What Does an Indexer Need from the Author, Editor, or Publisher?

What Does an Indexer Need from the Author, Editor, or Publisher?

The indexer is given the PDF files of the book pages—single pages, not spreads. It is very helpful for an indexer to have as much of the book as possible.

  • The front matter table of contents gives the indexer a good overview of the book, as does the preface.
    A preface may or may not be indexed. If it merely summarizes the book then it is not indexed; however, if the preface and/or foreword provide information then index entries may be made.
  • The indexer also needs to see all appendixes for the book.
    An appendix may be referred to in the index in its entirety, with simply its full page range, or may be indexed in more depth, providing multiple, more specific entries.
  • The indexer needs the bibliography or references to be able to fully identify names that may be only partially provided in the text, such as by last name only.
    The bibliography/references are crucial to the indexer if a name index is being written in addition to the subject index.

The indexer also needs to know style issues associated with the structure of the index.

  • Subject index only or subject and name indexes or a text-specific type of index
  • Indented or run-in index
    Number of sub-levels in an indented index
  • Number of pages allowed for the index
  • Main entries capitalized or only proper names capitalized
  • Invert or do not invert articles (A, An, The) at start of entries
    If the articles are not inverted and remain at the start, they are ignored in sorting (alphabetization).
  • Page ranges given in full or compressed (elided)
  • Placement and formatting of cross-references within entries
  • Are footnotes or endnotes to be indexed? Front matter? Back matter?
  • Sorted word-by-word or letter-by-letter
    Sometimes the index entries themselves determine the better sorting method

Sometimes it’s easiest to specify style by simply providing the pages of a published index to be followed for style.

Some authors are advised to provide a word list to the indexer. However, this is generally not helpful for the indexer and can actually slow down the indexing process. General preferences (“Be sure to grab all the…”) are always welcome.

The American Society for Indexing (ASI) has a helpful book on indexing for authors and editors: Indexing for Editors and Authors, A Practical Guide to Understanding Indexes. It covers the characteristics of a good index, hiring an indexer, editing an index, and many other topics.

The ASI website is a treasure trove of information on indexes and indexing. It answers frequently asked questions, has an Indexer Locator where you can specify specialties, and offers an index evaluation checklist. These links and more are in my article American Society for Indexing (ASI) Treasures.


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