Author-Prepared Indexing Brief


If you’d like to assist the indexer in the process of index-creation for your book, here are some considerations when providing the indexer with an indexing brief.

A professional indexer will not index your book exactly the same way as you would do it yourself. They are guided by professional indexing standards and press specifications, however, some editors encourage their authors to provide an initial brief to the indexer because no one knows the important themes of the book, and how potential readers will expect to find them listed better than a book’s author. This brief is best provided as a list of key topics and is best supplied to the indexer before they begin their work on your manuscript.

Some things to consider for your indexing brief:

– In a sentence, state the persons/groups that are your reading audience for this book. This helps the indexer determine the use or formatting of certain terminology.

– Do you expect front matter, illustrative matter, and notes to be included in the index? By default, the indexer will follow the press specifications, however, if you have a need for further discussion, do so with the editor before the indexing begins and then inform the indexer in the brief.

– Are there different terms used synonymously throughout the text for the same concept and should they be collected together under one heading in the index, with cross-references from the synonymous terms? If so, include these in your list and note which is the preferred term. 

– By indexing standards, only substantive information or discussion of a term/concept are indexed. It is important to be aware that that the indexer will not list the page number for every reference in the text. By extension, not every person or place mentioned will end up in the index. If there are some topics or themes that you would like to see more exhaustively listed, include this note in your brief.

– If your book includes names in non-English languages, it might be helpful to provide a few examples and where you would like the name to be sorted in the index entry. The indexer uses various professional resources to determine sorting rules, however, if there are tricky names you would be wise to add those to your brief. They will be concerned with what letter the name sorts and where the name breaks.