Sometimes a prize arrives in 900 pages of unedited notes. That happened about three years ago, when we took on the editing, design and publication of “Ray Blanton and I” by Shorty Freeland of Adamsville, Tennessee.
Since Mr. Freeland had dictated his book in audiotapes and brought us notes, this was clearly going to be a labor intensive project, but fascinating. Shorty Freeland had worked beside Ray Blanton, Tennessee’s 44th governor, in Adamsville, on the campaign trail and in state government. They had been good friends from college days. It is a revelatory piece of insider knowledge on those days in Tennessee politics. Of course, since Ray Blanton left the office under investigation and spent time in prison, Freeland, who was Blanton’s administrative assistant (now called deputy governor), offered a viewpoint others would not have.
Freeland offers the counter-viewpoint of what Blanton did right for the state (such as establishing Civil Service and recruiting car industries in Japan — a first) and clearly states that if Blanton was so crooked, where did the money go? Blanton ended up renting a house, borrowing a lawn mower and selling cars. Freeland says who he believes was corrupt in Blanton’s administration.
Yes, we had to tell Mr. Freeland there were some things he simply couldn’t say in print, even if he knew in his gut they were true. We had to cut 900 pages to 280. I just hope he has kept his audiotapes, which we returned. He spent five years taping his recollections for this book which was to finance a monument honoring Blanton to be placed in Adamsville.
There were no analytics to this — when you have an opportunity to guide a book to publication that will provide political history about Tennessee, you know it’s a good choice.
His book has been through three printings, selling mostly through word of mouth. The first was hardback, metallic ink, dust jacket and expensive; others were laminated. While Mr. Freeland had a few book signings after the book came out, now his health limits his appearances.
What I wish we had been able to do was get this out as an ebook. This book “has legs.” We have perhaps 10 copies left, and we still get calls. When we began the two-year editing process, Mr. Freeland was more interested in his hard copy book, and he wanted large print “so people my age can read it!” That’s all perfectly understandable.
Now, with the knowledge we have acquired through the Independent Book Publishers Association and experience, we explain to our upcoming authors that your ebook is first. Mr. Freeland took us backstage to watch all the players in politics. It will be such a shame when Mr. Freeland’s last copy of “Ray Blanton and I” is gone.
Categories: J.H. Muses