Indexing

Indexing

You just wrote a book!

All those years of research, writing, brainstorming, pitching, re-writing, losing sleep, and re-writing some more have finally paid off and here you sit with a publishing contract in hand and a killer book to contribute to the world. Congratulations! This is the book that can shake up your field, that can put you in conversation with internationally-acclaimed authors, that can get you tenure. It’s real, finally.

Your publisher tells you when your page proofs will arrive (yay!) and then promptly asks who is doing your index.

A professional indexer can help

You need a great index that

Orients your reader to the stellar arguments your book makes

Connects your work to that of other authors

Helps your reader navigate your book so that they can cite and build on it in their own work

Josie Saldaña-Portillo headshot
Josie Saldaña-Portillo

Ideas on Fire’s indexing exceeded my expectations. I was thoroughly impressed with their understanding of the concepts that I was working with, and they even realized some more concepts that I didn’t know that I was working with. Ideas on Fire is meticulous in their work because of their genuine passion for the material at hand. They approaches the index as the potential audience for the book. Fantastic!

—María Josefina (Josie) Saldaña-Portillo, author of Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States

Dean Spade photo
Dean Spade

I had never had to index a book before, and didn’t know what the process was or what it really involved, so I was a bit unsure how it would go. I was very relieved when my colleague recommended Cathy and said she was great. It was so great to have an expert to do this and I appreciated how punctual, reliable, responsive and skilled Cathy was.

— Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

The Ideas on Fire Indexers

Each of our indexers has extensive experience editing and indexing interdisciplinary, social justice-oriented scholarship in cultural studies, gender studies, African American studies, transgender studies, queer theory, disability studies, communication, Latin American studies, social justice movements, area studies, dance, film/media, and performance. We know that interdisciplinary research comes with unique challenges and we hire the best editors and indexers to ensure your work shines.

Get to know our indexers:

Cathy Hannabach, Sarah Grey, and Emma Warnken Johnson

How we work together on your index

Fit 

You fill out this form telling us the details of your project. We evaluate your needs to see if working together would be a good fit, then check our client calendar to determine when we can best complete your project. You get paired with the Ideas on Fire indexer whose expertise best fits your project, and we then send you a price quote that reflects the specifics of your project.

Inquiry 

We have an initial consultation by email, phone, or Skype during which we go over the logistics. This is also when you tell us if there are specific concepts or entries you’d like us to focus on.

Indexing 

You send us the page proofs when you receive them from your publisher. We read through your book multiple times and write an index draft that highlights the unique contribution your book makes in your fields.

Delivery

25 days after you forward us the page proofs, we send you the index draft. You let us know if you’d like any changes, and 2 days after receiving your revision requests, we send you the final version. You send the index to your publisher and celebrate, confident that you have a kick-ass index that makes your book shine.

Jill Dolan
Jill Dolan

Ideas on Fire and Cathy constructed the index for three of my recent books (Wendy Wasserstein, Theatre and Sexuality, and The Feminist Spectator in Action), and I’d be delighted to hire them again. They’re prompt, efficient, effective, and very good at what she does. They did an excellent job working under a tight deadline. Their work is thorough and precise, and collaborating with them is a pleasure.

—Jill Dolan, author of The Feminist Spectator in Action: Feminist Criticism for Stage and Screen

Yolanda Covington-Ward headshot
Yolanda Covington-Ward

I was looking for a good indexer and I knew that Cathy is super intelligent, pays attention to detail, and is familiar with my research areas. Ideas on Fire even gave me some additional proofreading revisions to improve the manuscript. Ideas on Fire is thorough, efficient, and professional, and did an excellent job with my index.

— Yolanda Covington-Ward, author of Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo

Frequently Asked Questions

How far in advance should I hire an indexer?

The minute you know from your press what the tentative publishing schedule is, you should start looking around for an indexer. The Ideas on Fire indexers book client projects 1–3 months in advance, so we recommend you contact us early to get on our client calendar. It’s okay to not have specific dates yet: “My press tells me I should have page proofs around September/October” is fine.

What kind of books do you index?

