Do indexers read the entire book?

Spoiler alert: Indexers do read the whole book as part of the indexing process.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am frequently asked, “Do you really read the whole book?” Yes, I do read the entire book at least once—sometimes, a second, or even a third time.

To ensure the right information is included in the index, I ask, “What is the author saying here?” Pages of text need to be consolidated into one or two words in the index. My job is to extract meaning from the text and position it properly in the index so the reader can easily dip in and out of the book at will.

And I must do this concisely. The index has a small footprint—only 3-5% of the entire book—but it contains all the major concepts, names, places, and ideas detailed by the author.

Depending on the complexity of the book, I’ll make a first pass of the book to set up the structure of the index, followed by a second pass to pick up all the important names, and sometimes complete a third pass to fill in the gaps in the structure.

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