Wordmaps Indexer FAQs

Note:  For general information about indexing, including how to find an indexer for your book, please see my introductory page on indexing.

These FAQs hopefully will answer any specific questions you may have about indexers .

How much will it cost?
How will I be charged for indexing?
How long will it take to create an index for me?
What should I know about professional indexers?
Should I let my publisher hire an indexer?
Do I need an indexer with subject expertise?
How should I contact an indexer? What should I say?
How can an indexer help make my book better?
Can an index really help me market my book?
Where can I use my index to promote my book?

(1) How much will it cost?

As is the case with other professionals, you are paying for the education, experience and equipment of a professional indexer. You pay for temperament too. Indexers must have a penchant for fine detail, yet they also need to be able understand a large number of books on a wide array of subjects. Curiosity is another trait most good indexers have.

Indexers use special software for indexing and output the results into a Word document, HTML or other file type you need. This software is expensive, but it speeds up the indexing process immeasurably.

Specific costs of a particular index depend on many factors. Click here to see a list of Cost Factors for Indexes.

Most indexers who are interested in your book, will want to see at least a few representative pages of your book before giving you an estimate for their work.

(2) How will I be charged for indexing?

Expect to be billed by the “indexable” page. Indexable page means any page an indexer needs to look at in order to create your index. An indexable page is billed even if it contains only one line. For special projects or consultations, you might be billed by the hour or by the job. And some indexers will bill by the number of lines in a finished index.

I strongly advise using a contract with your indexer. As part of this contract, you should fill out a style sheet for your index. This will ensure that you and your indexer are “on the same page” about costs and other obligations you and your indexer owe each other.

As far as payment goes, some indexers require prepayment. Some take credit cards. Others rely on checks. An indexer should send you an invoice or receipt of payment. You should send your indexer and the IRS a 1099 tax form in January, unless the total cost for your index is less than $600.

(3) How long will it take to create an index for me?

As you can seen from the partial list of of cost factors in (1) above, there are a many variables involved in indexing. As a result, each book takes its own sweet time to index. A rough rule of thumb is one week for 200 pages and one week for each additional 100 pages.

Can books be done faster? Yes, they can. But the quality of your index may be less and the cost higher. If you request a “rush job,” you should expect to pay more for it.

The time it takes before you get your index is based on when you delivered your final pages to the indexer. Final pages means pages that will have no significant changes, only corrections of minor errors.

For many books, an indexer can begin with only a partial set of book pages. If this is the case, you should provide your indexer with a table of contents and/or other outline of the whole book. With this information your indexer can construct a balanced picture of your book in its index and still finish on time.

(4) What you should know about professional indexers

Professional indexers are trained through courses offered by universities, university extensions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, professional societies, and continuing education workshops. We read journals and books to keep up and attend conferences and workshops. We index several books a year. We use software that speeds up the process of indexing. We spend our days indexing just as you spend yours at your primary work.

Besides our expertise, there is an additional plus in hiring an indexer–we are a deductible expense on your tax form. If you use a Schedule C for your taxes, you can deduct the cost of professional services from an indexer on line 17. Or, if you use Schedule E for supplementary income from royalties, you’ll deduct costs on line 10.

For where to find a professional indexer see Wordmaps page on Back-of-the-Book Indexing

(5) Should I let my publisher hire an indexer?

Your publisher is in the business of making money. Book publishing is not a rich industry. Even if you are paying for your index out of your royalties and your editor is sharp as a tack, your publisher will want to keep your indexer’s fee low. That minimizes their potential loss if your book doesn’t sell. If you let them arrange for your index what will happen if you don’t like that index?

Remember, if your book has a mediocre index, your reputation will suffer much more than your publisher’s. Publishers reputations rest on the names of their best-known authors and/or titles. Your reputation rests solely on your book.

(6) Do I need an indexer with subject expertise?

