Not for nothing is the Society of Indexers closely allied with SfEP, aka the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. And though recruitment can be hard – publishers are getting ever stingier, fees ever lower, lead times ever shorter, proper understanding of the profession ever harder to come by (nobody seems to realise that even a seemingly trivial repagination can leave the indexer having to start from scratch) – this is a body of professionals that is long overdue proper recognition.
Bad indexes are legion. Absent indexes almost more so. One of my correspondents recently bewailed the index of a major and bestselling recent book. “Entry for France – around 40 undifferentiated locators,” she complained. “Entry for Europe, over 90 page refs.” She concluded: “Looks like a concordance created by searching the PDF files.” I’ve been shocked by learning how often, now, publishers – especially American publishers – expect their authors to pay for an index themselves, do it themselves, or do without. Even a book as well-published as Michael Lewis’s recent The Undoing Project came indexless. I asked its UK publisher why. “They’d taken it from the US edition,” he said. That’s depressing.