Novice Notes
on this website


Let me Talk You Out of Indexing

Process of Indexing a Book

The Business End

Marketing Yourself

Peer Review Example


Martha Osgood

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Table of Contents foar this page

Marketing ideas (create your own ideas too)
One effective marketing process
Advice from a Real Editor

Marketing Yourself as an Indexer - Some Customary Options

1. Purchase space in the Indexer Locators Directory through ASI AND THE REGIONAL CHAPTER (PACIFIC NORTHWEST CHAPTER, ASI) in anticipation of being ready if anyone calls. (You might hold off on this until you have some experience) - Note: ONE job from that excellent resource will pay far more than the cost of the ad space.

2. Prepare a marketing packet with cover letter including paragraph of background and prep, web page URL, degree(s) & honors, index-related work and/or committees, a sample page from an index you've written (or neatly Xerox the first two pages of one of your published indexes plus the title page of the book), a list of RELEVANT recent books indexed (if unpublished, indicate "on speculation"), business card, maybe a bookmark. If your index has been published, has uploaded the index? If so, you can mention this in your letter.

3. If I were to have a brochure, I would want to include cover (title, name, slogan, logo - customized to the specific customer, fold in panel = list of services, why you need an indexer and how I can improve your documents, quotes by other people, how the editor/author can effectively plan for the index, my experience, qualifications, tools, education, interests, name and address and blank space or more quotes - f in real life, I did a web page instead - Much more useful, quicker to get much more info to the client.

Ahh, yes. Marketing.

The hard part of starting or re-starting an indexing business.


1. Listings on SIG websites, ASI's Indexer Locator, other organizations' membership roles and books. Hey -- it works for me. I get quite a few contacts (and jobs) from the Indexer Locator and from other organizational listings.

2. Website -- Mine is professionally done and submitted to the search engines. Good metatags get you found. I get lots of hits that way.

3. Probably should be #1. Network, network, network. Get to know other indexers. They will discuss what's happening, share information, and perhaps even (or eventually) refer you. If there's a peer review group, use that to get your work known and to get to know people. Usually an indexer will only refer you if they know your work. Go to ASI meetings -- local or national. You've got to get plugged in.

4. Market to publishers using Publisher's MarketPlace as a reference. Market to professional associations in your field. Even though a lot of work comes from packagers now rather than directly from publishers, often the publisher will pass your name along to the packager if they like what they see.

5. If you haven't already done so, clarify where your niche is, and market to the strength of that. So that means that if you are an avid gardener, look to horticultural associations, groups, etc. If you have foreign language experience, highlight it. Do so in your discussions with people, on your website and listings, and on your materials that you send out. Highlight it. You have to do something to distinguish yourself from all the rest of the indexers.

I find that a website and listings are my primary marketing tools allowing others to find me.

Janet Perlman

4. At the very beginning, I used a practice index (for a book that did not have an index) to send as a sample in the marketing packet. (Actually I sent along one middle page each of three practice indexes that I had written, each in a different style)

5. Rather than prepare a resume (which by definition will be too long and will NEVER be read by anyone hiring an indexer), I briefly mention my background and prep in the cover letter and on the website.  (Avoid Personnel offices!  They are not what or who you need.)

6. VERY IMPORTANT: Get to know other indexers through national and regional conventions and regional workshops, peer reviews, and online, for *referrals* and overflow work and help and fun. Trust me: the *very* best way to get to know other indexers is to work on a Chapter or ASI Board or Committee.

7. Ask editors for the names of other editors at that same publishing house who hire freelancers or in other topic areas that you enjoy.

8. Go to nearby publishing conferences (and if you can't afford it, offer to work at the event and get ASI or the ASI chapter in that region to sponsor a table there. Then you can go as a volunteer).

9. Attending the regional workshops is VERY useful as far as workshops and indexer-contacts are concerned, as is the annual ASI convention.

10. Different subject areas will be amenable to various other marketing ideas - be creative. Since I index scholarly books, I might blanket (by hand or by mail) the local university (or at least those fields I'm interested in indexing) with my cover letter and business cards at least once a year.

I spend time in a bookstore reading front matter in certain philosophy books, then use that info to contact those editors. There is often the editor's name there.

Periodicals often discuss forthcoming books. I keep a list with names of reviewers, article writers, etc. who have books in production. (Usually from the short bios at the end.) The idea is to write them promptly to inquire if they need/have an indexer. This tip from Judy Kip Indexing

11. Set up a workable plan for yourself to send out a minimum of 10 letters-of-introduction (cold calls) / week in the beginning. Send letters to local publishers, including certain printers, as well as to those in larger markets. Some of those letters that I sent wa-a-ay-back-when have surfaced two and three years later; you are building a marketing network that will pay off in the future. (Be sure to write your cover letter from the "three years down the line" perspective).

