Creating a Book Index: Part of Professional Manuscript Editing Services?

Is creating a book index something you can expect from book editors and professional manuscript editing services? Book editors and indexers are separate breeds of people. Their skill sets do not overlap. If you are a scholar or technical writer who has authored a complex book, you will need an index—and a professional indexer.

Well, how about self-indexing, you ask? Is that a job self-publishing authors can do for themselves? Usually my blog encourages authors, telling them the task at hand is not as hard as it may appear once they’ve got the skinny on how to do it. In the case of creating a book index, that principle does not hold.


Here’s the rub. A book index includes both a listing of important subjects (keywords) in the book and the pages on which they occur. You write your manuscript in Word, but it must be converted to a PDF with book formatting before you print it. Unless your computer has the Adobe feature that allows you to both create and edit a PDF (few authors do), you won’t be able to locate—let alone insert into your index—the page numbers where the keywords occur.

Why Word Won’t Work

Why can’t you just do the indexing in Word, and convert to a PDF afterwards? Because once you convert, all the page numbers are going to change, so the numbers in your earnestly compiled index would be all wrong. And don’t be tempted to just print the manuscript as a Word doc. It would look like a term paper on steroids.

Harder than It Looks

Not only that, but indexing is a painstaking process, even if you have the right software. See this article by an author who tried it:

The bottom line is: unless you have unlimited time and possess the Adobe application that allows you to edit a PDF, you’re going to have to hire a professional indexer to do the job. These people do have the proper software and the skills to identify your keywords and locate all the places where they appear in your text. Professional indexers usually charge $3 to $6 per page.

The Good News

The only good news here is that you may reconsider whether you really need an index. Unless your nonfiction book is quite long or very complex, you usually can dispense with this particular piece of back matter.

If you do need an index, get a professional indexer to create it. Professional manuscript editing services (book editors like me) don’t do indexing. But we can refer you to people who do.

professional manuscript editing services







Jessi Rita Hoffman … book editing by an industry professional