Day 10 of the A to Z challenge – Indexing!

LT1Whenever I tell someone I’m an indexer I’m usually met with a blank expression – and as I start to explain what indexing involves people usually say, ‘That sounds really difficult’ or ‘How boring!’ In fact, indexing isn’t difficult or boring – it’s a fascinating way to make a living, especially if you’re a writer.

Wouldn’t you like to be paid – often quite a lot of money – to read interesting books at home? Indexing is the perfect job for a writer, or anyone with a love of books and information. I get quite passionate about it, not least because it has set me free from a lifetime of working for other people and doing jobs I hated. Coming up on 6 years as a freelance indexer now, this is officially the longest I’ve ever stayed in one job!

So, for anyone who’s interested in finding out more, here is my essential guide to all things indexing …

  • Indexers compile indexes for the back of non-fiction books.
  • Most indexers are self-employed and work directly for publishers.
  • Indexers work from typeset proofs, and the index is usually the last thing to be done before going to print – this can make deadlines very tight.
  • The proofs can be loose sheets sent through the post or pdfs sent via email. I used to prefer working on paper proofs but I’ve adapted to pdfs now as it’s a lot faster.
  • You will usually have between a week and two weeks to compile the index.
  • An average index for a text book will carry a fee of between £300 and £700.
  • The Society of Indexers recommend certain fees per hour or per page, but in the real world publishers have budgets and the indexer who is happy to work to this will get the job!
  • Indexing is the ultimate flexible work-from-home option. No one cares if you do the whole index in one intense day or work for an hour each evening. As long as you get it done by the deadline you are answerable to no one.
  • All communication is carried out by email (possibly the odd phone call, but this is rare), so you can live anywhere and work remotely.
  • Because people think indexing is ‘really difficult or really boring’ there aren’t as many indexers as there are, say, proofreaders. Which makes it an ideal occupation for the freelancer as there isn’t as much competition.
  • Indexing is a very creative task. You have to put yourself in the place of the index-user and imagine which terms they might use to look something up. There’s a lot more to it than just recording what’s in the text.

Interested? If you think indexing might be for you get in touch with me for more information.