Indexing Your Book

Have you considered having an index in your non-fiction book? An index helps the reader to retrieve information from your text quickly and efficiently, saving time and ensuring a more useful reading experience.

What is an index?
An index is a list of words and phrases included in the back of a published book, which includes the page numbers of where each reference can be found in the text. Essentially, an index is a map of the content of a book, and it can be invaluable in helping a reader navigate their way around that content and locate very specific references.

What sort of books need an index?
All non-fiction books should have an index. Fiction is read and used in a different way, so most novels don’t need an index. However any work of fiction that’s intended to be read multiple times and in detail could feature an index.

Isn’t a contents page enough?
Sometimes a detailed contents page will be suitable, but the more sophisticated the content of a book, the more a professionally compiled index is needed. Even with a detailed contents page, readers can be left with a large amount of information to search through before finding what they are looking for. This can lead to frustration and wasted time (and even critical reviews).

Can I write my own index?
If you’re a professional indexer - of course! But if you’ve no experience of indexing then doing it yourself isn’t recommended. Compiling an index requires experience and a detailed skill set. Professional indexers are highly trained individuals who can analyze meaning, identify related concepts and synonyms, and resolve ambiguities. They’re able to translate the terms that you use in your writing into the terms that readers may search for. It is much more complicated than putting together a list of keywords.

What about automatic indexing software?
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sadly, software doesn’t produce a reliable and fully-functioning index. It will merely hunt for a list of key words, and will almost never give your readers what they need.

How much will it cost?
Most indexers will charge per page or per thousand words, so the indexing fee will be directly related to the length of your book. As from 1 January 2017, the Society recommends indexing rates of £24.00 an hour, £2.66 a page or £7.25 per thousand words for an index to a straightforward text. Rates for complex text will differ. Please note that there will be an additional charge for typesetting the index, checking, and sending a final PDF proof to you after the indexer has completed their work.

Want to know more?
Download The Society of Indexers information leaflet here.
Find a professional indexer here.

“The personal service I received was superior. No query or problem was left unanswered or unattended.”

Nicholas King