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

To find these Novice Notes again, you can:
• google "novicenotes" (all one word)
• bookmark this page
• remember my home page and scroll wa-a-ay to the bottom and click on the "nn" link


When I was just starting out, I could have used some general guidance, but it wasn't available and everyone seemed so intimidating. So here are some resources for more info about indexing, including discussion lists to lurk on, sites to visit, background to learn, preparations to consider if you are looking into becoming an indexer.

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.

The first thing to recognize is this that YOU are in charge:
Freelance income is dependent upon the number of books contracted, hours worked per week, speed and experience levels. It takes marketing (=it's a numbers game), experience (=speed, accuracy), repeat business (= quality work), and time (=2-5 years) to build up to the good income levels . This is honest, skilled work, not a scheme to get rich quick.

The second thing is that there is a lot more to indexing than meets the eye. Following all the rules is fairly easy (with a lot of practice and feedback); it is the art of indexing that is hard. Don't forget this as you read on.

And the third thing is to re-read the second thing and think about it. I had to learn - through 6-8 in-depth indexes and peer reviews - how to pay attention to detail at that level, and I STILL find in reviews the IndexPeers do for me that I can improve. The level of detail was a real surprise to me.

How to get started:

1. Some library schools teach indexing (but their courses may not be open to auditors).

2. Find someone to mentor you. And google "novicenotes" to find the pages referring to the behind-the-scenes and process of book indexing. YOU ARE HERE.

3. Practice on your own and then find someone to critique your work; and if you pay that person for her or his time, just think of it as the cost of your education. You don't have to have every sample critiqued. Do several practice indexes first, until you get one you're ready to show somebody. Beginners can certainly critique each other's indexes as well (peer review). More practice-type ideas are available: here

4. Take local, day-long workshops, if your ASI chapter has them. Invent workshops that you need and get the chapter to help you find folks - even local folks - to teach them. Visit other chapters for their workshops and to get to know other indexers.

5. Take other workshops (Kari Kells, Sherry Smith) that give a lot of homework and a lot more feedback in at least 5-6 sessions over 10-12 weeks. The issue is learning to THINK like an indexer in how you *organize* the index you write.

6. Go to the ASI annual conference and take as many workshops as you can pack in. On all sorts of subjects, so you get lots of exposure to different areas of indexing and different issues.

7. Check the ASI Web site for info on training:   Review the rest of the ASI website beginning here:

8. Read Smith and Kells' Inside Indexing, DoMi Stauber's Facing the Text, Mulvaney's Indexing Books, Wellisch's Indexing from A to Z, and the latest indexing chapter in the Chicago Manual of Style.

10. Get hold of a few Before and After indexes (before peer review and after peer review). They can show you a decent enough index, then the same index with the commentary of several Peer Reviewers which shows you how much better it can become.

11. Design your business forms. Some ideas are on the Business page of these novicenotes: here

12. Practice sending attachments to your friends with different computer systems. Verify that all spaces, diacritics and indention survive email transmission. .

13. Begin collecting items (graphics, phrasing, quotes) for your own indexing business website.

14. Lurk on all the indexing lists you can find.

15. Begin a list of non-profit organizations who might need an index of back issues of their journal, of their meeting records, of their clipping file, of <insert other things you discover that they would appreciate having indexed>

16. For the practical details, get "Running an Indexing Business", ASI's publication, edited by Janet Perlman, includes a chapter on "Managing your Moonlighting Business", as well as Pilar Wyman's overview of "The Business of Being in Business". It's available from Information Today, Inc.

17. Life will be easier later on if you take a good course with lots of homework now, if you prepare yourself well, if you use the professional software WELL, if you avoid getting into bad habits, if you give yourself time to do a good job and to develop a business (it won't happen overnight), and if you find yourself a good network of co-indexers. One of the best ways to do the latter is to volunteer in your regional chapter, either on a committee or on the Board.

the archives for this list are there for all to see (1500+)

A list where indexers volunteer to review for each other (offlist) prior to submitting their indexes to the publisher -

Contact for the Macrex discussion list

and (for off-topic chit-chat) (for off-topic chit-chat that doesn't worry about taste or decorum)

These and others are also mentioned at

You can see even more by going to and asking to see all lists having to do with "index" - many of the ASI SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and regional lists are shown there.

