Local authors rub elbows with national best sellers

Every week, Viewpoint Books releases a list of the store’s best-selling books. The Washington Street bookstore breaks the top-selling tomes into five categories — children and young adult, paperback nonfiction, hardcover nonfiction, paperback fiction and hardcover fiction.

The books with local and state connections are noted with an asterisk next to the title. Not coincidentally, those asterisked titles often occupy the top slots on the best-seller list.

This year is no exception, Viewpoint co-owner Terry Whittaker said.

Popular-selling titles include the fiction mystery “Dust on a Bowl of Roses” by Adele Vincent, “Move Your Chair” by Rick Weinheimer, “Nudge Me Gently” by Larry Perkinson, “Columbus Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre” by David Sechrest, and “Columbus (Then and Now)” by Tamara Stone Iorio.

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Charles E. Mitchell Rentschler’s “The Cathedral Builder: A Biography of J. Irwin Miller,” so far has sold 543 copies through Viewpoint Books.

“I think those success stories can spur someone on,” Whittaker said.

Capturing history

Tamara Stone Iorio said she didn’t set out to write a book. Funny thing is, she has now produced three: “Columbus Indiana In Vintage Postcards,” published in 2005; “Columbus (Then and Now),” published 2010; and ‘Legendary Locals of Columbus,’ published in 2013. All three books were published by Arcadia Publishing and are available at Viewpoint Books, Amazon.com and in a few other spots around town including the Columbus Area Visitors Center.“I’m a postcard collector,” Iorio said. “I discovered all of these postcard history books. I researched the publishing company and found out they accept proposals.”Thus began the pediatrician’s side gig as a history writer.

“I don’t want to pretend I was a struggling writer,” she said. “To me, it was kind of luck to be able to mix my love of writing and love of history.”

For retired investment analyst Charlie Rentschler, the journey to capture the essence of Columbus leader J. Irwin Miller was a labor of love.

Beginning in 2011, Rentschler spent 85 days going through Miller’s papers at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. He compiled nearly 90 interviews before he began sorting and shaping what would be the first-ever book dedicated solely to Miller.

He then self-published the book using Bloomington-based publisher AuthorHouse.

“I learned a tremendous amount about Mr. Miller,” Rentschler said. “I had the advantage of having lived in Columbus. My sense is that people think this is authentic. I didn’t just conjure up this stuff. I dug through these files. I talked to these people.”

Fictional works

Even a fiction work requires extensive research as Adele Vincent learned in the process of writing her murder mystery “Dust on a Bowl of Roses.”Vincent, a Columbus resident, set the story in her home country of England. She began the book, which is set in the pre-cellphone days of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Vincent used a well-known English garden as the backdrop for her book.“I first sent it to a publisher back 25 years ago,” she said. “The reply was, it’s far too long for a first novel. I didn’t want shorten it.”

Then she found an agent who agreed to look for a publisher. The agent died shortly after, and Vincent’s manuscript was returned to her.

“Life takes over very often,” she said.

“Dust on a Bowl of Roses” languished for decades as Vincent tended to real-life gardens and to her own life. But when she sent out a query to Trafford Publishing in Bloomington, the publishing company accepted the mystery and Vincent’s book hit bookshelves in October 2015.

“You have to persist,” Vincent said. “You have to have some trust in yourself. You can’t fake it.”

Overnight success

Whittaker, who stocks 30 to 40 works by local authors, knows just how well local authors can bolster sales at his shop — and at independent booksellers around the country.“This is not a local phenomenon. This is nationwide. People always talk about best sellers. People talk about John Grisham, (but) these kinds of books are so important,” he said.Potential authors should stop by to consult with a bookseller to get a clear picture of the components that go into conceptualizing, writing and then marketing a book. Writing a book, especially one centering around local interests, is a chance to preserve the history of a community.

“There are people out there with great stories, and I think sometimes they underestimate what those stories could mean to people if they’re put in some readable form,” Whittaker said. “It’s important to capture local history — maybe things that are only of interest to people in this community … otherwise they get lost.”