Should an author index their own book?

And what else do authors need to know about indexing?

Frequently Asked Questions

You might think that an author is be the best person to index their book since they know it best.

But that knowledge doesn’t mean they’ll write a good index.

First, the author is so close to the book’s content that they might make assumptions and leave out information the reader might look for.

Second, they’re not trained on how to word headings and subheadings or how to make connections through cross-references and double posting.

But there are some books that can help get them started. The Chicago Manual of Style has a chapter on indexing that is 48 pages long and contains 145 principles of indexing. It’s the most concise piece out there on how to create an index. Another good place to start would be with Stephen Ullstrom’s book, a 234-page step-by-step guide through the indexing process.

You don’t want your index to detract from your book’s credibility. And if you write the index by yourself, it just might, despite your best intentions.

Now, let me turn this question around and ask, “Why would an author want to write their own index?”

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