Pat Holt’s take on this topic is worth reading. Here are some excerpts:
I think the saddest thing that ever happened in the book industry was the gradual devaluing of editors and all they stand for – their high standards, their belief in readers, their ability to nurture authors, their love of language, their patience, their dedication, their eye.And most of all, their power….
As I recall, the ganging up against editors started in the 1970s, when Michael Korda of Simon & Schuster said that editorial workers should acquire marketing savvy so they’d get out of their ivory towers and stop mumbling about literary values at sales conference. Until then there was at least an attempt to separate Editorial from Sales & Marketing so that acquisition decisions wouldn’t be tainted by commercial concerns. The editors acquired the books independently; they told the marketing people what to sell. Sales and Marketing got to decide how to sell them, but there was no backing-and-forthing, no suggestions made to editors, no intrusion into the editorial process….
I can’t think of anything harder today than being an editor for a mainstream publishing house in New York. Now the horror stories are even worse, coming from the authors’ point of view. Acquisitions editors are pushed so hard to get out there and compete that they often leave the actual reading and editing to assistants who don’t know enough yet to bring the manuscript to its highest level….
I don’t think it’s healthy for editors to be ignorant of the marketplace and marketing. Editors since before the time of Aldus Manutius have had their finger on that pulse. It’s not realistic, or even desirable, to expect editors not to be “tainted by commercial concerns.” But I agree that in large commercial publishing today the shift of power to the marketers has not resulted in a superior product, and that for the most part neither readers nor authors are well served by it.