The Pacific NorthWest Chapter website is useful too:
Besides being informative, there is a regional listserv there too. There are also Florida, Maine, Heartland, and Golden Gate chapters with websites and possibly regional listservs too.

The New England Chapter of the American Society of Indexers website is very useful:


The ASI website at

This site gives a WEALTH of indexing information and other resources to follow up. Membership in ASI is $120 a year (less for students, I think), but visiting most of the web page is free. You might also visit some chapter websites from the ASI site - there is often a lot of very good information there -

ASI Annual Meeting - ASI holds a big (300-400 indexers) annual meeting with many useful workshops somewhere in the country every year, and each regional chapter holds at least one annual and sometimes monthly social gatherings or workshops or peer-reviews of varying formality and cost each year.

And then there are also an American periodical, KeyWords, and a British journal, The Indexer.

Chapters of ASI

There are also SIGs (Special Interest Groups) to join. Each of these offers different benefits to their members, from a regularly updated list to whom referrals can be made, to snailmailed directories to publishers, to e-discussion lists. To join these, go to the ASI website and follow the links for SIGs:


It is said that Successful Indexers -

Have good pattern recognition skills
Read carefully and quickly
Are good "listeners" who can hear what the author intends to say
Have good concentration skills
Are self-motivated
Have common sense and perseverance
Are imaginative enough to identify what other readers will want to find
Are general information addicts
Enjoy working crossword puzzles (optional)
Enjoy thinking of one word synonyms (not optional)
Dislike marketing their skills, but do it anyway
Can type quickly and accurately
Have good spelling, grammar and synonym skills
Are self-motivated and work well alone
Are computer-literate, email-literate
Are detail-oriented, and can make accurate use of indexing conventions
Are confident enough to make decisions and defend them
Are respectful of deadlines
Are good at networking
Have good language synthesis and/or writing skills
Are self-motivated and disciplined
Read mystery books (optional)
Do detailed needlework (optional)
Alphabetize things (records, CDs, books, spices)
Are self-motivated and like their own company
Have a tendency toward neatness
Like to organize things by category (contents of drawers, refrigerators, cupboards, closets, bookcases, spices, life)

In addition: Subject expertise is helpful. Indexing coursework with a LOT of feedback is helpful, and Peer Reviews are VERY helpful

And there is more:
Do you know enough to ask about "Luxembourg"?  There are several different Luxembourgs.
     The country, Duchy of Luxembourg.
     The city, the capital of the Duchyof Luxembourg.
     The province of Wallonia, Belgium.
     The battle of Bastogne was in the province of Luxembourg, inside Belgium.

** It helps to be well-rounded enough to know that this type of word is really a question that needs attention.

A 2000 survey of ASI members shows that 12% hold doctorates, 50% have earned Masters Degrees, 14% have some postgraduate study, and 20% have a Bachelor's degree. Only 29% hold library degrees. 90% are freelance, back of the book indexers, and 60% of those work part-time. But if you don't have a degree, don't let that limit you. A degree means you have had the time/$ to make yourself noticed to a certain part of the world; the lack thereof does NOT mean you can't do the work. There is a newer survey that is available to members of ASI.





Indexing Books by Nancy Mulvany (the HOW of indexing, get the 2nd edition)

Chicago Manual of Style (latest Edition)

Inside Indexing by Sherry Smith and Kari Kells, the behind the scenes "WHY" of indexing. A unique and right-on book dealing with the interior decisionmaking in indexing is Inside Indexing by Sherry Smith and Kari Kells. Highly recommended. A book to help develop one's thinking as an indexer.

An excellent book on indexing is Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing by Do Mi Stauber, based on 9 years of her one-day course by the same name. In-depth How-To. A reference book.

Seth Maislin's online course for writing indexes for books and websites

Nancy Mulvany, author of Indexing Books (get the SECOND EDITION)

Glenda Browne, Indexer, Writer, Teacher, and Author of The Indexing Companion Workbook: Book Indexing  and

Pat Booth's Indexing: the Manual of Good Practice (Saur, 2001)

Indexing Specialties: History - occasional papers (Information Today, pub.)

