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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Query Letter Edit GIVEAWAY + Interview with Amy Tipton of Feral Girl Books!

 Today I'm sitting down for a chat with Amy Tipton of Feral Girl Books to talk about feminism, writing (and living!) fearlessly, and dat freelancer life.
For you aspiring writers, there is also a giveaway at the bottom of this post, so make sure to click through!
Now let's get into it.

Hi, Amy! Let's crack in. Tell us a bit about yourself, if you're not utterly bored of doing so! Which books throughout your life have led you to where you are now?

I know my mom always read to me (even in the womb she read The Little Prince—which 1. is my favorite book [with To Kill A Mockingbird] and 2. is a strange thing to read to your unborn child; it probably started my weird reading habits). Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny were big hits. I also remember The Secret of Nimh (book, not movie—though I loved the movie) as well as A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I devoured any Nancy Drew story and every Sweet Valley book in sight. I loved the Fear Street books, too, and yes, I was a Judy Blume fan and a Beverly Cleary fan!

Later on, I got into Sylvia Plath which led me into the Beats which is why I went to Naropa. I ended up graduating from Naropa University with a B.A. in Writing and Literature and received my MFA from New College of California in Writing. (I remember one of my New College teachers suggesting I work with literary agents after graduation and I had no idea what a literary agent was!—needless to say, I figured it out …)

I have been working in the publishing industry for 13 (almost 14!) years and started freelance editing in 2018.

You recently left agenting to start a freelance editing business where you focus specifically on "representing female and female-identifying voices" -- what have been some of the challenges of that, and what have been some of the joys?

Oh man, it was more difficult [than I thought] telling people—especially some family members—that I was focusing solely on female (including female-identifying and genderqueer) writers. Even a couple authors worried I was limiting myself, that offering this service to women [womyn and womxn] was starting out in a corner and that would hurt me and business. Which I hear, I know they were speaking out of love and care about my success.

However, females are half of the world’s population, working just as much as men (even though they don’t get paid as much—which is why I keep my rates lower/to accommodate this pay gap)—they deserve these services. It’s much harder for women to breakout in this industry.

I 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.

I would be remiss to not mention the people who have stood by me, like my old boss at Signature, who helped me figure out tax/banking junk, to my awesome social media manager, who secured this interview for me!

My BFF and mom and husband have been a constant source of strength and positivity—encouraging me from the get-go. Just the nods of approval and notes of appreciation from lots of writers who believe in me, this vision, have done wonders for my self-esteem. I was quite nervous to make this jump!

I am very fortunate to have such enthusiastic cheerleaders. Believe me, I am grateful.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave agenting. The feeling of guilt was heavy (but the guilt of failing authors—not getting their books published or not getting a higher advance for their book, which you know they deserved—was heavier).

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 represented 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.

However, one of my brilliant (ex) writers (sob!), Lyn Fairchild Hawks, wrote a fantastic blog post, praising my editorial/hands-on agenting style and (ironically enough) that blog post made me realize I am pretty great! That blog post gave me confidence in my editorial skills. I will forever be grateful to her—and all the writers who allowed me to work with them—for building me up.

What makes a book or writer stand out to you as something/someone you absolutely want to work with & sink your teeth into*?

*I mean the work, not the person. Unless they're into that.

I am attracted to anything unique. I want to help shape the literary landscape and I am not afraid to take risks—as an agent, I said if you couldn’t define your work it was probably for me and I still stand by that.

I like to think I have a keen eye for potential and that my hands-on style ensures authors that they have a good foundation to launch long, successful careers. I have been called the Mister Rogers of publishing (Mister Rogers with more edge) and I’ll take it!

In your submissions page for Feral Girl Books, you mention that no female character is too "unlikable" for you. Care to talk a bit about that? 
We hear so much about "likable" characters and "strong female characters," etc., in ways that are often very limiting -- and very reflective of what real women deal with daily IRL. Seeing readers abandon a book because the female lead wasn't "likable" enough is a common occurrence. (I feel like I'm constantly swimming against the current in this, because while I do talk about likability of characters from time to time, I frequently make specific mention of "cold fish" female characters as are some of my favorites in all of literature,though they often seem to drive readers away. I don't think it's any secret that female characters are judged harder for behaviors that male characters get away with or are praised for.)
(Woo, sorry, that question ended up being more of a monolgue... lol)

This could be a looooong conversation—it’s such a complex subject! But basically, being female and being unlikable IS behaving in ways that males get away with! IRL and in fiction! It’s a total double standard! Plain and simple. It’s unfair.

