Increasing Your Title's Usability with a Quality Index

The authors of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, Tom and Marilyn Ross, described the value of an index in simple terms: "Indexes are to nonfiction books what butter is to bread. You can use the one without the other, but it's so much better with the added ingredient."

Indexes are one of the most useful tools available to readers of nonfiction books. A properly prepared index will guide the reader to the appropriate location within the text for easy, quick location of key information. A book without an index is like the internet without Google!

Believe it or not, the index is also a selling tool. The index can give the average buyer a snapshot of the material within the pages (and how easy it will be to find specific information when he's looking for it). If you have any hope of selling your book to the library market, an index is a necessity. Knowing the importance of an index, most of the nation's library distributors will not accept a title without a quality index.

It's important to remember that part of what makes an index really useful is what's not there-an index takes readers directly to the information they want. Its organization is key to the "express highway" method of getting to the right answers by using an index.

Indexes are recommended for all nonfiction titles, but especially for

  • Cookbooks
  • Travel books
  • Instructional/how-to books
  • History books
  • Medical books
  • Law books
  • Science books
  • Textbooks of any kind

How to choose the best indexer

Would you hire a cookbook indexer for a computer title? Goodness no! A reasonable familiarity with the content and knowledge of how the type of book is used by its readership are vitally important to creating a useful index. To ensure that your book has a good index, I recommend hiring a professional indexer. However, finding the right one can be difficult. Your best bet is to hire a reputable company who will match you up with the indexer most appropriate for your title.

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