Handbook of Indexing Techniques by Linda Fetters (the HOW of indexing)

Indexing from A to Z by Wellisch (the HOW of indexing in useful encyclopedia format)

Indexing, the Art of by Knight (a pre-computer collector's item now)

The ASI/ITI publication, Genealogy and Indexing, ed. by Kathleen Spaltro. See description at

Indexing Newspapers, Magazines, and other Periodicals
by Geraldine Beare - occasional papers (Society of Indexers, England)

Anything written by Hazel Bell, especially on genealogy, names, etc

Society of Indexers occasional papers on indexing biographies, genealogies, fiction, etc. published by Information Today.

Indexing: the Manual of Good Practice by Pat Booth (British conventions)
Indexing for Editors and Editing Records for Publication by Hunnisett (British conventions)

Articles (not exhaustive)

(With thanks to Kari Kells)
• Coates, Sylvia "Term Selection: Putting Humpty Dumpty Together, At Last" Key Words v.9 n.5 (Sept/Oct 2001) p.145-147.

• Cohen, Barbara E. "A Less Than Useful Index" Key Words v.6 n.5 p.15-18. This article takes apart an index and talks about why the structure & the access points chosen are NOT useful. Exploring why some entries aren't well phrased is a great learning tactic partly because it builds your confidence in your own abilities to do better than whatever awful index that's in front of you.

• Fetters, Linda K.. Handbook of Indexing Techniques, FimCo Books, 1999. ISBN 0-929599-04-7. Chapter 3, "Writing the Index," is especially useful.

• Lancaster, F. W. Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice, University of Illinois, 1991. ISBN 0-87845-083-1. Section "Factors affecting the quality of indexing" (pages 79-85)

• Langridge, D. W. Subject Analysis: Principles and Procedures, Bowker-Saur, 1989. ISBN 0-408-03031-3. (Because this book is written for librarians and folks working in knowledge management in general, its perspective is a blend of theory and practice. It is a wonderful work if you enjoy reading more about the applied theory of subject/content analysis!)

• Weinberg, Bella Hass "Exhaustivity of Indexes: Books, Journals, and Electronic Full Text" Key Words v.7 n.5 p.1+. This scholarly article is jam-packed with Weinberg's brilliant ideas.

• Wellisch, Hans H. "Aboutness and Selection of Topics" Key Words v.4 n.2 p.7-9. (This is perhaps the most useful article on this topic.)

AACR2 and the British, Canadian & American Indexing Standards
NCA Names Rules at

and others...but don't stock up on general reference books until you need them specifically.

Indexing/Indexer Blogs (just a few of many)


Regarding courses: ANY course can give you the basics, but indexing takes a certain kind of thinking and organization too. While one can read about it and think one understands how to structure an index well, it is only a talent for that kind of thinking AND PRACTICE that will give you a strong enough foundation to go out there into the cold world as a professional.

The USDA Course. The Graduate School, USDA self study course is one way indexers get training in the US. The courses were developed and are taught by professional indexers, and allow students to progress at their own speed (or slower, but seldom faster), working at home. Tuition: (includes all materials)

Graduate School, USDA email

or look here for the specific indexing courses offered

about $400.00—Basic Indexing (beginning, takes 6-12 months)
about $400.00—Applied Indexing (advanced, takes 6-12 months)

Berkeley Distance Learning Course
Sylvia Coates teaches an on-line basic indexing course through UC Berkeley. Also offered by Jan Wright. This three-unit credit course features:
1. Email delivery and return of assignments.
2. Students are expected to complete course in 6 months or less.
3. Indexing exercises and assignments will be completed using course provided indexing software versions of Cindex, Macrex, and SKY. The provided software will not include full versions of these software programs but will be sufficient to complete all exercises and indexing assignments.
4. Course is designed using a hands-on approach to both BOB (back of the book) and embedded indexing techniques using indexing software.
Sylvia Coates has also written the article: Five Fatal Myths of Indexing and on the same site are other useful articles, especially Heather Hall's Ten Common Mistakes of Indexing.

• There may also be courses with plenty of homework* offered at local colleges, by experienced indexers in your area, and brush-ups or courses focussing on one in depth aspect of indexing at regional and national indexing meetings and conferences (classes by Kari Kells, Sherry Smith and Do Mi Stauber are a few to watch for). If you can, take a local, in-person course with a lot of homework, feedback, discussion and time to learn all the myriad details of indexing.

