Why Hire an Indexer

After working for months and years, it can be difficult to have the distance needed for writing an index. You know your work the best, but sometimes the author can be so close to the project that explaining it to the uninitiated results in gaps and leaps of logic.

An index serves two audiences simultaneously:

  1. those who’ve read your work and are returning to look something up, and
  2. those who’ve not read it and are looking for a specific idea or to decide whether your book is worth the investment of time and money.

This is where hiring a professional indexer becomes particularly valuable. Indexers are trained to think about your book’s terminology from both perspectives. Indexers think about how someone new might phrase a search. For example, in a book on early Christianity, a student might look up “heresy,” while a scholar would turn to “Manichaeism,” while someone who’d already read the book would remember the author had said something somewhere about Manichaeism’s influence on the medieval Orléans heresy. A professional indexer not only indexes all these terms, but provides signposts within the index to help readers navigate to the most useful information for their inquiries (without filling two columns with subheadings for “heresy”).

Professional indexers are also trained in the minutiae of indexing. Indexers consider

  • questions of usability (how many page numbers after a heading becomes too many for a reader to tackle?),
  • language (should it be the American South or the US South? September 11th or September 11, 2001, 9/11, or terrorist attack of September 11th?), and
  • whether or not a book about dogs should have “dogs” as an index entry (after all, wouldn’t the entire book then go under that entry? Yet usability studies show a majority of first-time users will search for “dogs” upon picking up the book).

Indexers invest in the training to handle these quandaries and the software to make a professional index.

Reviewers notice good indexes.

Reviewers also grumble about the bad ones.

Those books without indexes at all don’t get off much better.

Let’s not forget perhaps the most important reason to hire an indexer: you’re tired of looking at this darn book! Proofs are coming back, the next project beckons, and you just want to see it bound and in print. The thought of wrestling an index from the text can feel exhausting after shepherding your creation along for so long.

All of which gives rise to the question: Why hire me?

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Why Hire Me

The basics:

  • I’ve trained in indexing at Toronto Metropolitan (formerly Ryerson) University, under the former president of the Indexing Society of Canada/Société canadienne d’indexation (ISC/SCI).
  • I am the co-president of ISC/SCI; I am a member in good standing of the American Society for Indexing and History/Archaeology Indexers.
  • I continue to hone my skills through conferences and professional development seminars.

The specifics:

  • As a medieval historian, I’ve spent the last 20+ years pouring over one type of index or another. As first a Master’s student, then a PhD candidate, I not only found indexes invaluable, I learned how to read them and what made one better than another. My office collected many self-made indexes to supplement what I’d found at the back of books (upon occasion, these came entirely from scratch as not a few texts lacked a subject index of any sort).
  • As an academic scholar, I’m familiar with the structure and argumentation of academic texts as well as the multiple audiences they serve. View my academic cv.
  • Years of teaching undergraduates and presenting my research at interdisciplinary conferences has given me an appreciation for conveying esoteric information to the non-specialist. That practical experience has been enhanced by my training and experience as a copy editor, where plain language is embraced, without loss of meaning or specificity.
  • My research background gives me familiarity with multiple academic genres. A former professor of medieval history, my research found me in the library stacks reading history (of course), theology, religious studies, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, literature, art history, music history, and modern bacteriology.
  • I am an avid gamer and voracious reader. I find working on gaming texts and trade non-fiction a true joy.

The obvious:

  • I am a professional. You can expect clear and prompt communication, adherence to deadlines, and delivery of a quality product.

CJ Jones
William Payden Associate Professor of German
University of Notre Dame

Read what others have had to say about me.

Check out my Portfolio for a list of books indexed and samples of my indexing work and the range of fields I work in.

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I charge rates competitive with the industry standard. Rates are calculated for each project independently. Factors include length, time allowed for completion, density of index required, embedded vs traditional back-of-book, and trade vs scholarly publication.

In order to provide an accurate estimate, I request a sample chapter in advance of finalizing the contract.

Typically, for a traditional (non-embedded) back-of-book index to a work in the scholarly humanities, rates run between $6.50 CAD and $11 CAD per 250 words. Thus, for a book that is 100,000 indexable words (this includes the introduction, all chapters, and conclusion; appendixes are typically not indexed unless separately negotiated), a client can expect the project fee to run between $2,600 and $4,400 (plus tax).

My fee includes two hours of editing of the index after submission, should you desire any changes made. Editing work beyond two hours is billed at an hourly rate.

If you’re looking at these rates and considering indexing your own book due to the costs involved, don’t go yet! I offer an Index Review and Edit package. This includes

  • Evaluation of index for consistency in language, style, and punctuation
  • Application of best indexing practices, including
    • Noting where subheadings would be useful
    • Ensuring material is properly double-posted
    • Evaluating and, if necessary, creating cross-references (both See and See also)
  • Evaluation of language for the user’s benefit and suggesting alternative terms where appropriate

Costs for the Index Review and Edit package range from approximately $300 to $700, depending on length of index and subject matter. This package does not include a complete reading of your book, though I do ask that you send the complete manuscript along with your prepared index. I will read the introduction, conclusion, and first chapter in full. The purpose of the package is to evaluate your index from the perspective of a new user or one with only light familiarity with your book (as well as from the perspective of an experienced indexer). Index reviews typically take 2-3 business days. You will receive the index edited using Word’s Track Changes and a memo giving detailed recommendations.

Linnéa Rowlatt, PhD

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