See, we expect males to act in unlikable ways but we hold women to a higher standard for some reason. We want them to be all sugar and spice and everything nice—everything nice! Even Gillian Flynn hit the nail on its head when she said something like the unlikable woman is nasty and awful and an unlikable man is an anti-hero.

Louisa May Alcott wrote Jo March (of Little Women) in 1868 but she’s a character I can still identify with and Jane Austen wrote such relatable characters (most famously Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice) and then you have the Bronte sisters and even Virginia Woolf writing about unconventional women… And that’s really what it’s all about— we judge and scrutinize and dislike women who stray too far from societal norms/deviate from the system.

The idea of the unlikable female is not new.

Frankly, to me, being labeled unlikable is not negative. Unlikable females are some of my favorite characters!

Where would you like to see publishing go? What does the future of feminism look like in fiction?

Well, I don’t have a crystal ball nor am I psychic but didn’t cyberpunk writer William Gibson once say “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed?” I think so, and you know what? Well said! Feminism in literature has only grown and looking ahead, the future is feminist.

Stories featuring transgender girls/boys, climate change, activism, police brutality—powerful women who refuse to kowtow to the restrictions placed upon them—feminism in books has kept up with social and political issues…

Personally, I’d love to see more disabled characters—both female and male—and more POCs and LGBTQIA protags. And I’d like them not to be labeled as “feminist books” but just books that feature feminist characters—just a person who also happens to be feminist. I think (I hope—fingers crossed!) this will happen.

What should a writer know before seeking out your services?

Don't be discouraged.

In a traditional pub situation, there are so many rules—as a freelance editor, I am freer. I am here to help.

I honestly want to help you put your best book forward. I know it's scary but trust me. I am taking all of my publishing knowledge/experience and using it here to help you. While I like challenges and take risks, I also know the rules; I have your best interests in mind and can guide you. (That goes for indie authors as well as those who go the traditional route.) I am honored to work with you and I know together we can do it.

Now that you know this, we can get down to business. I am not one for small talk or being nice to be nice (I am nice BUT I am not going to only tell you what you want to hear)—I am critical because I want you to improve.

And what are your biggest pieces of advice for writers and/or freelancers like yourself, seeking to break into the field?

Wow. Good luck. Do research—talk to others (I actually asked a bunch of questions to various freelance editors and joined groups and took a seminar!)… I thought a lot (maybe too much) but in the end, I had to go with my gut. I think Amy Poehler said something in her book Yes Please about great people doing things before they’re ready and I agree.

The biggest piece of advice I could give is just don’t be afraid! Remember it requires risk to try something new. I fall 7 times a day so I just get up 8.

Bottomline: All that matters is what you think of yourself and your work; the only way others will believe in you is if you believe in yourself. Diane Von Furstenberg said something similar—“You know who’s gonna give you everything? Yourself.” And yeah.

And now, for those of you hoping to break into the industry, or maybe up your game a little, Amy is offering a giveaway! 1 lucky winner will receive a query letter critique! Fill out the rafflecopter below to enter, and make sure to leave some love for Amy!

Stipulations and all that jazz:
Winnings can be claimed up to six weeks after the winner is announced, unless the winner does not claim. If the winner does not claim within 1 week then a second winner will be named, if the second winner does not claim a third will be chosen the following week. If the third does not claim the prize will be offered again exclusively through FGB and anyone interested in entering again can enter. If the winner, or any entrant, would like to continue to work with Amy past the terms of the contest rules they may contact Amy at feralgirlbooks@gmail.com

Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feral Girl Books is an independent literary editing service by former NYT best-selling agent, Amy Tipton for women, and authors of trans and gender non-conforming identities. In a previous life, Amy worked with authors such as Courtney Summers (winner of the Edgar for SADIE), Kirstin Cronn-Mills (winner of the Stonewall prize for BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN), and Amy Reed (prolific author of 9 books, including the anthology OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES). Currently, Amy works with writers to polish query letters, manuscripts, short stories, and all that falls in between. Feral Girl Books works to serve marginalized authors as they write diverse stories and seek publication. Amy is currently considering clients and can be contacted at feralgirlbooks@gmail.com
Amy can be found on

IG: https://www.instagram.com/feralgirlbooks/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/FeralGirlBooks/
Website: https://amy-tipton.com
Twitter: @Feralgirlbooks

Remember, write FERAL, edit tame!

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