Sometime ago, editorial services used to be the name of the broad category of editorial processes. These are the duties of a publisher's platoon of editors, proofreaders, layout designers, project coordinators, and many others who prepared an accepted manuscript for publication.
The routine was simpler then. An aspiring author submitted his work to a publisher. (It used to be done by the author himself, until agents came around and did the rounds of going from publisher to publisher selling the work. The idea was that authors are best at writing, not selling their work.)
Once accepted, the editorial services department went to work. The lucky manuscript was expurgated of such literary debris as confused grammar, wrong flow of ideas, terrible spellings, wooden dialogues and many other story defects.
Finally, the work would be published, either to great acclaim and become best-sellers or go down quietly to oblivion.
Later, submissions from aspiring writers would inundate publishing houses and became a problem. Sadly, most of these submissions were not worth the paper they were written on.
It came to a point where publishers issued rule after rule and many guidelines regarding acceptance of written work. The simple act of submitting your manuscript to a publisher became so prohibitive it takes short of a miracle to get an editor to just even look at your manuscript.
Freelance writers and editors
Thus, the free-lance editorial services was born. These were free-lance editors (and writers) who put up shops and peddled themselves as having superior editing skills than those in-house editors in publishing companies.
The premise was that manuscripts that passed their editing expertise have better chances of making it in the publishing houses – at least in the reading or consideration stage.
Some of them are not shy talking about their years of experience working in some prestigious publishing houses. Some came from universities with a string of impressive initial letters after their names. Some companies preferred to have their editing teams anonymous.
The selling point is that they have the same expertise as the editors of big publishing houses. For a fee (some are modest, and some are outrageous), they promise to polish anyone's literary work to such a sheen as to at least catch the eyes of the publishing house editors.
Proofreading your own
Judging from their growing number, these editorial services companies must be doing well, business-wise, in their self-appointed job of helping aspiring authors fulfill their .literary dreams.
To date, there had not been any admission from newly-published authors whether their work had passed the editing and polishing job from these free-lance editorial services. If there indeed are successful clients, the bigger question is if these editing houses (or individual editors) had contributed to their publication success.
There could be a number of these authors out there and they may have their own reasons for keeping their silence. It is just unfortunate that aspiring authors do not have more references other that what comes out from the people in these editorial service companies.