Then in your preparation, include the of writing three/four practice indexes where you compare your work to an already-indexed book's index. Keep on doing practice indexes, getting strongly peer reviewed (by other indexers, not just friends who do copyediting) as you market yourself. (I discuss this more in the Process Page of these six Novice Notes webpages). Peer Reviewed practice MATTERS.

• The ASI website includes award winning indexes that also break some obvious rules, though for good reasons.

• Another good resource is Fred Brown's article at .

• Take a look at Dawn's site - many useful articles on indexing: or try

• The British "distance learning" course is offered in modules for which you pay as you go, but they teach the British conventions (e.g., don't capitalize all the words in the title, place punctuation outside all quotes, etc.), not the American ones. ASI is also offering (controversial certification [e.g., what does certification really mean? are you certified as having completed a course? or certified as a professional indexer?]), an American version of this course, on their website at and

• For website indexing, take a look at these links:
For online course in webindexing, and - and see the HTML Indexer site too with its reasons to create a website index. Dan Connolly also runs the IndexStudents list at and Here is a wonderful collection of articles, many about indexing, many by Hazel Bell: .

• More and more current courses are mentioned on the ASI website.

• A long list of useful web sites created by indexers can be found at:

This is not the complete list of all course possibilities. Library schools, some corporations, some publishers and other indexers also offer local courses, and regional and national meetings of ASI offer very useful workshops.

What you want to look for in a course should be: a LOT of practice indexes with heavy feedback and as much discussion with others as possible. The Pacific Northwest offers Peer Review gatherings in different cities, attended by indexers ("peers") in those cities. You actually can start your own Peer Review gatherings if there are any other indexers near enough to meet once a month or so. And you can do peer reviews by email on IndexPeers (at or with other indexers who agree to do it with you.

* NOTE: I was a very good student in college but was still quite surprised at how much practice it took me to "recognize" the instances where I should apply an indexing rule, and especially instances where I would have to decide *which* rule to apply. One needs to learn to think in the sense of "what the next reader will want to find" -- instead of in terms of "taking notes" or "recognizing nouns." Much more organizing of details is necessary in indexing than one finds in everyday life.

Mentored practice (="homework") is the key to getting this experience.


The Graduate School (formerly of the USDA) is proud to announce the addition of Scott Smiley to its faculty. Scott graduated from the Graduate School's Basic Indexing course 10 years ago and is one of the best students I've had the pleasure of working with. He is a freelance indexer, a geographer, and a researcher in the poetics of place. Scott holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Geography, a B.S. in Business Administration and has published a handful of writings. He's been Treasurer of the Pacific Northwest chapter of ASI for 4 years and has been co-coordinator of the Portland Peer Review group for 5 years. If you would like to find out more about Scott, visit his website at

Highlights of the Basic Indexing course:
• 4 index-writing exercises (providing progressively more complex indexing situations).
• Your instructor, a professional indexer, reviews each of your lessons, provides feedback, and guides you through writing these indexes.
• 11 lessons that focus on information provided in Nancy Mulvany's 2nd ed of Indexing Books and the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
• Practice editing someone else's index - not only will this teach you a lot about your own editing process, you will more easily understand your clients situation when they review indexes that you submit.
• Recently revised and new content about technology and indexing (including detailed information about dedicated indexing software, embedded indexing, and online indexing)
• Some lessons include additional readings written by industry leaders.
• Certificate upon completion.

We also offer a course in Applied Indexing:
• Originally designed by Shirley Manley.
• Updated by L. Pilar Wyman in concert with experts in instructional design for distance learning courses.

For More Information:
If you would like to see an expanded table-of-contents for the courses, or if you have any questions, you are invited to talk with any of the indexing instructors - myself, Elspeth Pope, Beth Palmer, or Scott Smiley - or with Graduate School staff: Graduate School Self-Paced Training Program staff, or 303-236-8500.

Kari Kells / I n d e x W e s t
P.O. Box 615, Olympia, WA 98507



At least one useful copyeditors' list (heavy traffic - maybe 85-125 messages a day - worthwhile and very, very funny, but plan to use a filter and your delete key often), exists. To join, send a message to:    LISTSERV@LISTSERV.INDIANA.EDU and say:
(There are also other lists for editing that you could join...these are useful because as you index you may discover copyediting errors that proofreaders miss and that your editor may ask you to point out in a "query sheet" when you submit your index - although as the indexer you are NOT intended to copyedit the book).


