Commissioning an indexer (Part 1)

Posted on: 10/03/2023

Finding and booking an indexer

A notepad, watch, pen, pair of glasses, and phone neatly laid out on a wooden surface

The first series of posts for the new SI blog takes you through the process of finding an indexer, commissioning an index and reviewing it. Here, Tanya Izzard discusses the process of finding and booking your indexer.

How to find your indexer

When you need to find an indexer, your starting point should the Society of Indexers’ Directory of Professional Indexers. Our Directory lists all our professional members and can be filtered by subject area, type of publication  and indexing skills required. Use the drop-down lists to produce a list of indexers who would be right for your book:

Three selection boxes used for searching the professional directory. First is to select subject, second is to select publication type, and the third to select skill. They do not all have to be completed.

You can search by just one of these filters or by all three if required.

The Subject field allows you to filter on indexers’ areas of specialist knowledge so you can find the right subject expertise from the full range that is offered. From the initial drop down list, you can click on the ‘+’ by each category to expand it to more detail.

Under Publication Type, you can optionally identify indexers with expertise in journal and newspaper indexing, working on textbooks, ebooks, biographies, directories, diaries, and children’s books, as well as other types of publications such as databases and websites.

The optional Skill field lists a variety of indexing, training, and related skills. If you need an embedded index for your book, select “Embedded indexing”. Embedded indexes are coded into a manuscript; this can be done in Word, InDesign and other digital formats. There are fewer indexers who undertake this work, so booking your indexer early becomes even more important.

Once you’ve made your selection clicking the Submit button will give you a list of individual indexers who meet your criteria. You can then browse their profiles, which will give you information about their subject specialisms and their indexing portfolios. This will help you decide who to contact about your indexing project.

Contacting and booking your indexer

Ideally, you’ll contact your indexer early in the publishing process; we get booked up well in advance, and it can be tricky to find the right indexer at short notice.

For indexing that will be done from page proofs (after typesetting), you should find and book your indexer before you get the proofs. When you contact your indexer, you should give them the following information:

  • the length of the book, in word count and (if already typeset) number of pages
  • information about the features of the book – does it have illustrations, charts, tables, or detailed footnotes that need indexing?
  • the type of index required – embedded or standard, is more than one index needed?

plus any details of the schedule, even if it is a bit uncertain when you make contact. Indexers are used to managing complex and changeable schedules.

For embedded indexing, you will need to contact your chosen indexer(s) at an early stage. Embedded indexing can take place at different points in the publishing process, including:

  • before manuscript submission
  • after copyediting, in the Word manuscript
  • after typesetting, in InDesign

Make sure you know when it should happen according to the specific publishing schedule for your book, and contact indexers accordingly.

It’s useful to send your indexer a sample of the text to review when you first make contact. This will help them when they come to estimate your fee.

The SI website has a useful enquiry form that clients can use to pull all this information together: fill it in once, and send it to as many indexers as you choose.

Fees and costs

You may ask your indexer to provide a fee estimate for you to evaluate. Publishing industry firms may offer a fixed fee for a job.

The Society of Indexers recommended rates are the starting point for negotiation. More experienced indexers will often charge higher rates, and you can expect to pay more for complex texts, tight deadlines and embedded indexing.

Most indexers will include an hour or two of time within their fee for dealing with any queries or changes after the index has been completed. More major revisions – for example, dealing with page changes because an image has been removed – may be charged for separately. Booking your indexer early, and getting your manuscript or proofs in good order before indexing, are ways you can keep the cost of indexing down.

If your indexer needs to be set up in your finance systems for payment to be processed, it’s best to start that as soon as you’ve booked the work in with them.

If you’re ready to book your indexer, head to the Directory to find the right person for your job. You can also read in more detail about the commissioning process in our guidance note.

About Tanya Izzard

Tanya Izzard indexes scholarly and trade books in the humanities, producing standard and embedded indexes for authors and publishers. She has been indexing full-time since 2017 and is an Advanced Professional Member of SI and the Marketing Director on the SI Executive Board.

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