In an interview with publisher Sandra Uschtrin, indexer Jochen Fassbender reflected on authors indexing their own work. Here are his comments:
- Subject knowledge and understanding of the text are key to indexing. You know your text best and you can bring your in-depth knowledge of the field to the index. There are even some instances where authors have won awards for indexes they’ve created.
- A useful index is an analytical tool, not a keyword list. As such, you will be taking on substantial labour to create your own—potentially requiring several weeks—under a strict deadline.
- Indexing a book is a very different mental process than writing a book. You may be too close to your work to be able to see it from a user perspective.
- Equally important as subject knowledge is proficiency in modern indexing methods, tools, and best practices. If you don’t have this foundation, it’s easy to commit what Fassbender calls the “deadly sins” of indexing and fail to meet usability standards.
As an author, how can I make my index a success?
- First, honestly assess whether you meet the requirements for effective indexing. Fassbender recommends reviewing the “Authors and index creation?” section on the Deutsches Netzwerk der Indexer website.
- Pursue indexing training. At the very least, seek out seminars. To gain proficiency, undertake more extensive training and practice.
- Hire a professional indexer who works in your subject area. That indexer will bring subject knowledge to the index, while using their training and experience to create an analytical index efficiently, effectively, and on time.
Read the complete interview, including Fassbender’s discussion of the “deadly sins” of indexing and what makes a good index–for free in The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing (Vol. 29, No. 1) at liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/10.3828/indexer.2011.4