non-fiction books without indexes

I’ve been starting to market my newly-minted skills to publishers who produce books in the fields that I have some experience and interest in. All very low key at this stage, but I’m hoping it will bear fruit at some point.

However, I was slightly taken aback by one company who replied “Many thanks for contacting us at XXX with an offer of your indexing services. However, I’m sorry to have to tell you that we have a policy of not including indexes in any of our books so at this time we will be unable to use your services.” They have however, put my details aside in case things change in the future.

I can’t name them publicly until I’ve responded to them and probed this a bit more.

In the meantime, here are a few more reviews I’ve trawled from the internet of books that lack indexes that reviewers would have liked to have seen.

Alaskan politician Sarah Palin’s autobiographical book Going Rogue: An American Life omitted an index, and some comments were made to the effect that there was no notable content. Other sites went as far as to compile their own ‘cut and paste’ indexes and the American Society of Indexers (ASI) issued a ‘Golden Turkey’ award to both Palin and her publishers in order to promote the cause of book indexing in general. They haven’t issued another similar award, but that doesn’t mean books aren’t still published without indexes that really should have them. The ASI press release raises the question of the ‘Washington read’ – “a practice whereby one skims the text by judicious consultation of the index, particularly for instances of one’s own name.”  – and the taking of snippets of information out of the context they were written in. This is a poor argument because that can clearly happen if a book is published without an index and the omission of an index is only going to lead to books being unsold and unread.

On a more down to earth level, Dr Sally Nash, Director Midlands Centre for Youth Ministry, would have liked an index to Children, youth and spirituality in a troubling world by M E Moore and A M Wright (Chalice Press: 2008). Her full review is here. She said “What I missed in this book was an index that would have made it more useful for research and teaching where you could follow a theme through the book more easily. “

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