Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A new candidate for "World's Worst Index" -- and some indexing advice

I previously declared that the world's worst index was in Best in Self-Publishing & Print-On-Demand by David Rising, a charter member of the Self-Publishing Hall of Shame.

The index was apparently assembled by a robot and never checked by a homo sapiens. A smart orangutan or lemur might have made a better index.

(above) In the index, before the “A” topics, we have topics beginning with $, 3 and 7. The index typography is a strange mix of standard, boldface and underlined text, has no system for capitalization, and uses different typefaces. Even email addresses appear in the index. There are terms that no one would ever look for, like "hobby" and "private." Some terms are listed twice. Do we really need 72 DPI as well as 72 DPI. with a period after it? (Both are on the same page, BTW.)

Expected terms and names are left out. The front cover screams, “How to Get Published Free.” The word “free” is not indexed, and I couldn’t find anything about free book publishing inside the book.

Helen Gallagher wrote an ugly, sloppy, padded, inaccurate and poorly edited book titled Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!

(above) Helen produced the second-worst index I've ever seen. Readers really don't need separate listings for both "distributors" and "Distributors," or "marketing" and "Marketing," or "publishers" and "Publishers," or "small press," "small presses" and "Small Presses."

Most nonfiction pbooks need an index. Microsoft Word can produce an index, but it will be ugly and confusing without proper setup -- and intervention.

Some important tips:
  1. Remove duplicate listings. The same word shown in both roman and italic type, or with and without Initial Uppercase Letters, or in singular and plural form does not deserve two listings.
  2. Don't include any terms that nobody would look for.
  3. If you add or remove pages, update the index so page numbers will be accurate.
  4. Make sure that you include important terms, especially if they are on your cover or in your promotional material.
  5. Names should be listed under the last name.
  6. Check spelling.
Even some good books have bad indexes. All books don't need indexes. If you are sure you need to have an index, be prepared to invest a lot of time in it (when you might rather be doing something else) or maybe invest money to have someone else do it. There are professional indexers in the UK and in the USA who can do quality work without complaining.

I now have the distinct displeasure to announce a tie for "World's Worst Index," in The Great Black Hope by Constance Kluesener Gorman.

The book is a confusing mix of sports and spirituality. The author claims to be a Christian Mystic "favored with the gifts of prophecy, healing, miracles and private revelation from God."

On an online authors' forum, she complained about poor sales despite extensive publicity.

There are many reasons why a book may not sell well. It's important to keep in mind that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. Good publicity may cause potential customers to seek more information about a new book (or car, TV series or restaurant).

Book previews on websites plus downloadable free samples can make potential purchasers aware of problems which keep them from buying the book.
The author's website, Amazon description and book badly need editing. Obvious errors in grammar and typography scream AMATEUR.

The index should be severely edited, or just deleted.

Who is going to try to find a page about "birthday" or "Mike?" Why does Lawrence Taylor have one citation under "LT" but eleven without the "LT?" Why is Mentor in boldface and  gunfire in italics? There seems to be no system for uppercasing, italicizing and boldfacing. The index lists both depression and Depression. Levi Jones is listed twice. People are listed under first names, not last. "Kroger's.," should be "Kroger,"

Did anyone look at this index before I did?


  1. These examples look to me like they have had the involvement of so-called 'automated indexing' software applied to the book. These software programs do not create indexes - they create concordances.

    The process of creating an effective index needs intellectual input and if the author does not have the time or ability to do it themselves, then they need to hire a professional such as myself.

    The Society of Indexers provides further information and also has a directory of qualified members.

    Here is further information on why a human can produce a better index than a computer: http://www.indexers.org.uk/index.php?id=463

    Also, why your book needs an index and how to go about getting one:

    And here is the link to the Society's directory:

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to indexing and indexes. This is a particularly good example of an absolutely useless index. It doesn't do anybody any good in terms of finding information in the book.

    There are many of us who enjoy preparing indexes, have studied how to do this properly, have good experience and long track records of preparing good indexes, and will be happy to take the job on for a fee. The book will be the better for it, and the author and publisher will be happier too.

    The American Society for Indexing also has a locator for indexer members. See www.asindexing.org and click on the "Find an Indexer" tab.