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Commissioning your index

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What is an index?

An index is a navigation tool to the content of a publication, website, intranet, database, CD Rom or any format which contains information. Indexes consist of links between subjects and concepts. They inform you about the content, how that content is organised and the format of the content, for example, text, photographs, illustrations, maps and graphics, etc.

What is the value of indexes?

Indexes 'value add' all information formats. Printed materials: They are search tools which free the reader/user from the strictures of beginning-to-end reading of printed material and enable those materials to function as reference works. Intranets and web sites: they assist users navigate through online pages and function as tools for browsing and searching.

TIP: It is important to remember that librarians will not purchase a book without an index unless it is the only one of its subject on the market.

What is indexed?

  • books (non-fiction, fiction, children's)

  • serials (journals, magazines, annuals)

  • loose-leaf services

  • photographic material

  • audio material

  • films/CDs

  • multimedia products

  • databases

  • web sites and intranets

  • Internet

How do you commission an index?

This section primarily relates to printed publications, however, many of the points are related in principle to all other information formats.

The decision to use a professional indexer is a good one because the craft of index construction is highly specialised. It requires intuition, solid language skills, good general knowledge, a methodical intellect and many years' experience.

A good indexer will always assist the editor/publisher/producer, as their process involves the minute detailing of content and structure.

Inconsistencies in spelling, terminology and typos in general will be picked up as the indexer 'sieves' through the work.

Timetable for commissioning

Integrating the indexing process into to the publication project plan, will save you time, money and headaches.

Project timetabling

  • When you receive the final manuscript from author have a meeting to discuss the index. As the author usually pays for the index it must be decided at this time whether they wish to undertake the task themselves or pay a professional indexer.

  • Plan the index with the indexer at first proofs. Get an estimate of the size of the index required, time needed to do the job and the cost. Quotes based on first proofs may be changed if the final proofs are significantly different.

  • Index prepared using final proofs.

  • Index proofread by proofreader.

  • Printer's proofs then final printing.

What you need to tell the indexer?

Company/organisation details

  • title

  • second contact name/title

  • address/phone/fax/email

Job details

  • budget for index. (If you do not wish to do this, then it is important to detail your requirements, so the indexer can give you an accurate quote)

  • date of proofs to indexer

  • timeframe for index completion

  • method of index delivery

Publication/work details

  • Title of work

  • Author/editor/producer

  • Size of the work (number of pages, paper size, word count, number of images, etc)

  • Number of pages/space allocated to index

  • Target audience of the work

Index details

  • What do you want indexed? Subjects, concepts, personal names, photographs, illustrations, etc.

  • Style requirements? (Typeface, spacing, columns, etc)


More about indexing
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