Indexing a book is like doing plumbing. Everyone knows what an index (tap/toilet/other appliance of choice) looks like. We mostly know what they do (I’m never terribly sure if a bidet in a hotel room is working properly). Some of us know a good or a bad installation when we see it. Some of us put up with bad plumbing because we can’t fix the one we’ve got (leaky tap, grumbling radiators etc). Yes, you can do plumbing by grabbing a book, watching a YouTube video or just getting in there. But it might take you a long time, you might not have all the parts or tools you need for the job, and the result probably won’t be as good as a professional job.
So, as with plumbers, if you need an indexer, get someone who has been on a recognised course, done the training with expert tutors, and got the professional equipment. When your time is money, it makes sense to find a professional.
This week, 19 to 23 November is #WorkInPublishing week. As an indexer, I sometimes get asked “Do you work in publishing?” and my answer is “Yes, of course I do.” Indexing is one of the last stages that a non-fiction text goes through on its way to print. Like copy-editing and proofreading, indexing is mostly done by freelancers like me. The good ones are trained, professional people who are members of The Society of Indexers. That means we uphold professional standards and promote indexing to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen.
How do people become indexers? What previous knowledge or skills do you need? The Society of Indexers has a brilliant self-paced course. Trainees work through the modules and other elements of the course and get first-rate teaching from the online tutors. It may be self-paced, but it isn’t a lonely experience. To be an indexer you have to like reading non-fiction and be prepared to work on a wide range of subjects, not just your special interest. Some indexers come from a library or archives background, but many others just found out by accident that they might have what it takes. There are some exercises you can do to see if you might be suitable. As with any freelance work you have to be organised and disciplined and a little bit of a self-starter but then there are the up-sides of freelance working in that you can turn down work you don’t like and can take jobs to fit around your other commitments.
If you’ve never thought about indexing before, take a look at The Society of Indexers for more information or talk to us on Twitter @indexers.
It’s the day when publishers launch books they want you to buy for Christmas, for yourself or as gifts. Over 500 titles this year according to The Guardian. Not all non-fiction, but a significant proportion of titles that need an index because they contain information that readers might want to look up; think cookery, gardening, self-help, history, biography, science etc. etc. etc.
Of course, a book isn’t just for Christmas and they are launched all round the year. If you’re writing or publishing non-fiction, make sure it includes a good index. Use a qualified, experienced, indexer, such as those listed in the Society of Indexers Directory. Good quality indexes help sell books. Readers do check them out before buying a book. Librarians and academics also check them before purchasing for their libraries. Don’t let your readers down by having poor quality indexes, they are just as bad as not having an index.
With a short gap in my schedule I thought I ought to have a quick revamp of some of this site. Back in May this year, publisher Bloomsbury acquired one of my clients, I. B. Tauris. While the small company is being assimilated into the larger it seems as though their website has gone the way of good things, and all the links I had to books I had worked on on my indexing experience pages were broken. So I’ve linked all those books to Amazon pages, and in due course if they appear on the Bloomsbury site I’ll be putting links to there. Although Amazon offers ‘look inside’ so you can sometimes see the work I’ve done, I think it is fairer to link through to the publisher, and then you can choose if you want to go to Amazon. Some publishers, such as Equinox, allow you to download the index for free. I have also made some more subject pages for my indexing experience, as a few titles seemed to clump together nicely.
My splendid colleague Ruth Ellis has put together a storyline for the event. It includes things that happened in the run up and on the day.
The run up to the day started with our sister society in Australia and New Zealand posting some pictures of their members. Catchy tagline – Life is easier with an index.
Whitefox covered the event in their newsletter:
On the actual day, SI President Sam Leith welcomed everyone:
The talks were given,
- Good indexing practice: how indexers work. Ann Kingdom (Chair, Society of
- Good indexing practice: training, qualifications, commissioning and index
assessment. Ann Hudson (Training Director, Society of Indexers)
- Indexing software: flexible functionality. Ruth Ellis (Social Media Coordinator,Society of Indexers)
- Embedded indexing: a brief what, why and how. Paula Clarke Bain (Marketing
- Director, Society of Indexers)
- Embedding to ebook. Jan Worrall (Training Course Coordinator, Society of Indexers)
Tea was drunk, questions were asked, and the team stood for a photograph.
I wonder what we’ll do next year?
The second international #indexday is on Thursday 29 March 2018.
The UK-based Society of Indexers are holding an event for publishers at the Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London, from 12 noon to 4 pm on 29 March. This event will include a welcome from the honorary president, Sam Leith, and sessions and demonstrations by SI members. These will focus on current indexing practices and digital developments regarding embedded and linked indexes for ebooks. There will be an ‘ask the indexers’ Q&A panel session and opportunities to mingle.
Places are limited so book your ticket for the event now. The price of £30 includes all sessions, lunch and afternoon refreshments.
However, by the time this event starts our colleagues from ANZSI in Australia and New Zealand will have done a number of things to raise awareness of indexing. There will be photo shoots in Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney; presentations in Sydney, a gathering in New Zealand and possibly a podcast too. More details here.