“A book without an index is like a mind without a memory.”
— Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
For the past eight years I’ve written back-of-book indexes for over 600 reference and text books. It’s the Virgo in me. I love tenacious highly-precise nit-picky work. So I was destined to become either an indexer or a knitter. When I discovered that teasing out search terms from a text was easier than pulling out stitches from a lopsided sweater, my career path was set.
“Birgitte, I am greatly impressed by your [indexing] work! I am currently in L.A. with not a lot of time for editing right now, but it looks like there is little I will need to do. You have done much more than I thought necessary, but now that you have done it, I believe the book is improved by it. Thanks very much!” –Jay Noricks
Subjects I’ve indexed include: biographies, science journals, medical texts, encyclopedias and reference books, college textbooks, self-help, real estate manuals, and books on politics. Sample indexes are available upon request, or you can click any of the publisher links below to see a list of indexes I’ve written in the past few years:
A list of titles I’ve indexed in the last few years for Cengage Learning.
A list of titles and links to the indexes I’ve written in the last few years for Greenwood Press
A list of titles and links to the indexes I’ve written in the last few years for
Oxford University Press.
A list of titles and links to Praeger indexes.
In addition to the above publishers, I’ve worked with many other publishers. To view my additional clients and view the indexes I’ve written for them, click here.
As an indexer, I work primarily with Cindex and Wordembed, and am currently learning InDesign.
So why don’t nonfiction authors write their own indexes?
Some do. But most know that writing an index requires a specialized set of skills that they don’t have or care to learn. Publishers therefore, hire “indexers” (specialized freelance writers) to carefully read the finished manuscript and write the index.
According to the American Society for Indexing, “Indexing work is not recommended to those who lack an orderly mind and a capacity for taking pains. A good index is a minor work of art but it is also the product of clear thought and meticulous care.”
So why couldn’t someone just buy a computer program to index their book? Because a book is not the proverbial “box.” Oh sure, there may be a finite number of words, sentences, and chapters, which to the author may seem fairly complete. But consider the person who is trying to find a bit of information. They are not limited by what is included. If they are hampered by anything, it’s their own vast imagination. And every reader has a different imagination.
No software program can collect the facts in a book and present them in a way that speaks to individual readers’ imaginations. Sure a program could be programmed to search for keywords in any given text, but it would have to be reset for each individual book that needed indexing. The time involved in programming that algorithm would be better spent just writing the index.
If you are looking for a skilled professional indexer to add to your team, please contact me.
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