Indexers take opposite sides on this question. Some say “no.” We are your “first reader.” If we can’t understand your point, others won’t either. in addition, most indexers have a liberal education and college degree. We know quite a bit about a variety of subjects.

Others say “yes.” An indexer who is educated and/or experienced in your area will better know which things are important to index. If your field has jargon, they will know what it means and how to translate it into laypersons’ terms. They will know “who’s who” in your field and make sure to include those names in the index.

So the best answer I can give to this question is: It all depends on your book and your goals for your book. What could be important in working with and indexer or any other author’s service person is that they have experience with the kind of book you are doing: trade book, scholarly book, children’s book, or genre book, e.g., computer book, cookbook, technical manual, etc. Experience does make a difference. Be sure and tell your indexer what kind of book you are doing, and ask if they have done similar books to yours.

(7) How should I contact an indexer? What should I say?

You can email an indexer or call them. Once you introduce yourself, the first information to give them is (a) the subject of your book, (b) the audience(s) for your book (c) the approximate number of pages in your book, and (d) when you will need your index done by.

If the indexer indicates an interest in indexing your book, ask any questions you have of them and see if they have any questions for you. If there are any unusual features in your book be sure to tell the indexer about them. Make sure the indexer knows if you plan to publish in ebook and/or audiobook format or you are will be using a POD publisher. Feel free to ask an indexer for help in locating other service professionals you need to help you create your book.

Expect a request from an interested indexer to see some representative pages from your book. Do not send the whole manuscript. Just send a section of a chapter that will give the indexer an idea of what your text will look like. If you have the table of contents finished, you can send that.

I always ask for any marketing materials or book mission statement an author has. To me these things are important in making sure the index works to support the author’s goals and helps sales of their book.

(8) How can an indexer help make my book better?

An indexer can spot problems in your book. This includes typos, errors of fact and formatting problems. One thing an indexer will almost always notice is whether your section headings have the proper size font.  We use those font sizes as guides to what topics you think are more important than others.

An indexer can do other things, such as compensate for omitted material in a finished book.  For example, I once indexed a restaurant cookbook that paired one dish with another. But the pairings in the text only went one way. The text was typeset, so I made subentries in the index that pointed the other way as well.

Indexers can also help you with estimating the size of your index. They can help by suggesting what index format will enable readers to scan your index quickest. Some indexers can help you with proofreading, editing or evaluating your book as well.

You will create a book that sells more copies if all parts of your book work together synergistically.  There are five basic purposes every non-fiction book fills. All the parts of your book can be designed to support those important purposes. Watch for my new publication coming soon, Build Your Best Book!

(9) Can an index really help me market my book?

Yes! Be sure to mention your index in your media kit, articles you submit to newsletters and magazines, on your speaker sheet if you give talks, and in all of your other marketing materials. Talk about the value of your index on your web site, on your blog, in your newsletter, on social networks and any other place you write about your book. If you don’t know what to say about the index, ask your indexer for suggestions.

If you can get a testimonial from someone else for your index, use that too. Readers look for books with good indexes. Be sure to include your index in the packet you send out when seeking testimonials for your book. After your book is published, find book reviews in print and online that mention your index. Use them to promote your book.

(10) Where can I use my index to promote my book?

Readers make purchasing decisions based on scanning your index. Amazon will put your entire index online. Make sure this happens by signing up for Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature for your book.

You can link to your index on Amazon from your own web site too.

Many prospective book buyers in bookstores and online look at the table of contents first. Make sure your Index with its full page range is listed in your table of contents. Don’t let one of your most valuable sales tool go unnoticed!

See this table of contents for Hogg and Blau’s Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby. The Amazon sidebar shows there is an index in this book, but it’s not listed in the book’s  table of contents.

Note: Don’t forget to read my “Ten Tips for Getting a Better Index” in the left column of this page!

If you’re thinking about an index for your book, call me today for a free consultation. Nancy @415.462.1844              Or email me at nancy @wordmapsindexing.com