What Is a Good Index?

by Nancy Humphreys on July 4, 2010

Most of us are too busy working to stop and answer this question. But how can we say whether an index is good without first answering, “What is an index?”

I once heard an indexer speaking to other indexers allege that an index is an alphabetical list of terms. Yet U.S. courts have ruled that at least in regard to telephone books, an alphabetical list of names is not copyrightable. Indexes, however, are always copyrighted works of art.

Indexes are more than lists. They are more than alphabetical arrangements of words. They are even more than subjects in some logical order. Indexes are our maps to strange new lands.

For me, as a reader, a book is uncharted new territory. Even if the book is one I wrote, I likely will not see all the facets it contains in a first reading. Each time I read a book, I learn something new.

If I get lost while reading a book, or if I forget what I’ve read in a book, a good index is one that helps me find my way again. On my journey of discovery I may use the index before I decide to read a book, while I read a book, or after I’ve finished a book.

The index is my guide, my map for that special journey. This is why I call my indexes Wordmaps.

Want to know if an index is a good index? Get my free download, “Ten Tips for Spotting a Bad Index.”

Along with “Ten Tips for Spotting a Bad Index” you’ll get a complimentary copy of my free three-part report, Global Publishing Inc. – Is It About To Take Over The World? You’ll be amazed to learn how much book publishing has changed since the last century!

You’ll also be subscribed to my newsletter, Wordmaps Tips for a long as you wish. Wordmaps Tips offers news and opinions on the global publishing industry, book indexing, and book marketing. 

For more information about these topics, see who I follow on Twitter!  www.twitter.com/Wordmaps

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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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