Take a look at the web pages for the three main indexing software programs. For basic info and downloadable demos for these three main programs, go to:

For Cindex:

For Sky:

For Macrex: or contact
The name Macrex does not refer to it being available for Mac computers. Macrex stands for "macro index" and is PC native. Only Cindex has a Mac-native program that does not need a conversion program to work on a Mac.

Note: All these software programs have users who consistently report excellent email and phone support for the software. The ASI publication, Software for Indexing, offers an excellent comparison of the features of all the major programs.  See for details and order links to ITI.

To decide which program to use, I suggest you try out the programs themselves with the free, downloadable test versions and decide which seems more intuitive FOR YOU.  You can also find reviews on the web, such as this one for evaluating the Cindex vs Sky software programs :  Martin Tulic's site talks to you about the benefits of the professional indexing software programs, and emphasizes that you can download small trial versions of each software to see what it looks like and how YOU respond to it.  I've seen also seen good articles about software comparisons published in the STC Indexing SIG newsletter - available at and in ASI's KeyWords.

ANY other so-called indexing software will not have the features of these three, specifically the "grouping" functions which gather onto one screen all references in the index to the root characters you ask for, which then allows you to compare the appropriate page references to see that all the information on that topic is accessible from one main entry (See the Process page for more info on this. Remember, the indexer does the gathering for the reader so the reader doesn't have to read the whole index to find all mentions of the topic.

plus an auxiliary site that supports Cindex:

plus a very useful html website indexing program for PCs only:

plus instructions for How to Index in WORD (but only if you really, really have to - the process is not pretty and the benefits of the other, real indexing programs are not available to you in Word)


There are many kinds of indexing - recordings, software and other manuals, embedded indexing (using Quark, Framemaker, Word), multimedia, thesaurus building, government documents, textbooks, abstracting, and online help (etc). The more technical kinds of indexing (science, physics, medicine, legal) can command more $ per indexable page than ordinary stuff, but they very well may be more difficult too. Software manuals can command rush fees since they need a Very Quick Turnaround.

Abstracting - NFAIS serves those groups that aggregate, organize, and facilitate access to information. Learn more at

After-Market indexing (also called Stand-Alone) - the indexer chooses to index a book on speculation and sell the index separately. Think Sarah Palin's unindexed book, think the Harry Potter series, think your favorite unindexed books...  See also Genealogical indexes below.

Archival Indexing – See for a table of the descriptive information that is used to create a record for an ArchiveRecord in a SiteSearch database. See also Introduction to Archival Organization and Description or, Data Standards and Guidelines

Art Indexing - Categories for the Description of Works of Art is a product of the Art Information Task Force (AITF), which encouraged dialog between art historians, art information professionals, and information providers so that together they could develop guidelines for describing works of art, architecture, groups of objects, and visual and textual surrogates. See complete article here

Back of the book indexing - A back-of-the book (BOTB) index is not easy to define. However, we recognize a BOTB index when we see it. We know how to use it. We know the frustration that comes with a poorly written one, or none at all. Further, we all agree on the purpose of an index, which is easier to define. Its purpose is to enable readers of a book (or other item that is indexed) to locate information as quickly as possible. See the complete article, What is Indexing?, by Dawn Spencer at Suite 101.


Biographies - A most significant difference between indexing biographies and indexing other texts is that, in biographies, the metatopic is a person. With every text there are difficulties to be overcome and important decisions to be made about how to index the main subject (or subjects) the book… Bell is placing her subject in context, and distinguishing between indexes to narratives and indexes to “documentary texts”, between indexing in the humanities (especially history and literature) and indexing technical publications, between indexing emotions and indexing facts. – Alan Walker, Review of Hazel Bell’s book, Indexing biographies and other stories of human lives. See complete review at

Business Indexing – Subjects including but not limited to accounting, marketing, management, supervision, business law, finance, banking, or investing See

Catalogs - similar to back of the book indexes but simpler. Some catalog clients want very detailed indexes and want multiple access points. They see the index as a tool for selling their products. With up to a dozen products on a page, the number of entries per page can be very high. That said, this work is clearly not as challenging or interesting as scholarly indexing, but it pays the bills. In addition, catalogs are updated on a regular basis – at least every year but generally more often – resulting in regular repeat business.

