Magic Key Indexing

by Eline van der Veken


Whether you are an author, editor or publisher, I can provide your readers with the key to your work in the form of a professional, user-friendly back-of-the-book index.

I provide back-of-the-book indexes

Why hire a professional indexer?

Gain a reader’s perspective

I'll read your book cover to cover (I don't skip the footnotes either!) to get a good understanding of your readers’ needs and expectations from the index. As a bonus, I will make sure to forward any typos or inconsistencies found during my read-through in time for the next round of proofs.

Leave the technical details to the nerds

Don’t concern yourself with figuring out indexing standards and publisher stylesheets, but leave it to me! I love finding the optimal, user-friendly structure of entries and subentries, getting the formats of locators for pages, tables and figures just right, and fiddling with the font and alphabetization until everything looks perfect.

Peace of mind

Delegating this final job gives you the freedom to focus on finishing the manuscript (or take a well-deserved holiday) while your book is being prepped for publication!

The indexing process

  1. While an estimate can be made based on the manuscript, for the actual indexing work I will need the final proof, typeset and paginated, and complete with figures, tables, frontmatter, appendices, etc. It is important to avoid further changes in the content at this point that cause the page numbers to shift, because this could lead to extra adjustments to the index and possibly delays. Typically, the publisher decides which proof is suitable for indexing.

  2. I will read the entire document (including footnotes, tables, figures, appendices, etc.). Becoming intimately familiar with the work is the best way to anticipate the reader’s needs and expectations and allows me to highlight important concepts. These index terms along with their page numbers are transferred to my indexing program.

  3. I will edit the index to make it highly user-friendly for the reader. This includes: creating hierarchical structures with sub-headings; adding cross-references between related subjects; adding double entries for synonymous terms for ease of look-up (e.g. Second World War and World War II); inserting qualifiers to explain or differentiate terms (e.g. Carmen (novella) and Carmen (opera)). I will make sure that the layout of the index complies with industry standards, the publishing house stylesheet and/or author preferences.

  4. The index is sent to the client for review and approval. If there are any requests for changes, I prefer to make the changes myself as I know exactly how the index is structured and have specialized software at my disposal. Up two hours of editing are included in the fee; for more changes I charge an hourly rate.

“One of my colleagues, when asked the question, “What is it that really goes on in indexing?” answered: “Magic!” While magic may or may not play a role, the intense synergy between creativity and editing that grips the indexer is an integral part of the indexing process. It is this aspect of indexing that is difficult to describe and impossible to teach.”

Nancy C. Mulvany, Indexing Books (1994)