How To Create a Useful Book Index as a Self-Published Author: Tips & Tricks
A book index adds value to a manuscript. Writers guide the reader through the main chapters’ flow of sentences and information. But the index makes a book more referential, focused, and useful.
For example, a book on the American West’s history can be an engaging journey through a hundred lives. However, without an index, it can be hard for the reader to reference the book and find what they need. If the table of contents is the roadmap to a book, the index reveals the shortcuts.
But how do you organize and write your book index as a self-published author?
What is a book index? What is its purpose?
A book index is an alphabetical list of a manuscript’s key concepts, words, and phrases. It is an essential part of your print book. People use indexes to reference important information. Indexes make books into referential and authoritative sources. Creating a book index is an important step while formatting your book.
Indexing Steps when Self-publishing
So you’ve finished your manuscript, reviewed it, and are ready to self-publish your book. Now, it is time to write your index. What is the best way to go about putting together an index? Here at the steps:
- Read the book
- Highlight key points
- Select formatting
- Make index entries
- Order your index entries
1. Read and Review Your Self-Published Book
Having a complete understanding of the manuscript is essential before starting your index. The process of dissecting your book to locate key points and ideas for your audience is the first step. For example, if you were writing about the Golden Age of Piracy, you may discover that mentioning the slave trade is essential to your index upon review.
2. Highlight Your Self-Published Book
Long nights of studying involve highlighting passages in books, articles, and journals. You will need to apply this technique as you review your self-published book. You must think like the reader or audience and look through your manuscript for points they might highlight. Find important places, people, dates, and concepts, and make them a part of your indexing list.
3. Formatting Your Self-Published Index
Self-published authors root Indexes in a consistent, specific structure and rules. These rules cover alphabetizing indentation structures and a conventional application of commas. But there’s not just one way to format an index. Before setting your formatting rules, ask yourself whether you want to apply in an indented format or a run-in format. The difference between an indented index and a run-index is that the form indents every subsequent subheading and a run-index keeps them inline.
Determine whether you want to use a word-by-word approach or alphabetize letter by letter. You need to plan out how you will abbreviate page ranges, how to integrate tables and figures, and how to format cross references. All this should take place before creating your index.
4. Make Book Index Entries
If this is your first book index, don’t try to make full index entries as you go. Instead, try to make notations on the important words and phrases as you work your way through a large chunk of the text. When finished, go back over the entries and put them into your main index file.
You could use index software to create your files like IndexManager, Cindex, Macrex, and SKY. But these are more geared towards professional editors. It’s better to format your entries using something more familiar, like Microsoft Word.
5. Order & Edit the Index Entries
Like most writing, the work begins during the editing process. As you edit your index, you will notice whether you have missed an entry that is important to the theme and message of your manuscript. At this stage, you can identify and clarify complicated index entries.
As a self-published author, you must proofread and spell check each entry. As you work, scrutinize your work, check your grammar and punctuation as you would any sentence. This stage is also your chance to make sure all formatting is consistent.
Writing a good and effective book index involves as much work as writing a chapter for a self-published writer. The writer must compile the key concepts, themes, and phrases and then form and organize them alphabetically. The formatting choices depend on the nature of the subject, but once you have a structure, consistency is essential.
Indexes add value to your manuscript by showing polish and professionalism that can set you apart from other writers in your field.
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