Writing the index for a publication happens at the very end of a project, around the time when proofreading is done, and just before going to press. This because the layout, text and page numbers need to be finalised. So the index is the final thing to go into your book.
The indexing process
To write your index, I work my way through your final page proofs, one page at a time, identifying the significant information and creating index entries for each instance. So, yes, I do read the whole book!
I think about how a new reader might want to access information in your publication. I develop ‘information structures’, so that there are several ways of finding the same information. I set up the See and See also cross-references. As I index, I also do a final ‘incidental’ proofreading of your manuscript, and will notify you of any typos or inconsistencies I come across.
Once this first pass through the whole document is done, I then edit the index, tidying up the terms and checking cross-references, which generally takes about 30% of the time.
The last part is creating the final index for you, with the required formatting. Spelling and accuracy is double checked before I submit it to you. If I’m creating an interactive ebook index for you, then at this stage I put the codes into the manuscript, and generate the interactive document.
How long does it take?
Things like the length of the manuscript, and the complexity of the text dictate how long it takes to write your index. Books with headings and sub-headings within the text are a bit quicker to index. A long specialised academic text may take around three or four weeks to index, a short children’s book may only take a matter of a few days. I will let you know how long I think I will need as part of the quote. I do my best to work within your deadline.
OK, you’ve convinced me. What next?
If you’ve sent me a sample chapter, and you’ve accepted my quote, I will set aside that time in my schedule for your job.
Once the happy day arrives, and you have the page proofs, you just send me them as soon as possible. I can work from either a printed proof or a PDF proof. A PDF is preferable.
Please note that if the index is supplied more than several weeks late, it may impact badly on my other work, and may attract a late fee. Work on your index will also be delayed, if you’ve overlapped with another scheduled job, as the latter will take precedence.
As I work on your index, I may have various questions about the content, which we can discuss over email or phone. I will get your feedback on the index during the process, to ensure I’m on the right track.
Once you’ve checked and approved the final index, I will finalise the layout according to your publisher’s requirements. I will submit my invoice at the same time as the finished index files. Your publisher can then slot the formatted index into the publication layout, and you’re off to press! Phew, all done!