One point of occasional tension between book indexers and authors will be how to handle names in the index. Authors have a tendency to lean in the direction of every-mention-of-every-name, or at least “every-mention-of-names-that-are-important-to-me.” 🙂
Meanwhile, the indexer, looking at things also from the reader/index user’s standpoint, wants to index only the significant mentions of names that are important to the author’s story (think major quoted passages, folks who did influential things or served as major examples of the theme or argument).
Keep in mind that there are two considerations here: Including a name in the first place, and for included names, deciding how many and which mentions to include in the index.
I do sympathize with some of the author’s desire to be inclusive, particularly when it comes to the main movers and shakers in their field or in historical events. But please let’s not make the index user go to ten different places in the text to find out what John Smith wrote/said/did when he was just standing in the background or happened to be on a committee name list on five of those pages.
So much of indexing is about deciding. And it’s the fine semantic decisions we make that still distinguish us human indexers from search engine relevance algorithms.
I realize that sometimes name dropping for the sake of name dropping is due to a) the name being famous, or b) the name being one of your scholarly colleagues. Please remember that the indexer’s default mode will be to include significant mentions of the various actors in the story or treatise, and may include villager Tom Jones who was an integral influence in Welsh music development in the 16th century, while excluding Tom Jones the famous singer because he’s only mentioned in a list of Welsh singers in chapter 12.
If you are an author and want to have every mention of every name in your index, please let us know upfront and we will be happy to oblige. We may want to suggest a separate index for names, for example, and your request will likely affect the price quote on the project because of the increase in index entries per page.
Sometimes every mention of every name is what the project calls for, but just keep in mind that we indexers will be exercising our significance criterion unless you tell us different.
PI Pick of the Week
My favorite blogging editor, Sara Donaldson, who lives way up in the far reaches of Scotland, has a great article from a week ago about the importance of communication with clients in a freelance business like most indexers conduct. Customer service communication can impact both the time cost of getting the present job done and the power of referrals later on. Check it out here.