There are psychologists that argue that altruism doesn’t actually exist at all, that we only do good things for others in order to gain some benefit for ourselves. There have been many studies into this. Here is a newspaper report into one such study.
I ask this question because I have recently tried to organise something based on the theory of altruistic behaviour and have been rather disappointed with the results. It isn’t a scientific study in any way, but I have found it to be rather revealing on an anecdotal level.
Perhaps I had better explain.
I am what is know as an Indie author, that is, an author who isn’t signed up to a major publishing house, in the same way that Indie musicians aren’t signed to major record labels. For this reason, the majority of the marketing of my work has to be done by me and, as I haven’t got much spare cash, my marketing effort is very restricted to what I can do for free, mainly using social media.
Wouldn’t it be good, I thought, if Indie authors could use that supportive nature to help other Indie authors. If a thousand Indie authors were to buy a book by one Indie author, it would propel that book into the Amazon bestseller lists, if only for a day or two. That, in itself, would help to generate more sales. If those authors-come-readers were then to post reviews of the book, it would also help sales, because readers buy books that other readers have enjoyed.
Then we do it again and again and again, helping more and more Indie authors.
OK, actions speak louder than words, I thought, so how do I translate that obvious support for the concept into some sort of action?
I set up a Facebook group aimed at doing just that.
Indie authors have been invited to join the group and then take turns to recommend the books of other Indie authors that they have enjoyed reading. They are also asked to buy one book a month from those that have been recommended, but of course there is no way that can be monitored.
There is just one rule: You can't recommend your own books, because that isn’t what the group is about. It is supposed to be altruistic. You do something good for someone else without any expectation of reward.
It costs more to buy a pint of beer or a glass of wine and a book lasts far longer than either of those and probably gives more pleasure.
I then Tweeted the idea repeatedly over a period of about a week. The results were disappointing, to say the least. Perhaps that was where I was being a little bit naïve. Maybe even Indie authors would prefer to buy beer instead of books.
I did get some people to join the group, but these are people I already know through Facebook and they are mainly other authors signed to my publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing. I also got a couple of others who are friends of theirs or who follow me on Twitter, but these are very much the minority.
I may be being unfair, of course. There are so many internet scams going around that people may be mistrustful. The Facebook group is free to join, and whether or not someone buys a book is up to them, but it is possible that people think there is something dodgy going on, which makes them reluctant to join the group (there isn't - it does what it says on the tin).
Which means that I am right and there is no such thing as altruism, because altruism is something based on the idea of mutual co-operation; the act of one person benefits all. But if you are mistrustful, you don’t commit the act, so no one benefits.
Or, maybe, because they can't get a payback, the Indie authors aren't really interested in being altruistic in the first place, despite what they say.
I have bought one of the books that was recommended and have enjoyed reading it. The potential for the growth of the group is still there and, of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If you are an Indie author, or you just believe in supporting Indie authors, why not take a look at the group. Looking is free, membership of the group is free. In fact the only thing that isn’t free are the books that are recommended – but they are reasonably priced and no one involved in the group makes any money out of the recommendation, unless they’re the author of the book, of course.
Actions speak louder than words, so don’t just say that you support Indie authors, actually do something to support them.
The Facebook group is called Boost An Indie Author and you can click on the link to take a look or to apply to join the group.