12. It takes however long it takes. Ignore the so-called projections.  First, you have to have enough experience to be fast. That translates into not having to research answers, KNOWING what structures need answers, and making good decisions early on so you don't have a lot of editing at the end.    Second, you have to market yourself. It's a numbers game. The more phone calls and letters you get out there, the more potential jobs there are to come in.  Third, you need repeat business, which means you are both good AND fast.

It IS doable with discipline, which means you would need to have a type of business plan where you would know that when you don't have business in the house, you market/write/send your packet to ten 'real' leads per day. Meaning, you have researched a company enough by whatever manner you need (phone, web, recommendations, etc) to know that they are not a teensy publisher of one book on the history of thimbles, and they aren't a company who only uses in-house indexers, and they ARE a company with Ms. A.M. Harried, Mr. Frankly Toobusy and Mrs. Sansclue to whom you can direct your message of HOW YOU CAN HELP THEM (vs what you are offering). (Plus their address, @ddress, phone, details of date and first contact (children, ski accident, travels - ANYTHING you can learn to warm up the cold call and to give you a foothold when you call again in 6 months (or so)) on an indexing card in a pretty box.

A few resources include: (Book Builders is apparently bad news, though)

Perhaps less useful - or not -

Book Editors: Debut Novels, Book Publishers: First Novels
List of hundreds of U.S. book publishers who "have, at least once, bought the rights to first novels by unknown novelists or nonfiction writers." Also includes links to book publisher lists in the areas of business, children's books, cookbooks, health, reference, humor, religion, and sports. From an author of a book about ways to market books. Note: Includes commercial content for the author's book.
LII Item:



1. Go to library with index cards(!) and a mechanical pencil - plan to spend 3 hours at a time and to get over 100 cards completed. Or use the web resources above.

2. Choose publishers from Literary Marketplace in fields you want to index in

3. Copy out company name, production manager or other names, addresses, phone and email #s, fields they publish in, size of company (# books/yr), other.

4. Call first to ask
a) Does your company use *freelance* indexers? (Pay attention to the phone answerer's tone - does s/he even KNOW what an indexer is at all, let alone whether the company uses freelancers? If you don't think so, then ask for the Production Editor's or the Managing Editor's name anyway).

b) If they say any version of: "we make our authors index their own books or find their own indexers," ask to send them a packet with an extra batch of business cards added so the publisher can hand out those business cards to authors who are overwhelmed at the prospect.

Ways to build your portfolio

To begin to build a portfolio of indexed books for marketing purposes (as well as for real experience), take a look at Martin Tulic's page of recent bestsellers which have no index and consider writing a stand-alone index for one or more of them.

Or gather a list of favorite non-profit organizations and talk with them about indexing something for them.

Other indexers have indexed a year's worth of back issues of their favorite, un-indexed magazine or journal. Submit the index to the publisher with a cover letter explaining how you have enjoyed and used their journal for a long time because of <specific reasons> and then ask if they would also like to have the rest of the collection indexed (at which point you would negotiate a fee).

c) Confirm the proper spelling of the name (and whether a man or woman) and the current address. Mark down anything you learn (Mr. Biggie is on vacation in Tahiti, Ms. SoAndSo just broke her leg skiing...)

5. Keep calling publishers from your list until you get 10 REAL LEADS. That could take you 15 calls to get 10 REAL leads, or it could take you 30. Each call should cost you less than 19 cents, so cost is no excuse and it is certainly cheaper than doing a shotgun mailing for 34 cents a pop, especially if you seem to keep getting 10 yr olds answering the 'business' phone. And, trust me, your hands will quit sweating and your voice will quit shaking after the 6th call (ok, ok - after the 8th).Write down everything you learn on the appropriate card:
-- they don't do that topic anymore
-- now they are owned by McGraw-Hill and the new name and address is...
-- they are too <insert adjective> to use your services
-- they use in-house and/or volunteer indexers only
-- they only do videos now
-- they answered "hello" so they are not a big business
-- the phone was answered by a 10 year old (= that "publisher" is really her mom who wrote the single book about collecting thimbles, so you are not going to want to contact them again)
-- your gut feeling about that company

6. Make a index card FILE in a pretty box that will hold 8-12 inches of cards:
Get blank and alphabetic dividers.
- Set up a NOW file for all cards that have not yet been called
- Make an alphabetic file for the NO, NEVER list so you don't waste time ever calling them again
- Make a dated file for the BOOSTER or TICKLER list - these are your hot prospects. Keep contacting them every six-twelve months. Some indexers market in the first week of every month and make a file divided by months to remind ("tickle") them to call those folks in that month next year.

