On Hearts and Stomachs

I'd rather aim for readers' hearts, even if I hit them in their stomachs.
Sep | 5 | 2011

I aimed for the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.

–Upton Sinclair

In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, a book intended to be a scathing indictment of capitalism. Sinclair was no fan of the American economic system, once saying, “Fascism is capitalism plus murder.”

Unfortunately for Sinclair, the plight of the everyday man did not resonate with his readers–and there were many. The subsequent outcry from his book did lead to major reforms, but not in our economic system. Rather, it brought big changes in the meatpacking industry. Hence the quote at the beginning of this post.

Aiming High

You have to admire people who aim that high because not everyone does. For instance, a friend of mine recently reviewed Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, a best-selling business book released in the last two years. My friend is a well-regarded small business expert and wrote of the book:

…there is some value, especially for someone who knows little about social media and wants a rundown of various social sites and to learn a few techniques. But there are better books out there for that. I don’t think the value warrants the hype around this book. It’s a pretty average business book about social media.

She gave Crush It a three-star review–and, from the Amazon reviews, many others believe that the book is substance free. I read the book as well and agree with her assessment. There’s nothing wrong with the book, but it’s hardly on par with some of the other social media books I’ve read. I am a bigger fan of Vaynerchuk’s follow-up book, The Thank You Economy.

Some people swear by Crush It and I’m not going to tell them they’re wrong–and I doubt that Gary Vaynerchuk will lose any sleep over a mildy critical review.

My Take

I can’t speak for all authors, but I would prefer to have The Age of the Platform loved and/or hated–not considered fine. I know that we all have to pay the bills, but I just can’t justify writing what I believe is an average book. My favorite directors would never strive to make a mediocre film. My favorite bands don’t attempt to produce an “acceptable” album.

I’d rather aim for readers’ hearts, even if I hit them in their stomachs. What about you?

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