Information for Authors
What makes a good index?
Most authors reading this will have already finished writing their book and will have found a publisher. Congratulations! Now for the next step: creating an index.
A good index is much more than an alphabetical list of the significant words that appear in the book and the pages they appear on. As the Society of Indexers explains in their leaflet for authors:
‘It’s like a road map, leading both experts and novices in your field to every pertinent sentence you’ve written, regardless of their point of departure and without dead ends or annoying detours’.
A good index includes alternative routes into your text from those different points of departure, by including:
Synonyms for concepts in the book, so even if the reader thinks of a different way of expressing it, they will find what they are looking for
Broader terms for concepts in the book, so even if the reader doesn’t know exactly the right word for what they are looking for, they will find it
See cross-references to direct the reader to where they will find the information they seek, e.g. book indexing see indexing
See also cross-references to alert the reader to related terms that they might also be interested in, e.g. writing see also editing
A good index will help a reader quickly find what they are looking for in your text, by avoiding:
Long strings of page numbers after an index heading. Do you really expect readers will follow them all up? It is more helpful if these are broken up, e.g. using subheadings.
Passing mentions. You will alienate your reader if they follow up an index entry only to find nothing of interest about that topic on that page, e.g. a name included in a list of examples to support an observation. It is more helpful only to index significant mentions.
A good index will use language and tone that is consistent with the text
A good index will adhere to established conventions, as set out for example in the indexing standard BS ISO 999:1996: Information and documentation – Guidelines for the content, organization and presentation of indexes. This ensures among other things that personal, organization and geographic names are indexed appropriately, and that alphabetical ordering is accurate (not always as straightforward as it sounds!).
Why should you hire a professional indexer?
Some authors do index their own books, but few enjoy it. It is also a real grind without specialised indexing software. Also dare I say it, few would produce an index that has all the characteristics of a good index listed above. It is very difficult to step back and take the perspective of different readers when you are so close to your own book.
This is where professional indexers come in. They will have undergone rigorous training with their respective indexing society to ensure that their indexes tick all the right boxes, and they can hold different reader needs in mind as they work. They will likely have indexed a lot of books so they will have neat solutions at their disposal. They also use specialised indexing software to support their work: this doesn’t ‘automate’ indexing – the intellectual process is not diminished – but it does help make some tasks such as alphabetical ordering, and creating subheadings, more efficient.
If your publisher has asked you to create an embedded index I would strongly urge you to hire a professional. This is not for the faint-hearted and without specialised software and indexing expertise you will likely come unstuck.
Why should you hire me?
I am a Fellow of the Society of Indexers (SI) and have indexed over 140 books since starting indexing full-time in 2018. I have worked for authors working with large and small publishers, and authors who have self-published their books. I am very active in the SI, including as a course tutor and marker, and am the CPD Director for the SI, organising professional development activities for other indexers. I also reflect (a lot) on my own indexing practices, think (a lot) about indexing issues, and write about indexing too. So, you can be assured that I maintain and build on high indexing standards, and will create a thoughtful index for your book.
Depending on your requirements I can create an index as a separate Word document working from the PDF proofs of your book, or an embedded index in Word or InDesign (this means the index information is inserted as tags directly within the Word or InDesign file for the book itself).
I enjoy working with authors directly and I give my authors confidence in my work by being as helpful and informative as I can throughout the process. There is a good chance I have worked with your publisher before so know how indexing slots in with their production processes. I will take on board any preferences and requirements that you and your publishers stipulate, and when different solutions present themselves, make my own recommendations based on what works well. If you would prefer to put me in direct contact with your publisher, I am happy with that too.
How will I work with you?
If you approach me to index your book, the first two things I will check are my availability and whether I am confident tackling the subject matter. I often get booked up a few weeks in advance so please contact me as early as you can, even if you only have a rough idea about the schedule. I would much rather pencil something in early and shift it back if the schedule slips, than have to turn something away because I am fully booked. I always prioritise books that I have already agreed to, even if their schedules move. Of course I sometimes get last-minute availability too, due to those sliding schedules.
My list of Subjects should give you an idea of the sorts of books I index, but even if your book falls into the ‘Other’ category it is worth a punt – it might really appeal! I will ask to see a chapter or two before confirming that I am happy to take it on. Then we will get into the detail of fees and agreeing a schedule (or approximate schedule). See my Fees information and my Terms and Conditions for more information about how I work.
Thank you very much for your index, and for managing everything in a perfectly organised way. I was really wondering how to cope with the interweaving of themes in this book, and your index precisely underlines its interdisciplinarity, and as such is a valuable addition to its content!
Melanie created a comprehensive and excellent embedded index for a complex physics textbook, suitable for digital formats and paperback in a very short time. Her attention to detail was brilliant and I can't recommend her highly enough. A pleasure to work with.
Information for Publishers
I am always delighted to be approached by a new publisher – perhaps you could be next?
Why hire me?
I am a Fellow of the Society of Indexers (SI) and have indexed over 140 books for a number of publishers, large and small, since starting indexing full-time in 2018. I create traditional indexes from the PDF proofs, or embedded indexes in Word or InDesign.
I index books on a range of Subjects and readership levels, but even if your book falls into the ‘Other’ category it is worth a punt – it might really appeal! I will usually ask to see a chapter or two before confirming that I am happy to take it on.
Having worked in academia and being a published author myself, I have experienced the realities of shifting publication schedules and urgent deadlines, from both sides of the fence. I meet these with good humour, and build contingency time and flexibility into my own schedule to accommodate your changing needs.
I enjoy forming constructive and friendly relationships with production editors and project managers: some feel like old friends although we have never met in person. I attract a lot of repeat business due to delivering high quality work on time, every time, that authors are delighted with.
Melanie quickly became my go-to indexer due
to the quality of her indexes, impeccable timekeeping, brilliant attention to detail and excellent author approval rate.
The author would like to thank you for your sensitive and careful work.
+44 (0)7719 664518
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