December 29, 2005 spout writing

Dirty Publishing Secret: Indexes Suck

I hate to say it, but indexes are the one place where I skimp when writing a book. I go round and round on sentence structure, figures, story, flow, coverages, what to cover, what to leave out, section headings and all of the other minutia that goes with writing a book, but I never bother with the index.

The index is one of those things where, as an author, you can write the index yourself, complete with page numbers (added manually) or your can let the publisher outsource it (although be careful when signing the contract — some publishers will charge the author the outsourcing fee!). So, for no work, I can get something that’s OK, but generates some complaints (maybe 1 out of 20 is about the index) and let Safari, Amazon and Google be the full-text search equivalent (even good indexes suck compared to that) or I can do a *ton* of work to reduce the number of complaints to 1 out of 30 (this is just a guess but it nicely justifies not doing the work, don’t you think? : ). As it turns out, the publisher will let you proof an index, but I have yet to figure out how to do that.

Anyway, that’s why most indexes suck. Sorry. I think you should read my books cover-to-cover, memorizing as you go, eliminating the need for an index anyway. : )