One of the fun things about indexing — yes, it’s a fun job! — is learning about subjects I wouldn’t otherwise. In my spare time, I’d rather read a young adult novel than a book about party politics or programming apps. But on the job, I do read about just about every subject imaginable (indexers are often asked if we have to read the book to do the job, and the short answer is, “Of course!” Read PI partner Joanne Sprott’s take on the long answer here). The great thing is, no matter how expert I think I am, or how many books I’ve indexed on a subject, I always learn something new.
Just the other week, I was indexing a very basic beginner’s guide to the MacBook Pro. Now, I’ve been using Apple computers since the IIe model that was in my elementary school computer lab, and my own computer is the third MacBook I’ve owned. But I still found myself learning new tricks — like the “split screen” function that came in handy on another project, where I needed to lock two different applications and toggle between them.
When hiring an indexer, you have the choice to go with a subject matter expert or a generalist. Either one has advantages — the expert will have less of a learning curve getting familiar with your material, and will easily recognize specialty terms and be able to distinguish important topics in the field. The generalist is flexible and adaptable, and will be able to approach the index with the non-expert reader in mind. Both types of indexer should be skilled at pulling together themes and threads running through the book, and both types should also be able to learn on the job. In fact, many generalists end up experts in many fields before long.
At PI, we have the advantage of being able to tap a deep and broad pool of indexers, in addition to the experience of our partners. So we can find you experts, generalists or the generalist-expert — whatever best suits your needs.
Indexers have good memories, and the ability to hold many small bits of information in their minds at once, like a skilled knitter who can work with many colors at once. That’s why indexers make great Trivial Pursuit partners!