When you engage an indexer, you are employing an information professional with:
- subject analysis skills
- an eye for detail
- communication skills
- the ability to meet deadlines.
To ensure your index is a good one:
- engage the indexer as early as possible; some have skills that can be used from the very beginning of the project
- recognise that a good index takes time
- plan the scope, content and target audience
- clarify the style, format and mode of delivery
- when requesting a quote, it is helpful to attach a table of contents and a sample chapter (not the introductory chapter) to give the indexer a clear idea of the topic and the level at which the publication is being pitched.
- specify whether the job is to be done in-house or externally
- set the deadline
- negotiate the fee
- confirm the contractual details in writing.
What does a professional indexer do?
An index is much more than a simple list of keywords and page references. Indexing is an intellectual activity in which the content of a printed or electronic publication is read and analysed to identify terms and concepts that the reader is most likely to want to find.
A professionally compiled index:
- is clear, comprehensive and consistent in style
- includes headings for significant topics, concepts and names
- includes subheadings to help the reader locate specific aspects of topics without having to search through numerous pages
- connects all related headings in the index through the use of see and see also references
- includes explanatory notes to put headings into context
- may distinguish page references for illustrations, tables and footnotes from page references related to the main text.
How to find an indexer
The Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers is a network of professional indexers with members in all Australian states and in New Zealand. The Society recognises professional competence through accreditation of indexers. It maintains a list of indexers who are available to accept commissions. Their contact details can be found in Indexers Available.
Advice for authors
Authors sometimes have to make a decision about whether to index their own work, or to commission a professional indexer. As an expert in your subject area, you may be concerned about the ability of an indexer to identify relevant terms and concepts. A professional indexer accepts commissions for subjects in which they have at least a broad level of knowledge and many will draw on knowledge gained through a previous career. Some indexers work in specialised areas such as law.
Besides having professional indexing skills, the indexer will read your manuscript with objectivity and a fresh pair of eyes. The indexer will also have an understanding of the readers’ perspective which is particularly important, as often readers will not be as familiar with the subject as you are.
Advice for editors
Editors responsible for commissioning indexers need to consider aspects such as how best to brief indexers and what to look for when assessing indexes. To assist with this step in the publishing process, The Society of Indexers (United Kingdom) has produced a comprehensive guide: Last but not least: a guide for editors commissioning indexes.