FAQ's On Indexing
What is an index?
An index is a key — in fact the key — to finding important information in a book, while excluding reference to unimportant or uninformative information (what indexers call a passing reference). The index should accurately reflect the topics and themes expressed by the author. It is as unique a piece of writing as the book itself and should be recognized as such. Just as not everyone is a good writer, not everyone can produce a good index.
Who makes a good indexer?
Someone who is:
- well read in a number of different fields
- curious and interested in learning new things
- highly focused and detail oriented
- organized and logical in their approach to a project
- methodical, persistent and patient.
Be assured, the indexer will read your book in its entirety, usually more than once.
What can an indexer do for you?
- specialized skills: the indexer usually has training in indexing and is familiar with the techniques, styles and conventions required to construct a good index. They are competent in the use of specialized indexing software
- point of view: the indexer takes the reader's viewpoint when constructing an index. This means, in part, identifying the index entries a reader would likely look for and ensuring they are present, even when not explicitly mentioned in the text. It often leads to a negative reading experience when a reader can't find what they need in an index
- increased functionality: a good index enhances the experience of the reader by providing efficient and intuitive access to the topics in your book. If it was important enough for you to discuss, the reader must have easy access to the information
- enhanced marketing: books with good indexes are preferred by readers, reviewers and those making purchasing decisions.
Can’t a computer construct an index?
In a word? No. A computer can construct a list of words and/or phases from within the text, giving a location for every occurrence, but that is a concordance not an index. Since the computer cannot analyze the contents of the text, a concordance, unlike an index, is devoid of meaning. An accurate reflection of the meaning of the text is what elevates a word list to an index.
For an example on why to create an index rather than a concordance, read this LinkedIn post.
How do I find an indexer?
There are several ways to do this:
- conduct a web search. Most indexers maintain their own websites (which might be how you got here)
- look at some of your books. If you find one with an index you particularly like, contact the publisher and ask for the name of the indexer
- word of mouth is an excellent way to find an indexer. Ask your friends and colleagues if they have anyone they would recommend
- check the major professional societies, as they all maintain lists of indexers. Additionally, taking a look at their sites will give you a good idea of what an indexer does;