Indexing–Who should do it?

category: Discussion
by Sysadmin


I am writing a book on Project Management. After I submitted the manuscript the publisher is telling me that, once the CRC pages are ready, I should prepare the index. If I am unable to prepare the index, the publisher will entrust the task to an indexer and deduct the amount from my royalty. But there was no mention about indexing in the MoA. When I asked the publisher about it, the reply I got was that it was the author’s responsibility to prepare the index and hence not specified in the contract. What should I do?

Any help/suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance

On 9-Nov-2007 Alexis Leon wrote:

Dear David,

Most publishers want the authors to do the indexing. As you have mentioned, in many cases, all the tasks that the author has to perform are not mentioned in the contract or MoA. But most good publishers and the editors tell the first time or inexperienced authors what are the tasks they are expected to do in addition to completing the manuscript.

Some publishers engage the services of professional indexers and bear the cost of indexing. In order to cut costs, now publishers often ask the authors to do the indexing, and if the authors cannot or are not willing to do the indexing the indexing charges will be deducted from the royalties. Professional indexers are costly and such an exercise would eat into the royalties of the book. So, if the author can negotiate a contract wherein the publisher and author share the indexing costs, the impact on the royalties would be acceptable.

There is nothing wrong in the author doing the indexing. But the problem is that indexing takes time and requires a lot of skill. Also there are different kinds of indexes. By the time the author has written the book, settled the arguments with reviewer(s), incorporated the review comments, read the copyedited proofs and accepted /rejected the copyeditor’s changes, answered the author queries, read the galley proofs, he would have been had enough. Whether the author has the stamina, willpower and willingness to undertake another project—indexing the book—is a question that should be asked. Some authors do it, some other leave it to the indexers.

Even if an author is willing to take up the indexing project, he should know how to prepare the index. The indexing tools in the word processors will not help you in creating good indexes. Indexing is a time consuming and tedious process. But if you have the determination, it is a skill that can be learned.

If you are planning to prepare the index of your book, then I recommend you two books which will give you valuable information and advice on how to prepare the index. You will also have to refer to the guidelines provided by the publisher if any. The books are:

  1. Mulvany, N.C., Indexing Books (Second Edition), The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  2. The University of Chicago Press, Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition), The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

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