Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Open Hand Theory

After years of attending writers conferences, I was shocked to have an editor of a large publishing house ask to meet with me. She had my manuscript in hand and had offered up some editorial suggestions to make the manuscript stronger. Before I agreed to take a look, I felt it my duty to divulge the fact that I was likely going to be going with another publishing house.

She blinked at me a few times, then got to work explaining why she thought the changes she suggested would make the book better. At the end of the conversation, I told her that the other publisher was interested in buying the book on a partial, something she wasn’t willing to do. She then went on to say, “Gina, it doesn’t matter if we’re the ones who publish you, we just want to see you published. You’ve done so much for other writers over the years that we’re all rooting for your success.”

That’s the law of reciprocity at work, or as we prefer to call it, the open hand theory.

"One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us." Robert B. Cialdini, author of The Psychology of Persuasion (William Morrow, 2006)

You can read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), The above mentioned, Psychology of Persuasion, The Tap (Frank McKinney), and others, but I think it comes down to a pretty simple concept: By keeping an open hand, you’re allowing blessings to flow both in and out.

We’ve all read the story of the monkey trap. Folklore suggests that if you put a tasty treat inside a container with a hole just big enough for the money to slide its hand into, but not big enough for it to get it out once his fist is clenched, the monkey will allow itself to be killed or captured before he will let go of the treat. We writers can be a lot like monkeys.

So often we have ideas, talents or resources that would benefit others, but our natural inclination seems to be hiding these away for ourselves. Great phrases, marketing ideas, you name it. Our selfish self whispers, “Don’t share that, it’s valuable information. Do you want everyone doing it? It will lose its originality, it’s value.”

Christians, Jews and other faiths adhere to the principle of tithing. The Bible says in Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” New Living Translation

When you don’t tighten your fist around the prize, you leave it open for others to take, and for others to give. If you want to be a successful author, heck, a successful anything, you’re going to need some help from others. In return, you’re going to need to help others. 

Gina Holmes is the President and founder of Novel Rocket and the bestselling and award-winning author of Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in southern Virginia. To learn more about her, visit www.ginaholmes.com.

From the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans comes a powerfully moving story that tests the limits of love’s forgiveness. Like many marriages, Eric and Kyra Yoshida’s has fallen apart slowly, one lost dream and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal finally pushes them beyond reconciliation. Just when it looks like forgive and forget is no longer an option, a car accident gives Eric the second chance of a lifetime. A concussion causes his wife to forget details of her life, including the chasm between them. No one knows when—or if—Kyra’s memory will return, but Eric seizes the opportunity to win back the woman he’s never stopped loving.


Ane Mulligan said...

I agree fully. I've always tried to pass on what I've learned. :)

Gina Holmes said...

Ane, you more than anyone else I can think of, are the perfect example of keeping an open hand. Thanks for all you do for me and others. You're such an asset to the Christian fiction community.

Nicole said...

Gina, you earned your status. For sure.

Terry Whalin said...


What a terrific post about the open hand. I loved it and it's a practice that I've been doing for years. Keep up the good work.

Straight Talk From The Editor, 18 Keys To A Rejection-Proof Submission

Gina Holmes said...

Yes, you certainly have, Terry. I'm one of the beneficiaries. Thanks for that.