One of our presents this year was a copy of Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook by Terry Pratchett and The Discworld Emporium. While it is an invaluable guide to the Discworld railway and the various towns and villages on the way as the railway spreads out from Ankh-Morpork, it was published without an index. So, for curious readers who don’t have the time, but do have the inclination, here’s Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook Index.
This is, of course, a work of fiction, but the categories of information closely follow those of a modern travel guide and the original Bradshaw’s Guides. Dwarf, troll and travellers of other species will find entries to enable them to travel on the new railways. And all travellers will find detailed information about the many towns and villages, interspersed with vignettes and stories gathered by Mrs Bradshaw. And there’s a lot about cabbages!
Many people get given books at this time of year. A fair proportion will be non-fiction, perhaps an autobiography, a biography, a memoir, some prize-winning non-fiction, a celebrity cookery book, a TV tie-in general interest book, a travel book about somewhere you want to go, a craft book about your latest hobby. Perhaps you bought yourself a present as well, or you’re going out soon to spend a book token or other gift card carefully on something you’re interested in. I bought my husband a copy of Guy Martin’s autobiography, but I’m hoping to get to read it before he does!
Have you got to the point where you’ve checked the index yet? Do you use the index when you’re choosing a book? Was the index in your book any good? Did you find what you wanted? Did you have to wade through a long list of page numbers and then not find what you hoped for?
The best indexes are made by trained, professional indexers. A professionally trained indexer will:
- Connect all the terms used by the author and all those likely to be sought by the reader with a web of cross-references so nothing is missed, no matter where the reader begins to search.
- Use subheadings to add levels of detail, making retrieval faster and more specific, and preventing readers from having to wade through long strings of page numbers to find what they want.
- Use qualifying notes to resolve ambiguities.
- Distinguish between material in footnotes, illustrations and tables.
- Make sure the index is clear, comprehensive and internally consistent.
- Tailor the index to fit the available space and conform to your house style
I’m particularly interested in history and archaeology, cycling and fitness, but would be happy to take on books in other general interest subject areas. If you’re an author or an editor looking for an indexer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via my contact page.