CD-ROM materials. They normally use track information as the locator but work like normal indexes, although when they are included on the CD, hot links can move the searcher to the area of the disk in question.

Cookbook Indexing – The indexing of cookbooks must be performed at a high level of EXHAUSTIVITY and SPECIFICITY, because people will look under all possible (and some impossible) entry words in order to find a recipe or picture of a dish they may have seen a long time ago but remember only vaguely. For example, "Aunt Nellie's shrimp aspic mold with apple-potato-walnut salad" may need entries under apples, aspic, potatoes, shrimp, and walnuts, and perhaps also under seafood and molds, but Aunt Nellie may safely be omitted, since nobody but the author will know who she is or was. – Hans Wellisch, Indexing from A to Z. See

Computer and Technical Manuals

Corporate Document
s such as histories, books, minutes, manuals Depositions

Databases, public – The following information items are reported for each public database: title; agency/owner; abstract; update frequency; legal constraints; forms of digital copies; copy media and costs; report cost; custom service costs; list of data modules; annotated list of fields. See also Thesauri/Database Indexing   also

Database indexing involves a fairly strict vocabulary and the material are added to the index using this vocabulary. Medline is an example of a database index which takes articles and fits them into the plan so searching is easier. The actual page by page content of the articles are not indexed, but the existence of the article and its location information is captured.

eBook Indexing – An eBook Index is an alphabetical list of topics covered in the eBook, just like the index at the back of a printed book. Unlike a printed index, however, the eBook index has no page numbers; instead, the topics act as hyperlinks which take the user directly to the topic they wish to consult.

Embedded Indexing – Embedded indexes are now supported for publications created in Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, LaTeX and DocBook (SGML/XML)


Fiction Indexes - See the Index-L archives and ASI website for more on this.

Genealogical indexes - cover church records, cemeteries, old newspapers, etc. These are sometimes compiled on spec, and sold by the indexer to genealogists.

Government Documents

Graphics Indexing – Image Retrieval, see

Humanities Indexing

– See web indexing

Image/Photograph indexing - Raw image indexing involves the creation of a hierarchy of information (i.e., medium; dates; inside/outside; black and white/color; subject matter [people, transportation, animals etc] and then those broken down into number of people or type of transportation etc) that will be applied to the images and then sticking to it to create an index/database of the images. Most of this work is done using established formats and it's used by any image library or image archive. There are even indexes being created for fine art.

Intranet indexes - so that searchers can find corporate documents and people or projects of interest. These include indexes of annotated bookmarks to the Internet to aid research.

Journals -The principles are the same, the format of the subheads and locators may/will differ.

Legal Indexing - Legal documents, such as contracts, legal briefs for attorneys

Legislative Indexing


Medical Indexing

Meta-indexes which cover the materials in collections and multiple volumes of works.

Municipal and legal codes

Name Indexes

Newspapers – A newspaper index, because of its extreme usefulness, must be made to fit the time, the place and the occasion. It must be made to suit the needs of its creators and it must meet the demands of every type of user. . . . To be accurate and comprehensive, and, more important, to be objective in a scientific sense, the newspaper index should not interpret news and opinion according to the beliefs of its creators – it must reflect only what actually exists. See

Other -   and   and

OnLine HELP – Indexes work together with hypertext links, full-text searching, natural language searching and metadata (e.g. the Keywords Meta tag in HTML) to provide a range of search options. For example, a user may begin by using the index to quickly find key information. Using words from the results of this initial search, the user may then do a full-text search to find other discussions. And hypertext links lead to related examples. – Fred Brown, Allegro Technical Indexing

Periodical Indexing – Dealing with general article topics with complex locators and cumulative annual indexes and thesaurus development. The principles are the same, the format of the subheads and locators may/will differ.

Reference books
Regulatory Inspector test taker indexes (ie, food handler inspectors, building code inspectors, etc)

Scripture Indexing – There are methods and orders of grouping Scripture references of various religious traditions. One main manual is the Sheffield Manual for Authors and Editors in Biblical Studies by Clines. A few concordance web sites: StudyLight, The Bible Gateway,, Online Study Bible...

Scholarly books
Self-Help Manuals

Technical Books – The STC (Society for Technical Communication) has an indexing special interest group designed to enhance members' analytical skills, promote quality and usability concepts, encourage retrievability techniques that increase customer satisfaction, and promote communication between STC members and the indexing community.


