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 and proofreader, and occasional indexer. 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.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Completing the Unholy Triumvirate: Indexing

For Cajun cooks, the holy trinity is green peppers, onion, and celery . . . the basis of a good roux.

In the world of this freelancer, the (un)holy trinity is editing, proofreading, and indexing . . . the basis of any good mortgage payment.

I've covered the first two; now for a few words (of many to come) on indexing.

When I started indexing, it seemed kind of fun. Like an impressionist or pointillist work, you have a ton of little elements that when sorted or arranged properly create a valuable whole. Some readers may wonder how any task as tedious-seeming as writing an index can be fun. Well, trust me, I wonder how household repairs or building furniture can be fun. I spent eight months in eighth-grade wood shop, and a good day for me was creating sawdust. I eventually constructed a two-shelf bookshelf that listed permanently to port. It would have looked right at home in Pisa.

Computers don't write indexes on their own, any more than they write books on their own. A computer is a tool for writing an index, not a substitute for the human element. I tell authors who want to be "good authors" for a publishing company to treat their computers like typewriters with memory: don't design your manuscripts in Word. For indexing, I treat a Word document like index cards with a sort feature. I index the old-fashioned way; I've just eliminated the index cards.

To index a book, I sit down with the pages next to my computer. I read a little, and compose an entry. I read a little, and compose an entry. There are tricks to entering this information so that it mostly sorts at the end of the task, and then there are tricks to doing subentries. All this was learned via trial and error; there may be better ways to do it. This approach works for me.

As far as I'm concerned, the best indexers I know have never bragged about what software they have. They don't have indexing software.

(My favorite line from Sunset Blvd.: "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!")

If you're hiring an indexer and within the first 15 minutes of explaining why s/he should be working for you, you hear about their great software, politely say your car just blew up or the extraterrestrials just landed in your kitchen again, and you need to get off the phone.

I'll talk more another time about the great indexing mystery: how to index a book when you don't understand a word of it. Because of my client base (another topic for the future), it happens all the time.

1 comment:

moi said...

I took an indexing course once. I still have the text, the materials, the workbooks, etc., starting at me from my office bookshelf. What they are saying to me is this: "You wimp." Is there anything more ding dang difficult than indexing? If so, I'd like to know. And, yes, I'd like an "Indexing in Five Bazillion Easy Steps" lesson, please.