When an author completes the rough draft of a work, it is ready for editing. The author can self-edit the work, saving thousands of dollars. However, this can take lots of time and requires a firm background in editing experience. Most choose to outsource the work to professionals with the necessary credentials.

Authors have several editorial options to consider. Some common services are line editing, proofreading, copy editing, and book indexing. These services are chosen based on the exact needs of the book. Book indexing is a service that many non-fiction authors choose as an informative addendum to the work.


What is Book Indexing?

Every book contains main and supporting characters, places, and/or concepts. There are key terms, events, and ideas mentioned in each situation where the characters, places, and/or concepts are highlighted. At the end of the book, specific words or phrases, pertinent to characters, places, and/or concepts, are indexed in alphabetical order. This indexing gives the reader the ability to access specific information related to the reader's research.

A chef, for example, opens a cook in search of a pie to serve as dessert for the day. Instead of turning each page in the book in search of all pies, the chef can go to the book index, look for the word "pie" a view all possible dishes that are related to that word and in the book. The tool saves the chef research time and effort.

How is Book Indexing Completed?

The book undergoes full editing before being indexed. Complete editing means that the book has all grammar and syntax corrected, all illustrations and graphs in desired places, and the lay-out form finalized.

Before going to print a file of the book is sent to a professional indexer. As the book is read, the indexer scans for all characters, places, and concepts of the book. Related words and phrases are listed and cataloged. The completed index is forwarded for final review. Upon editorial approval, it is added to the book. The book then goes to print.

Most professional indexers utilize indexing software to assists in identifying and organizing words and phrases. Some, however, choose to manually do the work. The goal for either effort is to create a reliable index the reader can trust.

When should an Author consider Book Indexing?

The primary purpose of a book index is to give the reader a finding tool for all useful info in the book. Almost all references and textbooks utilize book indexes. Authors of smaller non-fiction works choose this option if there is a desire for the work to be used in reference-like fashion. A book index can also lend to the credibility of the information in the work.

Fiction authors rarely use book indexing. Those that do so may add one as an extension of the text rather than as a useful guide. A fiction novel about gardening may, for example, add a book index about a variety of plants to grow. A classic novelist may add an index detailing actual historical figures, places, and events mentioned in the book.

Another reason to have an index in fiction work is when the work is a long series. It can be difficult to determine character appearances, notable events, and other items used to keep the reader up to speed on the series. An index can help streamline the entire process, making it easier to keep up.

Consider the Necessity and Cost

In the end, cost and marketability determine if a book index is necessary. Some works, like an encyclopedia or an 11th-grade history book, virtually require an index. All other works, like biographies, books on finance, and historical novels, should be carefully considered and discussed between author and publisher before adding an index.