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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Book indexes

The worst part of writing a nonfiction book is compiling the index. I created the index for my first Exploring Color book (1985) using an early version of Word Perfect. You simply tagged a word for the index and WP picked up every place in the manuscript where that word occurred. Easy to do, but the result was useless. I had to go through all the entries and delete all those that didn't provide substantive information on the topic. Too much work! I opted to let the publisher hire an indexer for my second book (The Creative Artist (1990). When I saw it after it was published, the index was so bad they allowed me to redo it. Now I make a point of reviewing the index before my book is published to be sure it suits me. I've forgotten now why I didn't like the index for Creative Collage Techniques (1994), but I had to make a lot of changes there. For the revision of Exploring Color (1998) my editor wasn't happy with the index and didn't have time to redo it, so I volunteered. I've just finished correcting the index for The New Creative Artist (July, 2006). The indexer did much better job than any of the others in my past books, but there are still a lot of things that need work. Unfortunately, the index is the very last thing to be done and it always has to be done yesterday. I don't understand why an indexer would put in separate entries for aerial perspective, single-point perspective and two-point perspective when they are all three on the same page and can all be listed under "perspective." It makes for an oversize index. That's just one example. I suggested a lot of cuts to my editor, but I don't know if she'll have time to make them before the book gets turned in tomorrow. Oh, well, even with my corrections on the other four books, I still can't find anything with my own indexes. Maybe it's just me.

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