Laura Van Dusen’s latest book is out. Titled Early Days in South Park: Parked in the Past, it covers fascinating aspects of South Park’s history and characters from the 1860s through the 1970s. There’s even a prehistorical section. A number of old photos help bring to life times when a family might lose four children to typhoid fever, when “Bayer Heroin” was actually marketed as a medicine to the public, and when coal mines around Como were marked by Italian-Chinese feuding and fatal explosions. While I edited the book—and am thus perhaps not free of bias—I think any objective observer need only look to the bibliography to be convinced that an enormous amount of research lies behind the well-told stories that make this a fun book to read.  


Congratulations to Jo Virden, who yesterday had a book-launching party for her new book, My Darling Dorothy. It was a real pleasure doing the copy editing and proofreading for the book, which was five years in the making. It is based on letters from her mother’s two romantic interests in Nebraska before and during World War II. She has received two excellent reviews.

Foreword Reviews said, “Virden captures the ethos of the time perfectly, contrasting the rigidity of conservative social norms with spirited rebellion on the part of the children. . . . The pacing is exactly as needed to keep the story flowing smoothly, and Virden’s insightful skill with character development makes both the major and the minor characters shine.

“My Darling Dorothy is a sensitive and captivating tale that illuminates how, beyond the danger, despair, and depravity of war, there still remains a cherished place within each human being where dreams remain ‘safe and possible and untouched.’” (See )

BlueInk Review said, “Inspired by genuine letters that passed between her mother and two love interests during World War II, Jo Virden’s historical fiction romance, My Darling Dorothy, is an out-of-the-ordinary peek at wartime reality on the home front and abroad. . . . Over the decade covered by the main action, Virden [skillfully] and carefully zeroes in on incidents that reveal the chance and irony of war, as when Smitty’s malaria saves him from a landmine.

“Overall, the author has penned a compelling story—one that will hold particular appeal for fans of similar epistolary tales, such as Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”  (See

The book is available on Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, and Smashwords. 

When I read the book, I was reminded of Edna Ferber’s So Big. There’s something about the truth of the characters and the context of their locations that shines through in both books.

 I wrote a package of four stories on the city and county of Denver’s estimate of 1 million persons for the Feb. 9  Broncos Super Bowl parade, partly because I thought it would be useful for my students at Metro to have a model of an investigative story and the steps taken to get the story. The main story is at It has links to two other stories and the most detailed analysis of the size of the crowd. That analysis estimated the crowd at 198,000, five times fewer people than the city’s estimate.

Linda and Bernie Nagy, longtime friends in Fairplay, have just published the expanded pocket-sized edition to their Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide. It identifies 270 flowers, has lots of photos, and includes explanatory pages for those of us who are novices in the world of flowers. To see that book, other books they've written, and products such as cutting boards with beautiful photos that they've created, go to their website at Alas, the Nagys are selling their house in Fairplay, but they'll be in the area through the summer. Bernie used to take lots of photos for The Flume while I was editor there, and Linda wrote some articles. They will be missed. 


Charlie Souby's second novel, A Shot of Malaria, has been published and is now available to the public. 

Charlie's website is and here's a link that provides information about his appearance at a Barnes and Noble:

The link is 

My blog last November 14 said the book was due out in mid-January 2015, but that date was moved to April 1. 

I may be biased, since I copyedited the book and Charlie is an old friend I’ve known since our days at KABN Radio in Alaska in the 1980s, but I think he does a wonderful job with the characters and plot, and it's far more humorous than you might expect from a novel about a heroin addict. It provides a wealth of insights into a world that is quite different—but at the same time not so far removed from any of us. 

For anyone touched by addiction, either personally or through a family member, the book is a must-read. It opens the eyes to the ins and outs of treatment, particularly through methadone and counseling, while maintaining strong story-telling via the eyes of the main character. He really does an amazing job. 

For those who might be wary about spending the money and time on such a novel, there's an opportunity to get a taste of Charlie's writing for free by reading his short story, “The Durschlag Twins,” which was published by the Saturday Evening Post online. You can read it by going to

Charlie's first novel, Winifred, was revised and republished last November, and it is also highly recommended. 


Jeff Miller, the author of Behind the Lines, WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation, notified his book team today that he has kicked off a $28,500 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to finance his proposed second book in a planned three-book series. The deadline is Dec. 31, and as of this afternoon he had raised $1,323 through seven backers. He has 21 days to go. The link to his Kickstarter campaign is All the details are there. The idea behind a Kickstarter campaign is that funders provide money and get rewards in return. In this campaign it can be as little as $15 or as much as $1,000. While I have a vested interest in the campaign's success since I would like to copyedit the second book, I think it's a great project regardless of that. The first book received a starred review from Kirkus and positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Foreward magazine, the Denver Post, and alternative newspaper Westword.   
 Jeff Miller, the author of Behind the Lines (which I copyedited), has received an important positive review from the Publishers Weekly unit, BookLife, that reviews self-published books. The review is at and states that the book is "an intriguing read" and "will be of greatest interest to specialists in WWI and European history." Jeff has also posted all of the book's reviews on the book's website at
Publishers Weekly is a "trade news magazine targeted at publisherslibrariansbooksellers and literary agents" and has been published continuously since 1872, according to Wikipedia. 
Today, November 14, is a big day for Charlie Souby, an old friend I’ve known since the 1980s, when we both were volunteering for KABN Radio in Big Lake, Alaska. Last week I finished copyediting Charlie’s second novel, A Shot of Malaria, so this blog is relevant to the editing part of my Tom’s Touch business.

