I love working with authors. They all have a dream of this book they’ve been obsessing over for years. They’ve lost sleep, tired their friends and family with specific topic conversations, some have quit jobs or put careers on hold. By the time they get to me, they are buttoning everything up and can see the end in sight.
It is a joy to work these authors. Their excitement is contagious.
Many, though, feel so close to publication that they want to fly through the indexing process. “How fast can you get it done?” I hear, a lot. Few flinch at the rate I charge them. If there is a piece that needs to be negotiated, it is often the timeline.
One time I had a prospective client ask, “Will it go faster if I give you a list of words and you alphabetize them?”
Allow me to explain what happens in the last days of your project so that you understand what may seem like an unreasonable amount of time to alphabetize a few words.
Although not all indexers do, I read the book on a quick, high level before I start anything. I make notes of themes that reoccur in the text, and create an outline of the main topics. Then I am able to dig into the manuscript in detail. Reading and rereading, I analyze the book page by page, ensuring that all topics, names, and important mentions are included in the index. I think like the reader, asking what they would want to find and how they would look for it. This takes time to get right. Of course, some books are easier to read and index than others. Indexing a book on travel with elderly parents takes less time than a book that explains scientific concepts and how they relate to the world around us. After reading and indexing, the hard part starts: editing. During the editing phase, I double and triple check each heading, cross reference, subheading, and comma. Remember the editing process of your book? The same level needs to happen with the index.
The funny part? I don’t even have to do any alphabetizing. I have a program that does that for me!