Quick guide 13: Indexing your book
by John A. Vickers

London: The Society of Authors, 1996. 12 pp. £3 inc. p. and p. (free to members)

Most authors' standard contracts make them responsible for providing the indexes to their books (or in some cases, 50% liable for the payment of an indexer). Since their royalties may well yield less than a professional indexer's hourly rate (currently the Society of Indexers' recommended minimum is £12), although but a minority of authors will be also skilled indexers, many embark on the task themselves -- sometimes with disastrous results. These twelve pages are closely packed with `basic advice and guidance' for such novices, complete with further reading list and contrasting examples of a good and bad index to the same imaginary book.

Vickers, himself an author, editor, and winner of the Wheatley Medal for indexing, guides the struggling (with a new discipline) author through considerations of space and time available; making a start; use of computers (`cannot cope with the more complex or conceptual aspects of compiling a genuine index'); selection of text items; wording of headings; presentation of names; alphabetization, its complexities and alternatives; treatment of page references; cross-references; editing the index (`checking and adjusting'); format and presentation. Clear examples are given of all precepts. The detailed level of treatment, in such a concise guide, may be illustrated by quoting step (5) of the index-editing procedure:

`Decide whether any of your headings should become subheadings of some different entry, or any subheadings deserve to be promoted to headings in their own right; whether any entries (say, those containing more than six page references) need to be subdivided; whether any further cross-references should be provided. Then recheck that none of your cross-references are either "blind" or "circular".'

`No more than an introduction', Vickers calls his text: not a booklet to build a new career on alone, but a much needed, well condensed vade mecum expressly designed to set first-time author-indexers on the way they should go.

Hazel K. Bell

Learned Publishing Vol. 9 No. 4 October 1996, page 266