The Society of Indexers

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Advice for authors

Now that your book is nearly ready for publication you need an index.

Why do you need an index?

Indexing your own book is not to be undertaken lightly, unless you already have a flair for it. A professionally compiled, thorough and comprehensive index can Increase your potential sales by appealing to:

  • Potential readers: online and bookshop browsers
  • Librarians and teachers/lecturers
  • Book reviewers

It will also help to enhance your reputation with your peers, who will judge your professionalism and how complete your book is by whether it includes a good index.

Why can’t I use the indexing feature in my word-processing program?

If you just want an alphabetical list of words, OK – but that’s not an index. If you're not sure why a full-text search or an index produced automatically by a word processor is no substitute for a well-crafted index compiled by a qualified indexer, then read James Lamb's Human or computer produced indexes? and  Bill Johncocks's Quality control and benefits. Indexers use sophisticated indexing software to take care of routine tasks, freeing them to concentrate on analysing the content of your book. And if you thought you wouldn't need an index in your ebook, then have a look at

Download this leaflet to read more about the advantages of commissioning a professional indexer.

How do I find an indexer?

Indexers Available contains details of qualified and experienced indexers, searchable by subject, type of material or indexer location. A professional subject-specialist indexer will look at your book from the readers’ perspective, analyse the text and, using synonyms, main headings and subheadings, double entry and cross-references, provide you with a carefully structured index to guide the reader efficiently back into the main text of the book.

Completing  this MS Word form and emailing it to potential indexers will help them assess their availability and suitability for the job and quote a realistic fee. If you need an indexer urgently, try telephoning first to check availability.

What will the indexer need from me?

Unless your publisher needs the indexing to be done while the text is being copy-edited, the indexer will need a set of page proofs (usually supplied as PDFs) and any instructions from your publisher regarding house style, length, etc. If the pagination changes as a result of proof corrections, you will need to inform the indexer. There is no need to supply a list of keywords; professional indexers are subject specialists and will use their judgement as to what terms should be used to encapsulate the content of your book.

How much will it cost?

Fees are open to negotiation and will depend on many factors, such as the density and complexity of the text, whether there are non-textual items to be indexed and the time available to complete the index. For further details see Fees for indexing.


It is recommended that you contact a potential indexer as early as possible, and keep them informed of any changes to the schedule.

Technical authors

There is more Advice to Technical Authors for those indexing user manuals and other technical documents.

Last updated: 25 September 2014 | Maintained by Webmaster | Page ID: 258
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