7. Send targeted (vs. shotgun) packets addressed to a real person whose name you KNOW how to spell at that press, **using even the smallest tidbit of info you gained (“Dear Ms. SoAndSo, I am sorry to hear you broke your leg. My sympathies. The last time I broke my leg skiing, I had so much fun and got so much attention that I plan to break my leg regularly in the future. In the mean time, maybe I can take a bit of the load off your shoulders with my indexing skills...<insert standard paragraphs 2, 3 and 4>”). Include this cover letter, two business cards, two pages of a sample index, and perhaps a bookmark with indexer jokes on it. Cover letter includes a pithy first line (see above), some statement that shows you know what indexing is (your philosophy of indexing in 10 words or less?), a short paragraph of your background and experience and the kind of work/fields you excel in, invitation to contact you for work in XX areas. Make it less than one page. Use short sentences. Include your email address and web URL. Ask the receiver to re-direct the letter to the right person(s), or return the letter with the right person's name and title included.

8. Follow up with a phone call one week later. (This is another person's suggestion - I actually don't do that...maybe I would get more business if I did? Then create a dated tickler file to remind yourself to send a booster letter or make a booster phone call six months down the road).

9. Repeat from #4 to #7 at regular intervals (ie, every Tuesday morning). Marketing is a numbers game: consistency counts and discipline WILL pay off. Revise your letter each week to make it better than last week's version. Go back to the library with more index-cards when you run out of the ones you already made. Take the box you created - this is where the card file helps you not to duplicate your efforts/waste your time in six months.


Letter to Index-L from an editor:

If I may--As a writer of some years' standing but an absolute newbie to indexing--you folks have hit on a topic I happen to know something about!

The best response, in my experience, is to call a day or two after the person to whom you've sent the material will have received it. With the volume of mail most of them get, a week is simply too long. Long experience has told me that you often have them juggling the phone while they dig frantically through the pile to find your mailing.

If you wait a week, it'll be too far down in the pile!

This way, you often get a selection of answers, which may include:
"Yes, I have it right here...." ...which gets you a beautiful opening to sell yourself, ask for referrals, etc.
"No, frankly I haven't gotten to it...but I have it and will get to it right away..."
...almost as good, and you can then set a time when you WILL call back to discuss their needs.
"No, I didn't receive it..." Whereupon, you can promise to send another copy, but while you're talking about it what upcoming indexing needs might they have..."

In short, any mailing is only a "foot in the door" and will seldom by itself sell much of anything. Getting someone's attention so YOU can sell your services is the real name of the game.

When you seek an appointment, you will do much better to give a choice of times, like: "Why don't I call you back Tuesday morning around 11:00...or would Thursday at 2:15 be better" Again, statistically this will raise your success rate, since you by being so reasonable will often get an alternative commitment like "I can't do it either time, but I can pencil you in for Friday at 10:00..." Bingo, appointment made.

Another point you might follow up--if you can get in touch with authors who have published with a target house, often they will be very glad to refer you to the person who arranged the indexing for their books. In fact, authors are often the last ones consulted in any of this stuff, and they are normally very pleased to be asked for their opinions! (Okay, I'm not talking about the "blockbuster" authors, but there aren't too many of these in non-fiction!). Sometimes, you can strike up an acquaintance with an author who could easily recommend you as someone they would enjoy working with on subsequent projects--a substantial side bonus!

Yet another source of contacts would be non-fiction book agents. It is in their interest to have their agented works treated well, with good index work. Also, they mostly know whom to contact within the various publishing organizations... and again, a referral (or at least a "name drop") can be a golden route to success.

Once you have such a referral from someone the person inside the publishing organization knows and respects, they can be on the lookout for your material--and will generally take your calls! Then, your piece can be read...or, even better, you may get a project without bothering with the sales literature at all.

I hope these tips help you crack your next publisher and get your skills noticed. Also, I hope as I have some really basic questions about indexing you will indulge me!

Kind regards,
David Neeley

Table of Contents of All Six Novice Notes pages:

1. Resources to help you decide whether you want to index books or not - profiles of indexers in general, ASI, PNW, AUSSI, SI and chapter sites, discussion lists, software sites, indexing courses, income expectations, kinds of indexing, Is Indexing Really for YOU?

2. Let me talk you OUT of it - expenses, equipment, cost of courses, speed of indexing, brain agility ("Quick, give me three perfectly nuanced synonyms for XX"), moonlighting, self motivation, slowness of getting started, marketing yourself, irregular income, most index as supplemental income, organization, details, no feedback...

3. What does indexing look like from the inside? Sample step-by-step process of indexing (not a lesson in indexing), indexing sins, strategy, secret notes to yourself in the draft versions of the software, groups/grouping, other editing processes, timing, deadlines, some aspects are boring and solitary. Consider indexing a whole favorite book (and then asking your friends to use it while you watch) before investing in software or courses...

4. The Business of Indexing - a sample business plan (very informal), what to do between USDA lessons, skill building practice ideas, your desk, administrative background tasks, pricing and productivity, reference books.

5. Marketing Yourself - creative marketing ideas, one of several accepted processes for marketing your indexing business.

6. Peer reviews of indexes for purposes of continuing education, determining one's progress, quality control, submitting a more polished product to a publisher, etc.


Back Words Indexing
Martha Osgood, Indexer