2022 in indexing

There was not much change in the number of books indexed this year on the last few years – 20 again, including a couple of very long books indeed. I received 44 offers of work, declined 15 of them because of other commitments (or, in one or two cases, because the fee offer was too low). I also had an 80% acceptance rate on the quotes I made. Only one person failed to respond to a quote, although I did have to chase a couple to get a response, a tiresome chore. Where I’m not able to take a job because of lack of availability, I refer the client to a number of relative newbies from the Society of Indexers directory. The directory is still how most of my clients find me, although I’ve also benefitted from referrals from indexing colleagues, and – gratifyingly – I’ve had some repeat clients this year too.

Embedded indexing, mostly in Word, has dominated my workload for the last few years and three-quarters of this year’s projects were embedded, completed using Index-Manager. This is not cheap software but it is extremely useful and has streamlined and improved my embedded indexing considerably – and also my hourly rate. Most of the embedded indexing I do is for authors of scholarly books published by Cambridge University Press and Palgrave Macmillan, and so these authors made up most of my client base again this year. I also did a few projects for self-published authors and very small presses. For author clients and self-published authors, explaining the indexing process clearly is a vital part of my service – it’s been a good discipline for me to have to think about and explain my indexing decisions to these clients.

I also did more trade publishing work in 2022, including three trade books for Penguin Random House and some for smaller presses and self-published authors. Trade presses generally want shorter indexes – academic presses can be much more generous with space – and so increased selectivity and use of cross-referencing rather than double-entry become much more important for the indexing process. In subject area terms, half my projects focused on history, and about a quarter on literary criticism. I indexed three books with a musical focus – two of these were discussing single musical works, and this frame produced some interesting indexing challenges, especially when dealing with the metatopic. Three history books were very biographical in approach, and it was a pleasant task to brush off my German to deal with two big books about Goethe.

The advent of online and hybrid conferences meant that this year I was able to participate in conferences around the world. In May, the online conference run by Indexing Society of Canada / Société canadienne d’indexation (ISC/SCI) prompted me to reflect on my indexing workflow. I’m already a systematic user of checklists and templates, but there were some interesting possibilities raised that I’m starting to explore, particularly in relation to editing metatopic entries and the best time to index the introduction to a book – which might be at the end rather than the beginning. A session on online security sent me scurrying to sort out a password manager – I’m now happily using 1Password.

In October, the triennial International Indexing Conference was held in Berlin. I’d hoped to attend in person but an imminent house move made that unworkable. As it was a hybrid event, I could still take part via Zoom, and in fact also acted as a moderator for the online audience too. This conference helped me reflect on my mediating role between the text, the author and the reader, and the ongoing importance of lists and ordering as we make sense of the modern world. I also managed a number of online and in-person meetings with my Society of Indexers colleagues, which were highly enjoyable. My commitments to SI have increased – I’m now on the Executive Board with responsibility for marketing, which I hope will have a symbiotic influence on my own professional marketing.

Moving house while freelancing was an interesting experience. I did manage to create a couple of free weeks in the month before we moved, which soon filled up with tidying, decluttering and general sorting out, but the move came in the middle of a large project. Thankfully the book was a collection of short discrete chapters, and could be fairly easily put down and picked up again. Ideally, I would have taken more time off around the move itself, but the disruption was manageable. My workspace in the new house is still makeshift, but indexing doesn’t need a lot of equipment, and I’ve found my indexing reference books among the boxes. I’m looking forward to sorting out my working environment in 2023.

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