by Phillip Crum
First of all, not all books have or require an index. Typically, medical, scientific, academic, and educational books contain a detailed index to help the reader find information on a particular topic. An index is also important if the reader wants to focus on one area of study at a time. Biographies often contain an index to help inform the reader where and how the information was gathered.
If you are self-publishing, you may already be using a program that will help you create an index. If you are using InDesign for example, you can create an index “on the go” by highlighting and selecting key words and phrases as you work on the text. It’s important that you mark each instance of the word or phrase so when the index is assembled, the proper page numbers will appear for each entry. Once the index is (automatically) generated by InDesign, you can edit the index as you would a normal page.
No matter how you choose to build your index, the first step is to make a list of the key words and phrases you want to include. This takes some time and a great deal of thought and planning (although some self-published authors wait until the book is complete before deciding what will appear in the index). You might start by choosing 10 to 12 words or phrases that absolutely have to be included, then look for other words that can be used as subheads for each main entry. When that process is complete, you will have discovered other words and phrases to include. Book publishing is all about details so take your time building your index entries.
Another option is to manually create your index. This is not as overwhelming as it sounds if you have already created your list of key words and phrases. One advantage of manually creating an index is you get to pick and choose your entries more carefully than having the software do it for you.
Another option is to hire a professional indexer to create your index for you. They use indexing software to help them assemble the index but a lot of the work is still going page by page searching for key words and phrases and thus, their services can be quite expensive (if you self-publish, you may not have the budget for an indexer). Also understand that indexers usually specialize in one type of manuscript. For example, only indexing medical or scientific titles. Sometimes, if you work hard on your search, you can find a college student interested in self-publishing who is willing to index your book for much less. Or you might be able to talk your editor into creating your index.
Before you decide on whether or not to include an index, take a look at a number of books in your genre to see if other authors included an index in their books.
Phillip Crum is the Chief Idea Officer of MarketingMeasure located at 2414 Arbuckle Court Dallas, TX 75229, and is committed to the idea of helping small business owners do a better job of finding their next customer or client. He and his two sons,Tyler and Preston, also own a Sir Speedy Printing franchise and employ those additional capabilities in the overall marketing services menu of offerings. Phillip can be reached at 214-213-7445, or pcrum@MarketingMeasure.com.