How is an index created?
• Indexing is most often performed by self-employed freelance indexers. The author, publisher, or packager contracts with the indexer to complete the work for a specific price (usually a per-indexable-page rate), within an agreed-upon timeframe. Because indexing is one of the final phases of the book publishing process, deadlines are often tight.
• The indexer receives the final page proofs from the client, usually emailed as PDFs or uploaded to an FTP site. The indexer reads the proofs and, using indexing software, enters the terms (headings and subheadings) and page numbers for the indexable content. Then the index is edited and cleaned up, formatted to specifications and proofread, and then emailed to the client.
How does one learn to index?
• The most in-depth and comprehensive way to learn indexing is to take an online course. ASI offers one such course, as does the online program at the University of California Berkeley Extension School. Some colleges with Library Science programs offer indexing courses, and ASI offers workshops at the annual conference, some of which are geared to new indexers. More information is available here:
ASI Training Course
UC Berkeley Extension: Indexing: Theory and Application
UC Berkeley Extension: Embedded Indexing and Indexing of E-Books
How do I go about finding indexing work?
• Sending out emails or letters and résumés to publishers and packagers is usually the first step. An online search can turn up good information, but if you’re having trouble finding specific names and email addresses The Literary Marketplace and Writer’s Market, both available at most libraries, can be a big help. It will likely take many outreach attempts before you get any responses, so persistence is key! Follow-up by phone can also improve your chances of connecting.
• Some publishers have a link on their websites about whom to contact about freelance opportunities.
• LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people in specific industries and companies, and creating a LinkedIn profile or updating your current one with your indexing skills will help you to be found by those searching for indexers.
• If you don’t already have a few sample indexes to show prospective clients, get working on those – they can be invaluable for showing that you are capable, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.
• Pro bono work is a good way to get an index or two under your belt while you wait for your first paid indexes. Check out nonprofit organizations putting out publications that may benefit from an index. They’ll be grateful for the help, and you’ll have a published index to show—not to mention a potential great reference.
• A simple website that prospective clients can visit to find out more about you is always helpful. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does show that you are a serious and professional indexer. Some indexers also create a professional FaceBook page.
How can indexers network and collaborate with one another?
• Membership in the American Society for Indexing has many benefits, including affiliation with local chapters and Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which provide opportunities for networking, learning, and getting to know other indexers.
• The annual conference of the American Society for Indexing is a great way to keep up with new developments in indexing and learn new skills while meeting indexers from all over the country, or even other countries.
• One regional chapter membership of your choice is included with your ASI annual dues. If you live in the New England area, our local chapter (NEASI) is a great resource for you and your business, and a wonderful way to build personal relationships with local indexers.
• Indexers are a friendly and supportive bunch, who enjoy sharing stories and learning from each other. While indexing has been a solitary profession in the past, the Internet and social media have changed this significantly, and indexers are more connected to each other than ever before.
What are the benefits of membership in the New England Chapter of ASI?
• New England indexers are a diverse group, ranging from experienced to newbies, with a wide variety of skills and subject specialties. We hold one or two conferences a year in varying locations around the region, and encourage as many people as possible to participate. These meetings might include workshops and training for skills development, as well as presentations to learn about work practices, business aspects of indexing, software, time management, and much more. There is always time for getting to know each other and catching up.
• More recently we’ve been planning informal, local gatherings in different geographic areas. These coffee breaks, luncheons, and general meet-ups are aimed specifically for networking, and just enjoying the company of other freelancers who long for face-to-face conversation with colleagues sharing the same challenges.
• Our mission over the next couple of years is to encourage our chapter members and indexers in general to reach out to each other as colleagues, learn from each other, and get to know each other better. Indexing has always been considered a fairly solitary profession, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and we want to challenge that stereotype. We have much to learn from each other, not just as indexers, but as problem solvers, freelancers, business owners, and, well, human beings.
• Joining ASI is easy, and includes many benefits. When you sign up, you’ll be presented with a list of chapters and the geographic areas covered by each. Your first chapter affiliation is free. You may join as many chapters as you like, but will be charged for each affiliation after your first. Once your membership form and payment are received, your information will be sent to us so we can welcome you and let you know about our events and meetings. We look forward to having you join us!
• Most chapters, including the New England Chapter of the American Society for Indexing (NEASI), have their own web sites. Members of NEASI can be listed in our directory, increasing exposure. Visitors to the site will also see events, meetings, informal lunches, and other news related to indexers. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive email updates on the goings on in the chapter!