Twelve Functions a Good Index Serves

by Nancy Humphreys on November 9, 2010

What is the function of an index?

A previous post of mine, Asking the Right Questiion, said:

“Nigel Henry of the web site believes that your ‘dominant question’ determines your success in business. The four kinds of questions are WHO, WHAT, HOW, and WHY.

Although Nigel does not include it in the pyramid diagram on his site, he originally said he felt that people who ask ‘WHY’ are likely to be in a dying position.”

In other words, if you are asking “why?,” your business (or life) is in danger of not working for you.

If you or your client are a book author who thinks an index for a book is an unnecessary expense, note that “Why do I need an index?” is exactly the type of question Nigel says is likely to lead to the failure of your dream(s).

If you truly want to know why a book needs a good index, even if it’s an e-book or a fiction book, read on!

Twelve vital functions a good index serves

1. A good index lets people quickly look up names of people, places, and things they’re most interested in.

2. It lends authority to books, especially to serious and/or scholarly books.

3. An index, like a table of contents, gives readers an idea of what a book is about.

4. An index, unlike a table of contents, enables the reader to find everything in the book.

5. A good index brings together in one place discussions of a topic that are scattered throughout the book.

6. It breaks down broad topics into “subheadings.” Subheadings make it easier to locate of a specific aspect of a topic.

7. If you don’t find what you want where you first look, a good index suggests additional places to look (with See and See also references).

8. It lets you look up concepts discussed in a book, not just words.

9. A good index contains only meaningful phrases, unlike search engines that look for words, not concepts, and often return nonsensical results.

10. It lets readers from different backgrounds use different words or phrases to find the same piece of information.

11. It allows consistent and complete access to collected works by several authors in a book or to multiple volumes by one author.

12. Last, but not least, you can use your index to help sell your book!

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Marketing Your Book to Libraries Marketing Your Books to Libraries: An Insider's Guide for Authors by former librarian Nancy K. Humphreys includes: 
  • How to tell what kind of library to target
  • Types of librarians and books they order
  • Strategies to get past the "gatekeepers" who influence librarians
  • Right ways to approach librarians most likely to order your book

Learn more »

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