What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

If Indexing Was That Easy, More People Would Do It Well

Another day, another (potential) client education:


Thanks for the email.

The problems with an indexer receiving a list of terms come down to a number of items. 

First, even well-intentioned authors aren't indexers. They often don't know how to phrase index entries in such a way as to capture the content as the reader might expect it, or even according to general indexing guidelines. Often, terms might be too broad to be useful, start out with adjectives when the nouns are more important, or -- and this is very common -- present terms that don't actually appear in the book (yes, that happens, more frequently than you'd expect).  I've also seen authors try to make connections in the index that aren't explicit in the book. The best way to ensure presence of a topic in the index is to discuss it in the book. And looking at the list provided, "Institution that shaped family," for example, is not a useful index entry. 

Editing and massaging an Excel document into a shell of an index would actually be counterproductive from my standpoint -- as I'd prefer to write all the entries in a consistent style, instead of trying to match terms and their syntax to someone else's work.

Second, having a list of terms doesn't really reduce the amount of work I need to do. I still have to read the book to index it properly. Given a list of terms, one could easily search for use of the terms and input the relevant numbers, but that's not an index. That's a concordance. It also doesn't account for the same concept presented with different phrasings. Having a list of terms also doesn't save on keying time, because I still have to verify the accuracy of the author's entry -- and, especially for proper names, I often just cut and paste them from the PDF to make sure there are no keying errors.

Lists of terms also don't present complete subentries, and that's often where a lot of the indexer's work takes place. A category such as "Staff, consultants," and a subentry of "consultants" presents obvious logical and logistical problems.

Let's step back a little and see what we can do. What is the current number of indexable pages (introduction to the end of the running text, inclusive)? What is the trim size of the book? Needless to say, I'd much rather index from scratch and use your Excel document more as a guide to see if I've missed anything. I might be able to meet you halfway, but I don't think $3/page would be possible.

I'd also need a PDF with one-up pages, not spreads. If you could send me that, I'd have a much better idea of what the project entails.

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