Someone made this comment on my LJ (http://davefreer.livejournal.com/ the one I write about writing and politics and stuff on, not the one I write about emigrating to a remote island and self sufficiency etc on - http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/ - honestly, this social media is killing me ;-))
"since editing basically means having another literate person look your stuff over and correct your myopic mistakes. He needs cover art, too, but this is available for under $500. Anyone literate enough to write a book should be able to proof (as opposed to editing) it himself."
Um. Now there is truth (this is the way things sometimes are), and falsehood (this is not the way things should be) in that statement.
Editing is a tough job to do well. There are probably less good editors than there are good writers of humorous fiction, and those are the very rarest kind of writers (one man's funny is another man's boring or tragedy - and this often applies to editing too). Sometimes great editing is, of course, leaving it alone. And sometimes editing can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Editing - to my limited understanding of the subject comes at two levels -- Structural editing - ie where the editor, taking a look at the book from the outside and as whole as it were, sees areas which need change. In my case that's often been needing additional POVs. Very small changes -applied in the right place and with skill can change a book entirely. The great editors of legend - Campbell, Jim Baen, tend to be this kind of editor. They're very very rare. It's quite easy to get outside a book and say that something is wrong with it. It's another matter entirely to be able to tell an author (in such a way that they listen and understand) how to fix it. Eric Flint is very good at this - maybe his union organising experience stands him in good stead. At the next level (and in some ways this is more difficult than seeing the entire picture), you need a good line-editor -- that is someone who goes through your book, line-by-line and makes sure there are no places in which it can be misinterpreted, that contuinity is correct, that there are no anachronisms, and additionally picking up bad writer habits (ellipses in my case) or things like too much use of passive tense, or repeat word patterns. That's hard, tedious work and requires a very special kind of mind and dedication. I'm exceptionally lucky that Barbara is very good at that. You also of course get editors who aren't good at either of these aspects but try to do them anyway. I've never been that unfortunate, but a few of my friends have.
Anyone who thinks editing is just getting a literate friend to read over your work should read one of my early unedited drafts! They're aweful.
Proof-reading... is something you CAN'T do yourself. Trust me: you cannot do it yourself. That too is a skill that requires dedication and an ability to divorce oneself from the content (story) and merely focus on the words.
So: what are we going to do in our new and wonderful world of e-books? If Joe's internet gateway decides to offer e-books what will they need? DIY editors, proofing, covers, publicity (after all these are the things big 5 publishing houses seem to think are worth around 55% of gross). What are they worth to you? Are the big boys giving good value?