Back Words Indexing 

  Back-of-the-Book Indexes
     for Publishers and Authors

      "You're going to love the way your book ends!"



about indexes
my background

authors as indexer
computers asindexer

quotations about indexes/indexing
indexer humor

order of the kohlrabi
wilson awards judge



Martha Osgood
Back Words Indexing

Since 1996

author of the index in
Inside Indexing:
the Decisionmaking Process

by Sherry Smith & Kari Kells




Judith Pascoe, "My Last Index"
"Jonathan Swift, in his 1704 A Tale of a Tub, describes two means of using books: "to serve them as men do lords—learn their titles exactly, then brag of their acquaintance," or "the choicer, the profounder and politer method, to get a thorough insight into the index, by which the whole book is governed and turned, like fishes by the tail." Swift goes on to say that entering the place of learning at the great gate requires an expense of time and forms, and so "men of much haste and little ceremony are content to get in by the back door."


How indexers charge
Average BWI fees

Indexers usually charge by the "indexable page" since it gives the publisher or author a firm idea of the cost of the index early on. Costs can also be calculated by the hour (for example, for re-indexing, embedding, journal indexing, or for unknown quantities), or by the index entry (defined as a concept / term and a page reference).

Although the indexer will need all of the book's pages, the "indexable page" does not usually include the front matter (title page, table of contents, preface, introduction, dedication, etc.) unless those pages are to be indexed. Nor does the term "indexable page" include the back matter, again unless it is to be indexed. It does include short pages, figures, graphs, and pictures.

Even the indexable page method is open to adjustments based on the needs of the book. The actual cost of an index can vary, based upon any of the following:

  • many names, especially foreign names with diacritics - each name needs to be spell-checked and verified with the bibliography by hand and each author name may need to be connected with the full title of a work
  • the number of columns per page, the size of the print, the margins, and the size of the page
  • multiple indexes for one book - scripture, author, subject, Latin names / familiar names, legal cases, tables, bibliographical index, etc.
  • book density - the average book has 6-8 indexable entries from each page
  • specialization and difficulty of subject - medical, legal, philosophy
  • restrictions on the length of the index
  • amount of time allotted or changed for the indexing process
  • delivery of manuscript by chapter (rather than all at one time)
  • unique coding or tagging requirements
  • re-indexing due to pagination changes after the indexing process has begun
  • embedding requirements
  • non-book indexing (journal, web, newspaper, CD, genealogy)
  • multi-part locators - page references including volume and page numbers, or page and section numbers
  • specificity - the extent to which a concept or topic is identified by a precise term on the hierarchy of genus-species relations
  • exhaustivity - the extent to which concepts and topics are made retrievable by means of a quantity of index entries and synonyms
  • depth - the degree to which a topic is represented in detail in an index (#s of precise terms, levels, cross-references)
  • mixed sorting orders - biographies may need hand-sorted entries in chronological rather than alphabetical or page number order
  • For journal indexing I would ask to index a sample journal to determine the amount of time the indexing will take. If you wish to use a per entry rate, I can figure that for you as well.

    Specifications. As we begin, I will have specific questions to ask you, including questions about the topic of your book, the number of indexable pages you anticipate, your deadline, your preferred style sheet (Chicago, Sheffield, AP, other). Depending upon the subject matter, I may ask for a sample chapter or two from the middle of the book to index (at no charge) in order to get a feel for the density and difficulty of the book before I offer a firm quote. My "small print paragraph" is also included on the Contract.


    Back Words Indexing Fee Schedule

    I may request to see the book or representative portions of the book before making my quote firm. My usual charges range from $4.00 to $6.00 per text page, although most books that I have indexed have come in at $4.50/text page unless conditions above change that figure.

    My estimate is based on an indexable page count. An indexable page is any page in the body of the book. Front and back matter, which I request for background, are not considered "indexable" unless you request that they be indexed.

    Re-indexing charges are $45/hr if the book's pagination changes after indexing has begun. (Note: if pagination changes by whole pages and all of page 55 becomes all of page 58 or all of Chapter 6 exchanges places with all of Chapter 13, there is no problem. If parts of some pages become parts of other pages, the re-indexing charge will apply.) I cannot emphasize enough that indexing depends upon the content of each page remaining stable from the beginning of the indexing process to the final publication.

    More information is available in the "small print paragraph" on the specifications and contract page.