You've actually covered all three points so I'm kind of surprised they weren't in the original post. I know we have talked about these points at least twice here in the comments.
But yeah, as we've discussed, these seem like effective ways to lift yourselves out of the reader's personal slush pile.
As much as I'd love to work with Baen, after a great deal of study, I've decided I don't want to wait 9-10 months to be rejected, when I could get a out in front of an audience at the push of a button (And then get rejected) So yeah, based on your, Daddy Warpig's, and other evangelism, I've decided to go the indie publishing route (and though I don't chime in as much as a should, your posts have been invaluable).
As for the topic on hand:
When people use covers clearly cobbled together in photoshop from stock photos, having a professionally done cover will make YOURS stand out. Especially if you are doing a SF or Fantasy book. People want to see the spaceships, and robots, and all the other things your book might contain. Even in the digital storefronts, it's the picture on the cover people will first see. And like you said, this sad current trend of publishers to use boring covers with a picture of an obscure thing on solid color background might actually help an indie book with a good cover stand out. I have some experience 3D modeling, so I could probably cobble together workable cover, but I've decided to go with hiring an artist. I have an buddy from my college days I'm going to try to commission when my book is finished, but if that doesn't work out, like you said, I'll try to grab someone from deviantart or other art websites.
As for editing I definitely agree it's necessary, though it does seem to be the most daunting service to find a good one. Like you've said before in these comments, the best bet seems to be trying to find one in your personal network first, and then branching out. Though for an introvert like me, that sounds like it's going to be a challenge (I've decided not to worry too much about finding an editor until after I've finished my first draft, and did my second draft, so I've still got a while).
As for E-Formating, again another essential one. Similar to using WYSIWYG web design programs, automated programs just aren't going to get it right without hiccups. I've been debating this one since I've got some experience with HTML and CSS. But as said before some may not have time, and messing with code can be frustrating. Like Jeff said in his quote, it'll take research, skill and practice.
So now to get down to business, let's say you have to hire for all three:
Prices for commissions on deviant art vary wildly so I'm going to spitball a composite based on the various artists I've visited. Generally artists charge a lower amount for sketches and single characters and higher amounts for something more complicated so I'd wager for a cover you'd be looking at around $70 to $250.
For editing a figure you gave was around $500 to $2000 so I'll go with that.
For E-book formatting the lowball bid I've seen is $50, and for the high bid, Guido Henkel charges $150 for book less than 150K words and $250 for a format for create space, so I'm going to go with $400.
So first time author is going to be looking at $625 to $2650 out of pocket expenses. (Again, all spitball figures, and nothing to be taken as fact for any other aspiring writers lurking Brian's blog). That's a lot of skin to put into the game, but Jeff's quote work well here, as does "you have to spend money to make money".My comments: It's good to know that aspiring authors are getting some use out of this blog. If you're one of them, pay attention to anonme's words. That's what doing your homework looks like. His figures are pretty accurate, in my experience. But don't let them intimidate you. My total editing, art design, and formatting costs for Nethereal came in under his low end number.
To clarify, "How to Know if You're Ready to Self-Publish" is a personal inventory of skills and resources. "Non-Negotiables of Indie Publishing" lists three indispensable elements of publishing. The former will give indie authors a leg up, but won't spell ruin if they're lacking and can be learned as you go. The latter are essential to success. When I started, I would've answered "no" to more than one question in the first post. I made sure to have my act together in terms of the second.