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Updated November 2011
All contents © 2011
by Lori Ann Curley

To hire DE to index your book, please click the contact button.
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What's an Index?
Indexing Articles
Indexes by DE

What is an index?
An index is
-A vital reference guide to your book
-What consumers want and need in products
-Something you don't want to write yourself.

Look in the back of a school textbook, and you probably will find an index.  Yes, people write these professionally because indexes are hard to write.  As Sue Weinlein Cook, editor for Malhavoc Press, wrote,
"I think my own recent experience might be typical of how the industry looks at indexing:  people think they can do it -- they sure don’t want to pay someone else do it -- until they try. Then either they discover (like I did) that it would have been well worth the money to have a pro do it, or they come up with a half-assed index they made using some dumb program, and they’re perfectly happy with it (but the [readers] tear it apart)."

From a Professional Indexer:
"The ocean flows of online information are all streaming together, and the access tools are becoming absolutely critical. If you don't index it, it doesn't exist. It's out there but you can't find it, so it might as well not be there."
-Barbara Quint, ASI San Diego Conference, 1994

For more information on indexes and indexing, see the American Society for Indexing website.

Can't a computer create an index?
That question already is answered quite well by the American Society for Indexing.

I'm interested in becoming an indexer;  how do I persue this?
That question also is answered by the American Society for Indexing.

Indexing Articles

What?  An Index?
What the Customer Wants: Indexing

What? An Index?
(Originally published in Games Quarterly Magazine #3, October 2004, then reprinted in The Lady Gamer, January 2005.)

Want to increase sales of your products? Want to garner better reviews of your products? Want to increase customer satisfaction of your products? Include a usable index.

The reviews on frequently say the same thing:

As always, an index would have been nice, but there isn't one. A book without an index is almost a crime against nature. 1

What? An index? Don't make me laugh. 2

Imagine the all-too-frequent occurrence: a player is sitting around the table, playing a favorite game. The GM presents the monster. The player's character knows of an action that can counter the monster and tries to find the pertinent information in the book. The player looks in the back of the publication, only to find the book isn't indexed. The game comes to a complete halt while the player finds the information. How long will this game remain the player's favorite?

"Can't a computer program create an index?" you ask. No, a computer program can create a concordance-a list of words that appear in the publication, and the computer can even list where these words appear in the publication. A concordance, however, is not an index. Only a trained professional can create a usable index; a computer cannot think like a trained professional. The computer cannot take the word 'rogue' and think to make a cross- reference: thief, see rogue. The word thief may not even show up in the book, but that's where a player character might look for it.

I know the arguments against a professional indexer: it's too expensive; we don't have time in the production schedule; it's the author's responsibility. Go back to the beginning of this article and read the quotes from real reviews of real products, then read this quote from Sue Weinlein Cook, editor for Malhavoc Press:

I think my own recent experience might be typical of how the industry looks at indexing: people think they can do it -- they sure don't want to pay someone else do it -- until they try. Then either they discover (like I did) that it would have been well worth the money to have a pro do it, or they come up with a half-assed index they made using some dumb program, and they're perfectly happy with it (but the fans tear it apart).

The best solution to the indexing problem is to hire an editor who will also index the book. If you cannot find a trained or experienced indexer, then look to the excellent indexing guidelines offered by Steve Jackson Games (no longer available online).

The benefits of a good index are best described by another review.

Structurally, it's also solid. It's well organized, with a complete index, and with explanatory sidebars and tables at the right places; and with a good main index in the back, and a great character traits index at the end of the character creation rules. All around, this is a clean, solid, useful book, which reads well for a first-timer trying to learn the rules, and also reads well as a reference for an experienced player. It's a very, very solid effort, and SJG deserves to be very proud of it. 3

Which review would you prefer to receive? Which review will garner more sales?

1: Mark L. Chance reviewing "Mutants & Masterminds Annual #1" by Green Ronin Publishing
2: Wood Ingham reviewing The Bygone Bestiary by White Wolf Games
3: Mark Chu-Carroll reviewing GURPS Fourth Edition by Steve Jackson Games

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What the Customer Wants: Indexing
(Originally published in Games Quarterly Catalog #57 Winter 2006, then reprinted in The Lady Gamer, May 2006.)

After I wrote my first article for Games Quarterly Magazine [“What?  An Index?”, Issue #34], a friend and fellow gamer sent me an e-mail, “Just to say, nice piece on indexing RPG books in Games Quarterly. Now do you think you could persuade [game company] to put indexes in their books...?”

I won’t tell you which gaming company it is, but what if it’s your company?  My friend went on to write, “To be honest, until recently the last book I bought from them was [game name] from five years ago.  That did not have an index. I have a copy of their recent RPG, but I do not expect it to have an index either.  I will point that out in the review, but to what I believe will be little avail.”  

Can you really afford for your customers to wait five years between buying products?  Will they even give you a second chance in this tight economy?  Do not give consumers a reason not to buy your products.  Give ‘em what they want:  a usable index.  

Even if you cannot include the index in the printed book, you can include one on your website.  I just wrote the index for Kobolds Ate My Baby, Super Deluxx Edition (9th Level Games and Dork Storm Press)5.  The book is only 48 pages, so a paper index wasn’t a viable option.  The online index not only utilized the most accurate final pagination of the book, but also didn’t interfere with the printing schedule.

If you have the time in your production schedule, and the space in your product, I highly recommend including an index.  Earlier in the year, I wrote the index for Monte Cook Presents:  Iron Heroes (Malhavoc Press)6;  and Jannica Thales, a reviewer at, said, “Layout is good as is the index and table of contents.”7  That’s the kind of review you want for your product because it will encourage gamers to buy.  

4: (see above)

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Indexes by Delazan Enterprises
Queequeg's Coffin by Professor Birgit Brander Rasmussen published by Duke University Press (2011)
The Many Meanings of Poverty by Professor Cynthia Milton, published by Stanford University Press (2007)
Violence Over the Land by Professor Ned Blackhawk published by Harvard University Press (2006)
Ptolus:  Monte Cook's City by the Spire published by Malhavoc Press (2006)
Kobolds Ate My Baby Super Deluxx Edition published by 9th Level Games (2006)
Monte Cook Presents: Iron Heroes published by Malhavoc Press (2005)
Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved published by Malhavoc Press (2004)