This phrase resonates with me since the inspiration for my first novel was my cowgirl grandmother. To me, it means having the courage to do the hard thing, to follow your dream. You don’t have to have a horse, live on a ranch or in the West to “cowgirl up.”
So far, in these columns, I’ve talked about finding the courage to write and then to share your writing with others. As an extension of that, this month’s topic is on having the courage to submit your manuscript to agents or publishers and being prepared to receive those dreaded rejections.
Any time you put your writing out there, you are going to be rejected. It’s extremely rare that a first-time writer submits a manuscript and is accepted on the first try. Sometimes I wonder if we writers are all masochists, because we continually set ourselves up for criticism and rejection.
But, if helps to take the view that rejections are good. They are a necessary and productive part of getting published, and you can learn from them. Any time you get a rejection with a personal note or suggestion from the agent or editor, consider that a gift as good as gold.
When I first started to submit my fiction, I decided I would TRY to collect 100 rejections. I had heard that several big-name authors had received that many or more (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, authors of the Chicken Soup series received 144 rejections before they were published). I thought if I made a game out of it, perhaps that would take the sting out of those form letter “No, thank you” rejections.
OK, I admit, it still hurt a bit. But I could say to myself, “That’s just one No closer to a Yes.” I collected a total of 36 rejections on all of my fiction and 17 for my first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, before it was picked up by Treble Heart Books.
Before you even start sending out your queries, make a list of potential agents and/or publishers. It’s permissible these days, unless their guidelines say otherwise, to simultaneously submit queries to several at a time. As soon as you get a “no,” send it out to the next on your list.
Just for fun (and encouragement) here are some examples of famous rejections:
In 1889, the San Francisco Examiner sent a rejection letter to Rudyard Kipling, telling him he did not know how to use the English Language.
George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945, was told, “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925: “Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking …The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” – Saturday Review of Literature
Stephen King received many rejections on Carrie. One said, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” King says in his book On Writing “…the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
Thankfully, they didn’t listen to all those negative reviews and rejections. If they had, we wouldn’t have their wonderful works today. So, maybe the rejections we’ve had don’t seem quite so bad anymore!
Think of publishing as a business. Think of it in business terms. People selling their homes do not expect everyone who breezes through their house to like what they see, let alone make an offer. It’s a long, hard process, but if you keep at it long enough, the odds shift in your favor.
So, "Cowgirl Up" and start submitting (after you've polished your work and had it edited by a reputable editor, like those of us at the Blood Red Pencil, of course)!------------------------
A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.