I’ve been retired five months now and in that time five people I know in production and manufacturing have been laid off or asked to retire early. How long can this go on?

The whole structure of the industry is changing, and fewer and fewer “publishing professionals” are going to be needed. If you are a production editor, a production manager, a manufacturing controller, or some such thing, please get some additional skills. Books will of course be being made in the future, but more and more of “your job” is being short-circuited, freelanced, or pushed onto our suppliers. Future jobs in publishing companies will tend to be heavily digital (even at the print end of things). Maybe do a course on e-book formatting and layout, or HTML.

Hugh Howey, a very successful self-published author, recently claimed that self publishing was now one of the big six publishers. Certainly self publishing has become huge, and lots of opportunities exist there — self-published authors may do their own copyediting, layout, and design, but the more successful they get the more inclined they are to turn to a freelance. Getting some of this work is very different from your current experience: in a publisher’s production department the work comes at you — all the time, faster and faster. In the word of freelancing, you have to go and look for it. Many companies are out there offering publishing services — just Google publishing services. You could contact some of them: they need people I’m sure. If you go the pure freelance route, websites like Elance or oDesk would be places to start.

The Editorial Freelancers Association publishes a table of rates for the job for the sorts of freelance openings which exist in our industry.