Are you thinking of indexing your own book?
Hello, my name is Nancy K. Humphreys. I was trained by the British Society of Indexers. I have been a professional indexer for over twenty five years.
Before I tell you how to find just the right indexer for youfr book, I’ll give you at three good reasons why hiring a professional book indexer is your best option.
(1) Hiring an indexer will cost you less money
Hiring other people to work for you is the smart thing to do. If you plan to use a IRS Form Schedule C (sole proprietor business) or IRS Form Schedule E (rents and royalties) to report the income you receive from your book, you can deduct the costs you pay others for helping you write your book and create an index for it. You deduct these expenses on line 17 on Schedule C or line 10 on Schedule E.
Here’s the thing about the IRS. They tax everyone for the work they do, but the IRS only gives tax deductions for work done for someone else. So, if you hire an indexer, you can take a tax deduction on Schedule C or Schedule E. But if you do you the index yourself, you cannot deduct the expense (i.e., the cost of the total hours it takes) for your own labor.
(2) Hiring an indexer will save you time
Not only that! Indexers are professionals who learn from experience how to index quickly. Here’s what one of my (very intelligent) clients wrote to me after I finished his index, “All in all, I’d say you did a heckofajob. You gave me a better index than I could possibly have made, and you did it in under the year-and-a-half it would have taken me. Thanks again. Your check is in the mail.”
And by the time you get to the index, you really want your book to be done! Every day your book isn’t out there being sold, it is losing sales. New books that will compete with yours are being published every minute by other authors.
(3) Hiring an indexer will let you get you sleep you’ll badly need
Some online sites for writers promise you that a book can be writing in 90, 30 or even 3 days. That’s certainly true for some free PDF books intended to promote a product or service. But it’s equally not true for traditional printed books, ebooks, and audiobooks.
Most of my clients tell me it took them around five years just to write their books. When they’re done writing they realize they also need to market their book! Wouldn’t you really prefer to take a break and catch up on your sleep before you begin promoting your book?
Note: for more information about promoting your book, check out the Sell Your Book section of this web site. For the newest information about marketing books, please see Wordmaps’ blog page or sign up for my free newsletter Wordmaps Tips to be emailed to you.
What to consider when choosing an indexer
What is indexing?
Indexing is an art, not a science. Like snowflakes, no two books (i.e., we call them “titles”) are the same. As a result each index is unique too. There’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” in indexing. Nor is there a standard cost for creating an index.
Although indexers follow many common rules and traditional practices, studies show that there is no such thing as Inter-indexer consistency. In fact, there is no such thing as intra-indexer consistency. An indexer may well index the same book in different ways.
In addition, indexers each have certain strengths. We all have different educational backgrounds, work and life experiences. We have different personalities and ways of working. We have a variety of philosophies about how to index books and other documents.
The importance of index quality
In addition, there are different quality-levels of indexing. In general, quality of an index has a direct relationship with both price for the index and usefulness of that index to the buyer of the book.
Lack of quality
No index in a book means the reader has to find anything they remember by leafing through the whole book. In the case of an ebook no index means the reader has to use the Search function, an equally tedious and hit or miss way of finding things in ebooks. An index with no sub-headings is not really an index at all – it is a merely a “list” of words. A word list is hardly better than no index at all.
A low-quality index is one that shifts much of the burden for finding things in the book to the reader. For example, there will be long strings of page numbers for the reader to wade through to find a specific piece of information. The may omit See cross-references that points the reader to the synonym the indexer used for the term the reader is trying to find in the index. And they may skip cross-references that suggest where else the reader might find information of interest.
Low quality indexes tend contain trivial pieces of information and leave out important information. Often you can spot a cheap, low-quality index by its length. The average index for the print version of a book occupies around 5% of the number of pages with the main text of a book. The range of indexes in proportion to text pages runs from X to Z. [
For more information about index length, please see pages of Nancy M. Mulvany’s book, featured in the left margin of this page.
A high quality index will be comprehensive, clearly worded, concise, and easy for the eye to scan in order to find something quickly. It will be “efficient” and yet at the same time “elegant.”
A high-quality index makes connections between scattered passages within the text of the book. It also makes distinctions between different aspects of the major topics discussed in the book, so the reader doesn’t waste time reading passages that are not what they really want to know about.
High-quality indexes make life easier for the reader. They provide the reader with more and better information than cheap indexes do. And they give the reader a better idea of what is in your book. Just a step below the title of a book, its index and table of contents are the most important parts of the book when it comes to selling copies to customers.
Quality of ebook indexes
What I’ve said about high-quality indexes is doubly true for ebook indexes. You cannot pick on up and flip through pages to see what an ebook is about. All you will find in many nonfiction ebooks is a brief sample of pages from the beginning of the book and perhaps a table of contents.
Looking in an ebook to see if a celebrity you are interested in is in that ebook? Too bad you are out of luck. This is why I’ve published several articles in indexer journals about ebook indexing. Believe me, the search function for ebooks is not a substitute for an index in an ebook – far from it!
The shame of the rarity of indexes in ebooks is that ebook indexes offer superior functionality over print book indexes. Linking by use of a device called an “anchor” allows the reader to go directly from one place in the index to another place in the index or in the text of an ebook. To learn more about ebook indexing, please see my new articles about indexing ebooks.
Know what you want from your indexer? Here’s how to find the right indexer for you and what to do when you first contact that indexer.
Finding a professional indexer
If you are looking for a publisher for your book, know that publishers are fairly strict about the standards for indexing for their books. This is why they will assist authors to find qualified indexers for their books. However, publishers like to keep their own project costs down. For this reason they might not hire the best indexer for your book, and you may not get the kind of index you want.
However, like self-publishers, if you have a publisher, you are the one who will ultimately pay for your index (the cost is taken out before you receive any of your royalties), and so you may hire anyone you like to index your book.
When you hire an indexer, I recommend starting with the web sites of professional indexing societies. On these sites you can use the search features to find indexers who specialize in exactly the kind of book you’re writing.
- The American Society for Indexing Indexer Locator - http://www.asindexing.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3292
- The Indexing Society of Canada/Société canadienne d’indexation “Find an Indexer“
- British Society of Indexers “Indexers Available“
- Societies of Indexers in Other Countries
Also, there are special interest groups (SIGs) for indexers. These are listed at the sites for professional indexers. You can also find them by searching for your genre, subject area; or the audience for your book, followed by the phrase “Indexing SIG”. For example: culinary indexing SIG; business indexing SIG; or scholarly SIG.
Lastly, every professional society of indexers has regional groups or chapters located in specific areas. You can look for these groups if you want an indexer who is located near you. For example, Northern California group is called the Golden Gate Chapter of Indexers (GGASI). It has a site at http://www.ggasi.org.
When you find an indexer of interest, you may want to check out their individual blog or web site for more information about their services.
Want more information about indexers and how to choose yours? Please see Wordmaps Indexer FAQS. These FAQS include brief discussions about topics such as: costs of indexing, when an indexer needs subject expertise, and how an indexer can help you promote your book.
NOTE: I’m sorry, but Wordmaps Indexing Services is presently in hiatus. I’m taking a year off to write my forthcoming book set, The I Ching Circles. However, I am available to consult with authors on an hourly basis about any aspect of production or marketing of any kind of book. If interested, please see my new site, Authormaps.com for details.