeping track of foreign rights—who has what where (another full time position) was an insane workload. Most of the stuff I repped was not easy—the subjects were not big, splashy, blockbuster/fun reads—so it's very easy to be frustrated. With every pass I, honestly, felt like a failure. (But at the same time, admittedly, I’m at the top of my game—Courtney Summers is a NYT Best Seller, Amy Reed just did a NYT interview on her book, “The Nowhere Girls” and the Me Too movement. [Both ladies have exciting things coming their way.] And my first sci fi/dark fantasy YA mystery “What the Woods Keep” is holding its own along with Kayla Ancrum’s books… But this success was a looooong time coming… As they say, too little, too late, right?) In this fast-food/1 stop-shop culture, the writer-agent job grows ... And so stress is greater ... I had a stroke at 30—I’m not about to have a heart attack at 40! So, yes, this gig—being an editor [freelance]—which has its own stresses, is much better/healthier, even, for me. One of my ~sob~ former clients, Lyn Fairchild Hawks, wrote an amazing blog post about me/my editorial skills and I thought You know what? I AM pretty great! (Humble brag here—did you know I came up with the Courtney Summers book title “This Is Not A Test”? And my mom’s advice to me about boys showed up in Courtney Summers’s “All The Rage”? I also encouraged Amy Reed to edit the “Our Stories, Our Voices” anthology and helped shape the 2014 Stonewall Award winner, “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. [I’m not here to take credit away from anyone either—these books are incredible—I just think I also deserve some credit too!]) It was Lyn’s blog post that made me realize I would make a great developmental editor! (Which was the "hands-on" part of [my] agenting—the reading/revising/the notes/the talking of ideas/etc—I did ALL that [and more]—and I did it because I loved it!—so voila!—offering editorial services seemed like a good fit… It is the best decision I have made too (sorry to my husband—deciding to marry him is the very second best decision! HAHAHA)!
"welcome to my fempire!"
You'll find this greeting on the Feral Girl Books website. So fitting!
Sending a HUGE thank you to Amy for sharing her story with me, and bringing us all into her literary world.
Are you (or someone you know) perfect for a future feature in this series? Click here!
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Read the previous interview: Andrea Koehler of Coloring Broadway
Read the next interview: Emily Griffith of felt Write
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed within these interview answers are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Alycia Yerves Creative. Any content provided by our interviewees are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.