Commissioning an index

We have been involved in book indexing for over twenty years. We are primarily back-of-book indexers, but have also worked on journal, database, website and online help indexing, as well as metadata and thesaurus construction for intranets and websites. Glenda has a background in research, librarianship and TAFE teaching, while Jon is involved in PC training, programming and the production of computer-based training materials.

How much do we charge?

Before beginning an index we will need to arrange an agreed-upon quote, based on as much information as you can give us about the type and size of the book, and the depth of indexing you require. Until we have seen page proofs we can only give an estimate of the cost of an indexing job.

The cost for indexing a book will vary depending on its size and complexity. If the quote we provide is outside your range, let us know and we may be able to negotiate for a less detailed index.

We will normally submit an invoice to the client with the completed index. For a long-term project, or where there are substantial delays in receiving materials, we may submit interim invoices (e.g. monthly) for payment of the work done to date.

What do we need from authors or editors?

  • A verbal or written work agreement, setting out what should be included in the index (e.g. tables, maps, Introduction) and what should be left out (e.g. names of authors cited in the text): we also need to know when we will receive the page proofs, when you want the final copy, and in what format (e.g. Word for Windows XP, RTF, Quark Express, etc…)
  • The page proofs of the book in its final form. We are very reluctant to index a manuscript before the final page numbers are set.
  • A style sheet setting out how you want the references to appear, any special requirements for sequencing, bold and italic, and so on. Where these details are not supplied we will use our own discretion.
  • If the manuscript is particularly large, the index particularly complex, or the topic is one of general interest, then we would often appreciate a copy of the published book to add to our portfolio.
  • We would also appreciate acknowledgement in the published book.

How do we work?

We normally work in four stages:

  • We go through the page proofs highlighting significant topics. At this level we tend to overindex to ensure that we have everything relevant. This takes roughly 20-30% of our time.
  • We type the topics into a database using the Windows indexing program Sky Index. This allows us to specify the language used and to see the topics arranged in alphabetical order. This goes on in conjunction with Stage 1, and takes 30-45% of our time.
  • We make several passes through the database, eliminating redundant topics, tidying up the terms used and checking cross-references. This takes 20-30% of our time.
  • We transfer the index across to Word for Windows and do a spelling check and draft printout before making any final revisions and setting up the format. This takes 5-10% of our time.

It is at Stages 1 and 2 that the depth and detail are added to the index, and requests for a cheaper or shallower index can only be met by cutting down the time spent during these stages. Stages 3 and 4 take roughly the same time regardless of the quality of index required.