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Q&A with the Society of Indexers

Q&A with the Society of Indexers

Paula Clarke Bain and Ruth Ellis are freelancer indexers and members of the Society of Indexers.

Q1 How do you train as an indexer?

I took the @indexers Training in Indexing course by distance learning to qualify as an Accredited Indexer. You can do this at your own pace up to a maximum of four years. See more here.

Q2 Is the Society of Indexers course appropriate for budding indexers in other countries?

Yes it is, although there are indexing societies elsewhere in the world. You should investigate @ASIndexing if you are based in the USA as there are other options available there.

Q3 What qualities do you need to be a good indexer?

We have a pre-enrolment questionnaire that you should have a look at. Link to pdf here.

Some desirable qualities are excellent English language skills, motivation to work on your own, a quick and enquiring mind, the ability to run your own business, and obviously a love of reading. You'll be doing a lot of it!

Q4 How long does it take to index a book?

Well, it all depends. A rough estimate I use is 10 pages per hour, so a 250-page book in 25 hours. (Not consecutive hours!) Always best to have a look at the proofs before giving an estimate as your indexing speed can vary widely between books.

Q5 Do you think having a part time job could be a disadvantage to me when I start freelancing because it will take me comparatively longer to complete indexing contracts? Or is the security worth it?

Many indexers start out part time. Some continue to permanently work part time. You will need to be flexible about the hours you work on indexing if you are trying to run two jobs together. A good idea to keep the day job going til you get established. It means you can be a bit pressurised at times, but indexers are brilliant at finding time from nowhere (or burning the midnight oil!). I worked part-time as a librarian and indexer for 5 years. Publishers and authors can often give a deadline of a few weeks. As long as you get the job done well and returned on time, they don't need to know how many hours a day you're indexing. Some books do require a tighter turnaround though. You get much faster with practice.

Q6 What are the best things about being an indexer?

You get to create a useful, permanent part of a book (sometimes with an acknowledgements credit too). It is intellectually stimulating. You are constantly learning. The freedom of freelancing. And you're getting paid to read books all day.

Q7 What are the worst things about being an indexer?

The absolute worst thing for me is late payments. Rare for me now thankfully but it can cause real cash flow problems. Please pay your freelancers on time. Publishers should be aware that good indexers will simply not work for them again when this happens.

Q8 How do you get your indexing commissions?

I get some indexing commissions via @indexers' Directory of Professional Indexers. Some authors contact me directly via my website. Some come from contacting publishers and authors directly via email and/or Twitter. Indexers contact editors and publishers directly through networking IRL or on social media. Authors and publishers can find an indexer with the right subject knowledge in our professional directory.

Work in Publishing Week (19th-23rd November 2018) is a week long campaign to celebrate careers in publishing.