Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina spoke last Thursday on Capitol Hill about how “technology allows us to break down the barriers that African Americans have faced with traditional publishing methods.”
Butterfield, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, gave his remarks at a book reading Amazon hosted in honor of Black History Month. The event featured novelist Barry C. Davis, whose A Strange and Bitter Fruit grapples with racial strife in the post-Civil War South and beyond.
“I wrote the book in 2004,” Davis said during a discussion moderated by David Johns, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. “I spent the next three years sending hundreds of emails, letters, packages [containing] the manuscript, sending them to publishers and literary agents.”
“Love your writing. Love the book. But won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole” is how Davis has summed up the replies he got. Book-world insiders worried his subject was too raw and its appeal would be too narrow.
Then Davis found out about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. He was able to release his work on his own terms and discover his novel’s true potential. “Most of the reviewers, no matter what their race or gender, get what I'm trying to do. They were able to become (my main character) and place themselves in the situations that confronted this black man,” Davis said in a story previously featured on the Amazon.com homepage. “They enjoy the book, and they really were affected by it. So that's what it's all about for me…. Amazon gave me a voice and made it possible for my message to be heard.”