This story begins in 1973. I had just come back from spending six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. The U. S. Navy had sent my wife and me to Monterey, California, so I could go to the Naval Postgraduate School. One of the professors introduced me to a local journalist and freelance writer. He wanted to write my story. We sat down and he interviewed me for over thirty hours. When we finished, we had fifty audiotapes. Next, he wrote a two hundred and fifty two page manuscript about my experience as a POW in North Vietnam. The Navy required me to send the manuscript to the Naval Investigative Service for clearance because I was on active duty. The Navy returned the manuscript four months later and told me not to publish it. At the Same time, the Navy permitted other POWs to publish their book, because those books supported the opinions of senior American POWs and the U.S. government. Not only that, the Navy Investigative Service sent my book to senior American POWs and some of my roommates for their comment and approval. The Naval Investigative Service never sent other POW books to me for my comment and approval. I am thinking there was a huge double standard in those days.
Six years ago, I decided to write another book on my experience as a POW. I did this, because I wanted my story on paper for my two sons and six grandchildren. Four years later, in 2014, I had only written one hundred pages. At that rate, I began to think that I would die before I finished my book. I contacted Mark Graham at Graham Communications in Denver, Colorado. He introduced me to Cara Lopez Lee. I took the thirty hours of audiotapes that I did in 1973 and transcribed them into seven hundred pages of transcripts. I gave those seven hundred pages of transcripts, along with the one hundred pages that took me four years to write, to Cara. She finished my book two years later and did a great job.
I then went to Colin Graham at Graham Publication Group in Denver. He designed the front and back covers as well as the interior of my book. He also designed the kindle version. We sent those to Ingramspark. This is where it gets weird. When I received my first sales invoice I only received $.74 profit on each book sold through amazon. Amazon took 55% off the top of the retail price of $15.95. That is the industry standard. Next the printer took $6.44 per book. I thought that was outrageous, because the whole idea of self-publishing was to beat the 10% profit traditional publishers give you. Mark Graham told me that I could print my book for $5.00 and sell it for $15.00. That is true if you order the books yourself and sell them out of the trunk of your car like John Gresham did on his first book. If you sell online through IngramSpark and amazon, however, you only get $.74 a book unless it is a kindle. If it is a kindle, you receive 60% profit on a every kindle sold, which is pretty good.
Colin Graham replaced Ingramspark with Createspace. The return on each book is much better. Now I get $4.25 for each book sold through amazon. That is pretty good too. However, Createspace only deals with amazon. For all other retail outlets I only receive $.74 per book. You can reduce the 55% Amazon gets off the top to 30%, but then other retail bookstores will not carry your book. You are caught between a rock and a hard place!
What does this all mean? It means that the publishing industry set itself up for the benefit of book publishers, book printers, and book distributors. The publishing industry did not set itself up for the benefit of authors. You know, one of the great things about growing old is that you learn something every day. I am seventy-three and I did not have a clue as to how the publishing industry actually operates.
Despite this, it has still been worth for to me to write this book for my sons and grandchildren. I have met some great people during the course of this journey, and that makes it worth it too. Finally, our government and the senior American POWs have presented a story to the world about the treatment of American POWs. That story is incomplete and full of omissions! I have attempted to present a more complete story by telling you what was not said about the POW experience in North Vietnam.
The title of my book is Unexpected Prisoner.
Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War
Author: Robert Wideman
Publisher: Graham Publishing Group
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About the Book:
When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam. At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity. Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand. In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”
A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history: the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating. Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.
With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.
About the Author:
Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.