horizontal rule

There is no short answer to the question -- "What will an index cost to create?". Many factors must be considered.

Most of the time the total cost is calculated based on a rate per indexable page. "Indexable page" is defined as those pages that must be read and analyzed for potential index entries. Some pages can quickly be dropped from the final count -- table of contents pages, acknowledgments, blank pages between chapters, etc.

Other sections may or may not be included. Endnotes that are solely bibliographic citations are not usually included. However, notes that add subject content are often part of the content indexed

The subject matter and intended audience needs to be considered in setting a rate. A highly technical publication (medical or chemistry, for example) requires special attention to the vocabulary of the discipline. In contrast, a basic history book for a middle-school student may often be covered more quickly.

Density of index terms in the material will also impact the time required. A textbook heavy with terms and definitions can result in more than 20 entries from a page. Books understood by light reading may only have one or two terms per page, allowing for much more rapid progression through the information.

An additional factor impacting rate is the time allotted for project completion. A tight deadline that necessitates overtime work for several days should receive additional compensation for that rush requirement. In other words, if you are able to plan ahead and schedule sufficient time for the indexing process, then the rate need not be as high as a rush job would require.

Increasingly as publishers are moving to providing books in electronic format, indexes are being created in page layout software. This requires the indexer to work with chapter files and insert tags which are then used by the software to build the index.

This process often requires multiple iterations through the files as the indexer refines the vocabulary in the index. The software cannot discern that singular and plural forms of a term need to be combined, or that a term with varied forms of capitalization, or hyphenation need adjustment. For example, "e-mail," "E-mail," "email," and even "electronic mail" are terms that could be used in a text, but should be combined into one entry. This process requires a decision on the prominent term and then returning to each tag in the text to adjust it so that all are identical.

The best way for me to provide a rate estimate that is reasonable to both parties is for me to receive a sample chapter of the text. It is best that this chapter not be the first or the last, since they are often not representative of the remaining chapters.

An overview of editorial freelance rates is available from the Editorial Freelancers Association

American Society for Indexing also provides basic information on pricing