Does your non-fiction book need an index?

Does your non-fiction book need an index?

December 14, 2021

I’m sitting here proofreading my manuscript for the umpteenth time and overwhelmed with gratitude for the amount of thinking and work that professional indexers put in to their specialty.

I love a great index. Why? They add to the usability of a book. I especially enjoy returning to a book long after I’ve read it, and being able to use the index to navigate quickly to points of interest. A good index means the reader doesn’t need to plough through the whole book hoping to find a particular reference and it also groups concepts together so if you’re interested in a certain area of information, such as (in the case of my upcoming non-fiction title Look – It’s Your Book!) book covers, book distribution or book marketing, you can quickly find and navigate to all relevant mentions.

Not all non-fiction books require indexes (especially short books and books on simple topics), but if your book is of any length or is a reference book and you are trying to serve your reader, an index is an important addition.

I include a chapter on indexing in Look – It’s Your Book! which runs through how you can DIY your index, but it was with a huge sigh of relief I outsourced the indexing for this book to professional indexer Sherrey Quinn. I found Sherrey through The Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers (ANZSI). Though I did the indexing for Small Farm Success Australia myself, this book for Australian writers and self-publishers at over 90,000 words really needed a professional.

Anyway, I just want to raise a virtual toast to all the professional indexers out there. Thank you for your contribution to the enjoyment and usefulness of books! And for all the non-fiction authors, please think seriously about how an index might add value to your readers.