find your indexer

I wrote this page to help authors find indexers.

Though it's best to schedule an indexer at least a month or two ahead of the project, you should not lose hope if you already have the proofs and need to find an indexer right away. New Yorker Indexing Cartoon

Indexer Hunting Grounds

The American Society for Indexing offers a page Find an Indexer as well as an option to post your project to the ASI Jobs Hotline.

If I'm not free to take your job, I'll be glad to forward your request to your choice of online discussion groups (Index-L, Indexers' Discussion List, FREELANCE), to which indexers from all over the world subscribe. Prepare to be inundated with email from eager indexers!

These indexers gave me permission to link to them:

Check indexes in books in your field at Google Book Search and books. See how to peruse indexes at these websites by trying the links on B Roos Indexing—Book List. If you find an index that you could happily use, track down the editorial department of the publisher and request a connection to the indexer of that book.


What to Include in Your Query Letter

Write it like a professional letter, signing with your full name and affiliation. Don't count on your name to just "show up" in the email program. Don't assume that your voice will be recognized on the phone or that everyone has a phone that stores the caller's number. Avoid inappropriate informality. This is a business arrangement.

Identify clearly what the project is about and how you connect to it. Give the subject, single or multiple author, the number of indexable pages, the expected schedule for when proofs will arrive, and when the index delivery should be made.

Who is the publisher? Some indexers may have worked with the publisher before, so they will be familiar with press guidelines and possibly the managing editor.

Are the proofs going to be sent over the Internet (email or ftp) in pdf format? Will it be possible to conduct the entire process electronically, including delivery of the index and payment?

What material in the project do you want indexed--density of subject matter, illustrations, endnotes, footnotes, etc.?

Ask the indexer to submit a rate or range of rates. Send segments of the text if requested. Rates may be phrased by the indexable page, by the hour, or by the word.

How to Choose Your Indexer

To make your choice among those flying to your aid, inspect their indexes for qualities you want in your index. Ask them to send you a link to their website, a sample of an index they have done in your field, or a sample that'll give you a sense of their basic capacity to comprehend your book. Their indexes may be available for viewing inside books at Google Book Search and books, in the same way that my indexes can be studied through the links in B Roos Indexing—Book List.

If you're not certain how to evaluate an index, ASI's Index Evaluation Checklist may be a help.

Experience in indexing similar books is more important than academic background.

Don't automatically go for the cheapest rate, unless you don't care what kind of index you're getting. Bear in mind that costs per page may go up as the number of pages go up, increasing the complexity of indexing analysis.

Honor your gut feeling most of all, even if you can't identify the reason why you keep wanting to lean in the direction of a particular choice of indexer.

Care and Feeding of Your Indexer

from the publisher

The publisher may have a copy editor's style sheet and an indexing style sheet, which will help inform the indexer of the publisher's format and the treatment of grammar and specific terms. If the press doesn't supply style sheets, consistency is the only requirement for indexing decisions. Find out if the press has space limitations for the length of the index. When the proofs are ready, have the press send a pdf directly to the indexer, or if hard copy or CD are preferred, find out from the indexer.

from you (the author)

No need for lists of obvious subject matter to be indexed, but do provide the indexer with optional or idiosyncratic terminology that might not be noticed immediately by someone who's not a professional in your field.


Give the indexer time to read and actually digest the information in your book, if you want a thoughtful result. Arrange the timing for the index to be emailed to you so you can read through and make minor edits to the index and send it on to the press by the deadline. Don't send it back and forth to the indexer unless you're willing to pay for the indexer's editing time.


If you can't commit to paying immediately upon receipt of the index, bear in mind that 30 days is the limit to ask a freelancer to wait for payment. Do whatever you can to facilitate speed of payment if you think you might want that indexer to work for you again. It is not OK to force the indexer to wait while accounting procedures shuffle unapologetically through one university department after another. It is not OK to ask the indexer to spend time chasing down the check. If you think the process might be slow, have the indexer submit the bill as soon as the final number of pages is known, get it started through the system, and stay on top of it till it's paid.