Our areas of expertise are the interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences. We mostly index books in the fields of gender and sexuality studies, performance, art, film/media studies, disability studies, American studies, social justice activism, ethnic studies, legal studies and prison abolition, area studies, science and technology studies, and humanities and social-science approaches to medicine.

For example of our past client work, see the Portfolio page.

Shouldn’t I index my own book?

No, and there are several reasons for this:

1. While you may be the person who is most familiar with the topics your book covers as an author (after all, you’ve lived, breathed, slept, and bled these topics for many years), you aren’t your reader. Most publishers strongly recommend hiring a professional indexer for a reason: we do this for a living. As professional indexers, we approach your book as a reader, knowing which entries readers will be looking for. We craft an index that responds to their thought-processes. Indexers are for readers, not authors.

2. Indexes must comply with industry-wide standards that most non-indexers don’t know about. Professional indexers understand the industrial standards regarding index structure, run-in versus indented formatting, headings and subheadings, classification schemes, double posting, cross references, function words, reference locators, numbering schemas, alphabetizing rules (there are several formats), the correct use of en dashes, each individual press’s requirements, software, and what gets indexed and what doesn’t. We get training in this stuff so you don’t have to.

3. And finally, presses usually require you to produce an index in a 4-week period during which you also have to proofread your page proofs (yes, all 300 pages). Trying to do both at once is a nightmare. Let us help you out, and give you a kick-ass index that will help your book make an impact in the world.

Can’t I ask my grad student assistant/mom/best friend/colleague to index my book for free or cheap?

Unless your grad student assistant/mom/best friend/colleague is a professional indexer, they will not be able to produce an index that is as professional, comprehensive, and usable as someone who does this for a living (see the answer above for why). Producing a quality index takes training and experience that only comes from writing many of them and working with diverse presses and authors. A smart, well-meaning literary person will make a wonderful reader for your book but they will not be able to produce a top-notch index. Having them put together an index will take much longer, cause more hassle, and require much more editing than a professional one. In other words, you get what you pay for.

Isn’t there software that can index my book?

The software that comes with your word processing program produces a concordance, not an index. It can only track how often a term shows up in your book (so “and” would have thousands of entries). Indexing software, which is software built by and for professional indexers that helps format your final index, still needs a professional indexer to input all the entries and locators. Software isn’t human, and can’t differentiate between relevant and irrelevant concepts and terms. Further, it can’t cross-reference very well. For example, software doesn’t know to cross-reference Judith Butler and performativity. You need a human being familiar with your field to do this. As professional indexers with scholarly expertise in diverse fields (see above for a list), we know the scholarship you’re drawing on and the ideas you’re working with. We can craft a personalized index for your book that helps it shine, emphasizes your most significant contributions, demonstrates how you are in conversation with other authors, and gets your book noticed and cited.

Why are some indexes super short and thus less useful while others rock?

Indexes come in two main forms: names/titles indexes (which just contain the names of people your book cites, and some titles of texts you mention), and comprehensive indexes (which contain names, titles, and, most importantly, key concepts and topics that your book covers). Most of the time when publishers index books in-house, they offer a names/titles index only or one with only a few key concepts. Comprehensive indexes are the most useful ones—think about which you prefer as a reader. If you want to know how Gayle Salamon, author of Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality, conceptualizes transgender identity you should be able to go to the T’s and find a large, cross-referenced entry with sub-entries answering all your questions. (Cathy Hannabach is the indexer who wrote that index, so she assures you it’s there.)

Brook Duffy
Brooke Duffy

I’m so grateful that I chose Ideas on Fire; they are organized, have a keen eye for detail, and are well acquainted with the particularities of publishing an academic book. They created a comprehensive, consistent, and clearly organized index well ahead of schedule—and even caught errors the copyeditor overlooked!

— Brooke Duffy, author of Remake/Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age

Camille Robcis
Camille Robcis

Cathy was a dream to work with. She is smart, organized, responsible, and extremely detail-oriented. In preparing my index, she consulted with me regularly and she was patient and available. I was extremely pleased with the final result and I have recommended her to all my friends.

— Camille Robcis, author of The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France

With an Ideas on Fire index, you can:

Have more confidence in your book’s impact

Gain influence in your field

Reach and support your ideal readers