You’ve finally finished writing your book, but before publishing it, you have to put together an index. An excellent book index will add value to your book, making it more useful for potential readers.

What’s more, there’s no doubt that as a constitutive part of any successful book, the index has the power to boost your sales. However, we all know how complicated and time-consuming creating an index can be.

Once you decide to index your book, many questions will come to mind. Which approach should you choose? What should you index, and what should you leave out? For complex works, the best thing you can do is to hire a professional indexer.

However, if you’ve decided to do it on your own, we have prepared some tips which will make your job a whole lot easier.

Keep scrolling and see what you should know before you start compiling your index.

Hopefully, this short guide will help you create an index that will be useful for your readers. In case you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be glad to help you out!

Here are ten useful tips to help you successfully index your book:

1. Get Into Your Readers’ Minds

Every successful index is concise, clear, and audience-appropriate. You are creating an index for your readers, not yourself! So, your index must be user-friendly.

What will your readers be searching for in your index? It’s crucial to identify all the potential search terms, which leads us to our second tip.

2. Do Some Research

It’s essential to check out the indexes of books that are similar to yours. As a reader, you should analyze all of the pros and cons of these indexes. It’s a good idea to use these similar indexes as templates for your own index.

3. Some Things Mustn’t Be Omitted

First of all, identify and prioritize topics of significance. Select 10-20 different subjects treated in your book and then see if your index words are related to these subjects. If they are not, feel free to leave them out from your index.

You should also include synonyms for specific topics and popular alternative terms. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mention them directly in your text; just keep in mind how a reader might be using your index.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to include every synonym for every word. Just remember to include the terms your reader is most likely to look for. It can be useful to include entries for some general concepts too. Even though these terms don’t appear in the text, they could still be helpful to your reader.

4. Some Things Must Be Omitted

When creating an index for your book, bear in mind that you can’t include everything. For instance, there’s no need to add words that only appear once, terms that are not relevant to your main topic, or phrases your readers are unlikely to be looking for.

By default, there are some elements of your book that shouldn’t find their place in your index. These are the following ones:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Dedications
  • Bibliographies
  • Epigraphs
  • Table of Contents

Long story short, avoid everything that will make your index seem long and overwhelming. And that leads us to the next critical rule: Pay attention to the size of your index.

5. Pay Attention to the Length of your Book Index

The ultimate piece of advice we can give you: Keep your index short and simple!

Long indexes can sometimes be confusing for readers, so it’s best to avoid them. According to some sources, your index should be 4 to 6% of the total number of pages of your text.

So, first, you should create an initial index that includes all the entries you think should be there. Then, if your index is too long, go through it again and remove any unnecessary or redundant terms.

6. Use Headings and Subheadings

Make sure to use headings and subheadings in your index. The index must be organized and well arranged to make it easier for your reader to use. The structure must be clear, so the index is pleasing to the eye and user-friendly.

7. Include Cross-References in your Book Index

“See” and “see also” cross-references are an excellent way of helping your readers find the information they’ve been looking for.

A “see” cross-reference means that the information your reader is looking for can be found somewhere else in the index.

A “see also” cross-reference points out where the reader can find additional information. That’s what helps your readers find easily and quickly all the relevant material.

8. Don’t Write all the Page Numbers

Make sure to write only the most essential page numbers. It’s confusing to see an entry followed by a long line of page numbers. To avoid this, use page ranges instead of individual numbers when applicable. Above all, don’t forget to list pages in numerical order.

9. Provide a Consistent Level of Book Indexing

The index must be balanced. If you run out of steam halfway through, your index will not be consistent.

When this happens, your index might consist mostly of entries from the first half of your book. So, make sure to index all parts of your book equally.

10. Check Grammar and Spelling

Making sure your index uses proper grammar and spelling is essential. There’s nothing more concerning to a reader than finding a spelling mistake in your index.

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