Ken Hassman is a good friend of mine; he has his own book indexing company, The Hassman Book Indexing Service. I decided to ask him for an interview. Indexing books is an art, not everyone can do it. Ken has created indices for some of the biggest names in the publishing industry, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, McGraw Hill and many others.
- How did you get into this industry and how long do you index the books?
My career began with a chance meeting at the wedding of a friend’s daughter, where I met old friends I had not seen in years. When I caught up, I found out that they had a very successful indexing business.
When I was told, I said exactly what they said to me, “Index, what is this?”
They asked me if I wanted to learn art/indexing skills, and they helped me find a paid job for the next two years in the last two years of my teaching career. They are good friends, after more than two years they offered me to help open my own indexing business and introduced me to some of their clients.
- When did you decide to strike alone?
In March 2005, I had to notify the school board in the area where I was teaching if I would return next year, and decided that I had achieved my goal and with the blessing of my friends and indexing mentors. he tendered his resignation in June 2005.
- Which publishers have you indexed for?
Two of my main publisher clients for about 4 years have been Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. I have a good relationship with several production editors of both editors, and they both send me index assignments directly and/or ask authors to contact me.
In addition, I have indexed many books for Cengage Learning, ABC-CLIO (formerly Greenwood Publishing Group), Springer, Wiley Blackwell, World Net Daily Books, New Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, WestEd and the International Society of Technology in Education.
- How important is the key to the book’s success?
Judging by the feedback I have received, indices are considered very important. Many book distributors will no longer consider selling non-fiction books unless they have a pointer.
- What do you think is the biggest obstacle in your industry today?
Much of what happens in the publishing world is outsourced to India, and for freelancers like me, this has led to a huge shift in the amount of work we do. Some of the editors I worked with expressed regret because they felt sorry for the American freelancers they had worked with for years and hoped that the work would return to the United States.
- Do you count hourly or for each job?
Most indices are based on price per page. Maybe I’ll take a book and be asked to create a medium-density index, which means I’ll get 3-4 index items per page and get paid at $3 per page. I may be asked to provide a light density index of 1 to 2 pointers per page and a fee of $2 to $2.50 per page, and I may be asked to index the encyclopedia on a single topic containing approximately 15 pointer entries per page. required and paid at $7 per indexed page. You can see that there is a wide range.
- What can you advise authors who are reviewing the index?
Indexing is a tedious and time-consuming process. This is more than just creating a “root” match with a long list of undifferentiated locators (just page numbers without qualifying subs). The authors will know their material much better than the indexer, but indexers have the skills to navigate the materials and create relationships that are meaningful to the end user.
Today, more and more publishers are demanding that authors create their own indices. I found that, as this policy had been in place for the past six months, I had received many more direct phone calls from authors asking for help.
If you need an index, call or email Ken from Hassman Indexing Service; he is always happy to answer. Ken likes to communicate with authors – that’s how I met him! I learned a lot about indexing and the importance of a successful book.