“Librarians and educators review indexes when evaluating whether to acquire or adopt books.”
– American Society for Indexing
There are standard formats for the creation of indexes, however, some publishers have specific specifications. Here are some considerations for indexing style.
Should the index follow the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)? House style? A previous edition of the same book?
Types of Indexes
Is a subject-only index needed? Or a citation (author) index? Combined subject/citation?
Does the index need to constrain to available space?
Front Matter / Back Matter
Should the front and/or back matter be indexed?
Should the notes be indexed?
Should the index be formatted in indented or run-in style?
chickens; breeds, 4-6, care of 7-12, molting, 18
care of, 7-12
How many levels of subheadings should the index have? Most indexes will have just one level, but some use two or more levels.
first level, 2
use of, 3
detail provided by, 4
Should the index include alphabetical separators?
alphabetic separator example, 6
Should the index be alphabetized word-by-word or letter-by-letter?
Should locators be conflated according to CMS or Hart’s Rules?
eggplant, 8-14, 24-29, 30-36, 39-43, 45-49
eggplant, 8-14, 24-9, 30-6, 39-43, 45-9
You have done top-notch research. You have finished writing your book. Now your editor wants you to provide an index.
Navigating the publishing process can be daunting and time-consuming. With production deadlines looming, the idea of pulling together an index might seem like an afterthought. Here is some advice that might help.
- Hire a professional. Indexing requires skill and training that develops over time. Anyone can write an index, but a trained professional will be able to analyze your text for relevant content and provide thoughtful entry points to the text. A useful index will cover all of the relevant discussions within the text and omit those that do not provide useful information to the reader. It will also include cross-references that will further guide the reader to the information that matters.
- Check for style guidelines. Many academic publishers will have a set of guidelines that need to be followed when preparing an index. If your editor has not provided these, it is a good idea to ask if any are required. In some cases, no guidelines will be required. There are many style decisions to be made regarding index style. A professional indexer can help you make sure you get the index you need.
- Ask for a referral. You have decided to hire an indexer. How do you find one? The best way is to ask your colleagues or your editor for a referral. Over the years, we have appreciated referrals from authors and editors.
- Keywords not necessary. You may be tempted to provide a list of keywords to be included in the index. It is not necessary to supply a list of keywords, but if one is provided, most indexers will consider them.
- Arrange for payment. The index is delivered and now the invoice needs to be paid. If your publisher is covering the cost of an index, it may be necessary for the indexer to file a W-9 or other paperwork in order to get paid. Check with your publisher about any of these additional requirements.
- Relax! I can help. I have worked with many academic authors.
If you are an academic author interested in working with a freelance indexer, please feel free to contact me for more information.