What is an index anyway?
Everyone has used an index. When you are looking for a recipe in your cookbook, you turn to the back of the book and look it up—by name, by ingredient, by style of cooking, by ethnic tradition. An index is a place to look things up in more detail than can be provided by the table of contents. An index is a structured and concise view of the content of a work, analyzed by subjects or names, usually arranged in alphabetical order, with pointers to both the pages of the text where you can find information and to related entries (cross-references).
Why invest in an index?
Usability--You've spent hours over your book, crafting it to perfection. What better way to have readers return to your book again and again than to include an easy-to-use index so they can find the information they remember reading or need to quote?
Value--Have you noticed that when Amazon provides a Look Inside feature for a book they sell, they include the index? Indexes make books more usable and more valuable. People decide to buy a book based on a review of the index.
Impact--Colleagues and reviewers will assess the completeness of your book and its impact on the field, in part, on the quality of the index. A professional indexer is organized and attentive to details, understands the requirements of the publisher, and is familiar with indexing principles and standards that result in quality work.
Fresh eyes!--Let's face it. By the time the book is ready for indexing, you are ready for the project to be done. Indexing takes thought and energy in order to organize the content in a meaningful but concise way. Get a professional's fresh eyes on your project. An index may be the last step in publishing, but attention to its creation can make all the difference in the final value of your book.
Can I write an index myself?
Yes, authors can write their own indexes, but if you want a good index, it isn't something to tackle lightly. Indexing is a thoughtful process; it takes work, and it takes some time. You, as the author, need to step back from the text and imagine that you are the user. What would help this user to find information? Authors should be familiar with indexing standards, and know, for example, that long strings of page numbers for entries really aren't useful, and that subentries should be consistent in form throughout. They should know what publishers expect in terms of layout, punctuation, alphabetical sorting, and index length. And you should be honest about your interest and energy before tackling an index. It's the last big task before the book is ready, and usually at this point, authors no longer want to look at the book! Your book is important to your career; you want it to be well regarded. If you don't have the energy or dedication to write a good index, then hire an indexer.
How do I know if the index is good?
The best way to know if the index meets quality standards is by using it. Look up a few topics. Can you find entries easily? Do they reflect the text accurately? Or do you have to hunt for your topic? Is the information actually on the page numbers you are led to? Are the subentries helpful in choosing pages? Is everything about a topic gathered together under an entry? Is the entry so long you cannot keep track of where you are? Does the index suggest other entries that are related, providing more information and leading you through the book?
What can a professional indexer offer?
A professional indexer saves you time and frustration. We provide a fresh look at your book, know how to craft a quality index that is accurate, consistent, comprehensive, meets publishers' requirements, and is easy to use.
What is the indexing process?
I read every word of your text and I have dedicated software to facilitate the index creation process. First, I review the book to determine what it is about and what you are trying to convey. Then I build a structure for the index that reflects the text. As I read and analyze the book, I add concepts and names to the index within the structure that has been built, adding new main entries, subentries under main topics, and cross references to related topics. I also add entries for terms that are perhaps not in the book but that a user might think of to help them find topics of interest. Once the entire index has been drafted, I carefully edit the work to be sure it is accurate, that it is consistent, and that each entry is complete, clearly written, and reflects the text. As I work, I also keep a tally of any errors I find in the text and provide them to you (or the editor) when the index is delivered.
Throughout this process, when possible, if there are items I don't understand or questions that arise, I interact with you, the author. I ask for clarifications on potential errors, on your preferences, or on a concept's complexity. I explain decisions that I have made. Once the index is completed, I send it to you for a review. Then I make alterations as needed, format it for delivery, and send it to both you and the project editor.
How much will it cost?
Every book is different, and thus each book needs to be assessed for its characteristics when pricing an index. Factors that go into this process include: Who is the audience (and how detailed must the index be)? What is the size of the book's pages? Does each page hold 200 words? or 1000? How difficult, dense, or complex is the text? How many names are included? How many figures and tables? How many indexes are required (name index? index of works?). Indexers often charge by the number of indexable pages, that is, by the number of pages that hold indexable content. In general, my rates range from $4.50–$6 per indexable page, but may be lower than that, or higher, depending on the actual text. For this reason, sample pages are usually requested to determine a rate.
How long will it take?
Again, this depends on the text. A short book that is straightforward will be cheaper and may take just two weeks. A long book with multiple indexes can take considerably longer. Most books are indexed within about a month.