[I]f you think for a moment, ‘This book is badly edited’ is kind of meaningless. What that actually says is, ‘This book is badly written and the editor didn’t fix it.’ But that’s the job. The author’s hacked out the raw material and the editor’s there to do anything from a light polish to a full-blown carving operation – but leaving no fingermarks, with no trace of her presence, just letting the story shine.
So when you read a book and you don’t notice anything wrong with it, spare a thought for the ninja editor, reading the clunky and the poorly structured, the repetitive and the nonsensical and the really quite alarming, the badly spelled and the just-not-quite-perfect…so you don’t have to.
–KJ Charles is a bookninja.
The other thing, of course, is that authors are vain, pompous creatures who push back against edits because MAH ARTEESTEK VEESHUUN!!!. So the answer to “why didn’t the editor fix this?” can also, very often, be “they tried, but the author threw a fit so they gave up”.
(In fact, in some respects I would suggest this accounts for some of the differences between debut and sophomore novels. There’s definitely a learning curve in there between “what I want to write”, “what my editors want me to write”, and “what the market wants to read” which is really only learnable via bitter experience. Editors, FWIW, are generally better at judging “the market” than authors are, and would really like authors to conform more to it. Authors, meanwhile, tend to want the market to conform to them. Hence the tension.)