Today Charlie’s short story “The Durschlag Twins” was published by the Saturday Evening Post online. You can read it by going to

I recommend you read it and see what you think, and if you like it you might consider reading his first novel, Winifred, which was revised and republished today, making this a double-milestone date for Charlie. Winifred is also quite good, with some great plot twists, and can be bought for $12.95 at

The initial edition of Winifred was published in December 2010 and is available on, but I could not find the new version there yet.

As for A Shot of Malaria, it is due out in mid-January 2015. I will leave to the reviewers the task of telling you how good it is. Charlie’s a writer of considerable talent, and I am fortunate to have known him all these years, long before I knew he had any such talent. Regardless of what transpires with the sales of his books, in my estimation he has already achieved a great measure of success. Have a read, and see if you don’t agree.   
P.S. The story ends with the phrase "as they carried it up to my front door," even though it says "Read More" after that.  
Self publishing is soaring at about a 60 percent annual growth rate, and that means an ever-increasing need for copyeditors—those who check facts, spot logical inconsistencies, and proofread for spelling and grammatical errors.

In the newspaper business, it used to drive me crazy if I found a single error after the paper came out. It was as if the whole newspaper was stained in some way by that error. With a book, it would seem even more important to catch every mistake, but book authors don’t necessarily budget the money or see the need for an editor.

A book with mistakes is sort of like a broadcaster with a speech impediment. No matter how good the content, it is lost to the listener as attention is focused on the impediment. The same is true with book errors that catch the reader’s attention. An unedited manuscript might easily average one mistake per page. But that would total 400 mistakes in a 400-page book, and that would seem to be enough to mar an author's credibility with a reviewer or the average reader.
How does an author know what to pay a copyeditor? The problem is that cost is both a function of the hourly rate of the editor and the speed with which the book is read. The reading speed is related to the number of errors in the material, the type of book edited, and the efficiency of the copyeditor.

That’s why I was a bit surprised to learn on page 23 of the Self-Publish-Your-Book Handbook by Joe and Jan McDaniel, owners of Parker-based Bookcrafters, that company CreateSpace charges a flat $160 for copyediting 10,000 words. That means a book of 400 pages and 100,000 words would cost $1,600 to copyedit. A flat rate is surprising because of the huge variability in quality of manuscripts that are edited.

I think that flat-rate-per-word approach is the exception. Most editors have an hourly rate, but it's hard for the author to know how many pages an hour each editor might copyedit. Someone who charges $50 an hour and copyedits fifteen pages an hour would be less costly than someone who charges $25 an hour and copyedits five pages an hour. And of course there's the question of maintaining quality while also maintaining speed.

In their book on page 37, the McDaniels cite a rate on manuscript edits of $35 an hour.

The Chicago Manual of Style
doesn't cite a typical hourly rate, but it does provide a time estimate for copyediting a 100,000-word book. It states at section 2.49 (page 71 of the 16th edition) that such a book, “edited by an experienced editor, might take seventy-five to one hundred hours before being sent to the author, plus ten to twenty additional hours after the author’s review.” See

However, if
you take the assumption of 100 hours for 100,000 words, and you add it to the CreateSpace number of $160 for 10,000 words, the combination translates to $1,600 for 100 hours of work, or $16 an hour. That's less than half of the $35 an hour cited by the McDaniels. 

Of course a lot depends on the manuscript. I recently read one history book in which it sometimes took me an hour to copyedit 1,250 words because there was so much fact-checking involved. That's within the range of copyediting speed suggested by The Chicago Manual Style when it talks about 75-100 hours for 100,000 words (which works out to 1,000-1,333 words per hour). On the other hand, I just copyedited part of a fiction book that I was covering at 5,192 words an hour, more than four times faster.

Because of those discrepancies, I like to take a sample, read it with the highest focus and speed possible, and quote a rate for x number of pages based on the sample. Then the author has an idea of what the total cost will be and is not blindsided if the submitted book is particularly tough to edit. It also avoids a situation in which the editor ends up earning less than the minimum wage.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that geographical differences pose another stumbling block to figuring out copyediting rates. For instance, I have one friend in Denver who charges $50 an hour, an acquaintance in Dallas who charges $100 an hour, and a longtime friend in New York who charges $150 an hour. One friend in Bailey, Colo., told me she charged $30 an hour for editing books 20 years ago. 

The Editorial Freelancers Association, a national nonprofit based in New York City, cites a rate of $30 to $40 an hour for basic copyediting, but it also cites copyediting speeds of 5-10 pages an hour (see And it notes that the industry standard for a manuscript page is 250 words (while the sample of the fiction book I just read had 375 words a page). At the lowest rate ($30/hour) and highest speed (10 pages/hour), that works out to $120 per 10,000 words, which is lower than the CreateSpace flat rate cited. At the highest rate ($40/hour) and slowest speed (5 pages/hour), that works out to $320 per 10,000 words, which is twice as high as the CreateSpace flat rate.

In other words, there are a lot of variables, but hopefully some of the examples above provide some framework for decision making and budgeting. I personally think the key is for the copyeditor to read a sample first. Then there are no surprises for either party. 

Congratulations go out to Jeff Miller for the extremely positive review he received from Kirkus Reviews for his new book about World War I and the Commission for Relief in Belgium. It’s called Behind the Lines and is described on the cover as “WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who saved millions from starvation.” The review can be found at

The last line of the review reads, “An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.”

Since I was hired to copyedit the book, I know how much work and passion went into it, and I am extremely excited that Jeff is receiving this type of recognition. The book received a star, which, as I understand it, means it was selected as one of the top 750 books reviewed out of about 10,000 reviewed by Kirkus in a year. Because it received a star, it will automatically be entered in the competition for The Kirkus Prize, which is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with $50,000 awarded annually in three categories.