We believe that indexes are essential for almost any non-fiction book. This leaflet explains why. Indexes provide the first point of entry for the user and may have a significant impact on the saleability of the book. Indexes are particularly useful for reviewers, who may miss significant information without them, for browsers in bookshops (and on Amazon if the index is made available), for educators and students, and for librarians making acquisition decisions.
Books without indexes are frustrating to use, and their absence or poor quality is often noted in book reviews. A well-written and impeccably researched book can be let down by a poor index. On the other hand, a really good quality index can add value and increase accessibility to any non-fiction book.
Authors and indexing
Some authors can produce excellent indexes to their own books, but this is the exception. While authors are the expert on the subject matter, they will not usually be an expert in indexing. Producing a really professional index takes skill, experience and more time than most authors will be prepared to put into it. It is advisable to hire a professional indexer who will be experienced in extracting significant information in the text, identifying alternative terms for similar concepts, and anticipating the reader’s approach to the text. This leaflet for authors explains why it is usually preferable to engage a professional indexer.
Indexing and full-text searches
It’s easy to imagine that e-books or other digital publications do not require indexes, because they are fully searchable. But the index organises relevant information and related topics in a way that a full-text search cannot. The indexer will identify different ways of writing about the same topic (e.g. ‘agriculture’ and ‘farming’, or ‘education’ and ‘schools’) so that the user will have a full overview of the topic covered.
There is more on indexes and e-publishing in the website of the Society’s Publishing Technology Group.
How to hire an indexer
There is guidance on finding and commissioning a professional indexer here, together with information on the likely cost, a sample indexing contract and enquiry form. Our directory of professional indexers enables you to find an indexer with the appropriate skill and subject knowledge for your project.
Workshops for editors
The Society runs workshops about indexing designed for editors and proofreaders. These workshops are run in conjunction with the Society of Editors and Proofreaders and take place either at conferences or at advertised times during the year.
The Society also offers in-house workshops on Indexing for editors or those who commission indexes. You can book a professional tutor-indexer to come and talk to your staff about the process of producing, commissioning and preparing an index for publication. An online version of this workshop is also available.
Code of Professional Conduct
All members of the Society agree to abide by the Code of Professional Conduct.
Copyright and moral rights of indexers
Rights of indexers
An indexer is entitled to assert moral and/or economic rights in accordance with copyright legislation. Most indexers have cordial relations with their publishers, but in this era of formalisation both indexers and publishers should be aware of their respective rights.
The following clauses embody indexers’ rights under current English law, and are suitable for incorporation into the contract between indexer (‘supplier’) and client (‘publisher’). They cover copyright and moral rights and restrict the use of the index (‘Product’) to that specified by the owner.
- Ownership/licence to use
1.1 The publisher acknowledges that any copyright or other rights subsisting in the products of any of the services hereunder (‘Products’) shall belong to the supplier absolutely.
1.2 The supplier hereby grants to the publisher a royalty-free licence to use the Products for the full copyright period subject to such a licence being limited to:
1.2.1 the purposes set out in the publisher’s order;
1.2.2 the media specified in the publisher’s order;
1.2.3 the territory specified in the publisher’s order.
1.3 For the avoidance of doubt the publisher has no right to alter the Products without the prior written consent of the supplier.
- Right to be identified
The publisher hereby agrees that the supplier shall have the right to be identified with the Products and undertakes to identify the supplier with the Products when exercising its rights pursuant to clause 1.2.