Cowboy Up!

- by Jan Scarbrough

It’s easy to get discouraged when you are trying to sell popular fiction. Often, the rejections are more numerous than the successes.

In 2001, Steeple Hill author Renee Ryan and I gave a talk at RWA in New Orleans. Entitled “Perspective, Passion & Persistence: the Three P’s of Success,” it was our twelve-step guide designed to help writers ‘stay the course’ in the world of publishing, whether on the verge of publication or experiencing a ‘dry spell’ after a book sale.

One of the three “P’s” was the word “persistence” (synonyms: persevere, remain, endure, stand, abide, plod, and continue). We presented examples and we offered quotes from famous people on persistence.

My favorites quotes were from Rick Pitino’s, Success is a Choice: Ten Steps to Overachieving in Business and Life. Broadway Books, 1997. (Rick Pitino, for those of you who don’t know, is the basketball coach for our beloved University of Louisville Cardinals.) Here’s what he said:


  • “It’s persistence that makes you great. It’s persistence that allows you to reach your dreams. It’s persistence that enables you to perform at your fullest potential.”
  • “Sometimes of course, we fail to accomplish our goals. But we have to remember that failure is a part of life and failure is only fertilizer for future success.”
  • “The only time failure is truly bad is if you use it as an excuse to quit.”

Yesterday while working on a synopsis, I found a term that struck me as being just right for a writer. Cowboy Up!

It means “when things are getting tough you have to get back up, dust yourself off and keep trying.”

I practice the same philosophy when horseback riding. The two times I’ve fallen as an adult, I have picked myself up and climbed right back into the saddle.

The next time a rejection letter lands in my mailbox, I’ll remember to Cowboy Up!


  1. Awesome post, Jan! We should all remember this. Another way to keep rejection in perspective is to remember that each “no” leads you closer to a “yes” and if you keep on submitting, you will get to your goal one day.

  2. Jan,
    I remember sitting in that seminar in 2001 with you and Renee. What a fabulous, motivating workshop that was. I still have my “red badge of courage.”

    As my former agent says, you’ll never sell if you give up!


  3. Jan, I love the phrase Cowboy Up! It says so much. And like you said, “You only fail if you quit!” Thanks for the reminder. ;-)


  4. We should all remember to ‘cowboy up’ when life throws us a curve.