Thesauri/Database Indexing – For indexers and searchers, it is an information storage and retrieval tool: a listing of words and phrases authorized for use in an indexing system, together with relationships, variants and synonyms, and aids to navigation through the thesaurus. – Jessica A. Milstead. See, or

Trade books

Web indexing – using software to embed index links for complex web sites; See

Whitepapers for associations

-A business niche you could start on your own and in your own state could be writing indexes for timed, open-book exams for government certification, such as agriculture, electrical, permit, and food service, beauty shop, and public safety inspectors. You would need to understand what the tests involve, read and index the government sections for the specific audience of Those Taking the Exam. You would have to keep up on the legal changes, and market your indexes to test-takers through industry publications. The key point is that you KEEP UP with the changes, thereby making pirating/theft of your work soon worthless.


Check out other indexer's web pages for more info:

Crediting the Indexer - article by Dan Connolly
Lev Tech (humor and articles)
Very useful articles at Dawn Spencer's site -
Also and and

A comprehensive site about indexing books and related matter, including information about the owner, samples of his work, tutorials about indexing and links to other indexers by name, company, specialty, place.
Wright Indexing
Web indexing
Word for Word
Sherry Smith Indexing
Back Words Indexing
Deon Dempsey's novice page

And the whole collection of indexing societies' websites (the China Indexing Association does not have a website yet):

The American Society of Indexers at   and  ASI Chapter and SIG sites
The British Society is
Australia is
Canada is
South Africa is



A survey from mid-2000 indicates that the average income for all indexers ranges from $25,000-$29,000 US. For in-house, salaried indexers, it is $45,000-$49,900 US. Those with Doctorates often specialize but the presence of Doctorates does not seem to be the main factor which affects income levels (although living in the Northeast U.S. may be). The average hourly rate for freelancers was about $30-$40 US.

Another unofficial survey suggests it takes and average of 1-9 months to get your first paid indexing job, and 2-9 months to get a second index. Average means that for some new indexers, it took 18 months! Real life reports also indicate it could take only three months. The same survey reveals that those who marketed a lot and made cold calls were more successful, faster.

Freelance income is dependent upon the number of books contracted, hours worked per week, YOUR efficiency, and experience levels.
It takes marketing (=it's a numbers game), experience (=speed, accuracy, efficiency), repeat business (= quality work), and time (=3-5 years or more) to build up to the better income levels . This is honest, skilled work, not a scheme to get rich quick.

Consider your own personality

In relation to the details of indexing, what would your ideal work-day look like:

• Is it solitude - or is it loneliness?
• Do you like to work without much guidance?
• Would it frustrate you that the reader and your publisher are eternally invisible?
• What about the repetition (doublepostings and cross-references).
• Can you remember to avoid the sin of "scattered information." (i.e., will the reader find ALL instances of a discussion about XX in one full entry plus its cross-references and doubleposts - or have you scattered the discussion throughout the index just like the book does - in which case, why shouldn't the reader just read the book instead of the *@!&#!* index).
• Can you tolerate the minutiae of editing your index?
• Do you like to reword complex ideas into concise index entries?
• Can you cope with the concentration and human memory requirements?
• Will the agony of deciding on the exactly right word or phrase with the proper keyword - over and over again - wear you down, or satisfy your obsessions?
• Can you happily balance the user-friendly aspects of the index against the deadline and space limitation an editor may place on you.
• The indexing programs will help with mundane things like spelling, alphabetizing, and comparing entries, but not with the decision-making, structure, and organization - is your memory adequate to the task?
• Do you prefer to work 8-5, or do you like a flexible schedule?
• Do you like mid-day naps or taking your elderly aunt out to a two-hour lunch?
• Is life easier when you can bake a cake and do the laundry while working?
• Do office politics drive you nuts or is it fun?
• Can your budget tolerate an irregular income? Can you take vacations when the opportunity arises, or do you like to plan ahead?
• When you can't sleep at night, do you like to be productive or do you prefer to watch TV?

Will this work drive you batty-bonkers sooner rather than later - or do you often dream of putting everything in its proper slot in a big roll-top desk? As Do Mi Stauber has said on Index-L - "Are you confused-frustrated or confused-excited? The difference matters."


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