How much do book indexing services cost?

Indexing is among the essential elements contributing to the enhanced quality of non-fiction books. So, it is important to understand the pricing of book indexing services, what indexes comprise and how much to pay for high-quality indexing. This article discusses tasks involved in indexing: first reading, terms selection, entries arrangement, cross-reference selection and editing and reviewing. It also reviews the pricing structures proposed by professional indexing organisations like the UK’s Society for Indexers, considering the required complexity and depth of indexing.

What is indexing?

Indexing creates a structured guide within a book, enabling readers to navigate its contents efficiently. It involves identifying the text’s key concepts, terms and phrases and organising them into a coherent framework. An index goes beyond a mere list of keywords, serving as a valuable tool that enhances the usability of a book by allowing readers to locate specific information quickly. Creating indexes requires an expert understanding of the book’s topic and skills to perform several processes that comprise indexing.

What are the processes involved in book indexing?

First reading

The process of book indexing begins with the foundational step of the first reading. In book indexing services, the first reading is the bedrock upon which the entire indexing endeavour rests. It involves comprehending the content and identifying key terms, phrases and ideas that warrant inclusion in the index. This phase demands an indexer’s keen analytical skills to pinpoint significant concepts readers might seek. Through the first reading, indexers gain insights into the book’s structure, aiding in creating a well-organised index that aligns with the flow of the content. This process is integral to providing an enhanced reading experience for users of the index, guiding them precisely to the information they seek.

Terms and locators selection

In the context of book indexing services, the careful curation of terms and locators is more than a mechanical task; it is an art that requires a profound understanding of the book’s subject matter. Indexers must discern which words encapsulate themes, ideas and information, reflecting the book’s essence. By adeptly selecting terms and pairing them with accurate locators (which are usually page numbers), professional indexers create an index that becomes an invaluable guide for readers seeking specific information. 

Entries arrangement

Entries arrangement is a pivotal aspect of book indexing services. This process involves organising selected terms and their corresponding page locators into a coherent and user-friendly structure. Through expert arrangement, the index becomes an accessible roadmap for readers, enhancing their ability to navigate the book’s content seamlessly. This skilful arrangement is central to delivering an index contributing significantly to the book’s overall value.

Cross-references creation

This process involves skilfully linking related terms, fostering deeper exploration and understanding for readers. Cross-references See also helps to deliver this functionality by suggesting to the reader other entries that may be relevant to the terms they look up. By seamlessly linking interconnected concepts, professional book indexing services ensure an index that enriches a reader’s comprehension. Cross-references contribute to a cohesive and user-centric experience, enabling swift access to relevant information. 

Editing and reviewing

Editing and reviewing involves scrutinising and refining the index, ensuring accuracy, consistency and coherence. During this stage, indexers pay attention to detail, rectifying discrepancies or inaccuracies. By aligning entries with the book’s content and intent, they guarantee a polished index that enhances reader accessibility. This diligent editing and reviewing process exemplifies the commitment to delivering a high-quality index, underscoring the pivotal role of professional book indexing services in enriching the reader’s experience and optimising the book’s value.

What is the pricing structure recommended by professional organisations for indexers?

Professional indexing organisations, such as the UK’s Society for Indexers, the American Society for Indexing or the Indexing Society of Canada, offer indexing service fee guidelines. However, pricing structures can vary based on factors like the complexity of the text, the depth of indexing required, and the indexer’s expertise. Given the variability of indexing projects, these organisations typically recommend a range of fees rather than fixed rates. Still, their guidelines are the most reliable indicators of the indexing rates worldwide.

OrganisationRate per hourRate per page
The Society of Indexers£31.60£3.55
The Indexing Society of CanadaC$20–65C$1.85–10
The Australian and New Zealand Society of IndexersA$70
American Society of Indexing$22.20–35.52**$2.50–4.00
The Association of Southern African Indexers and BibliographersR25–40R2.82–4.50*
*Based on the provided rate per hour and under the assumption that an hour of indexing yields 8–9 pages.

**Based on the provided rate per page and under the assumption that an hour of indexing yields 8–9 pages.

The Society of Indexers (UK & Ireland)

Serving as the exclusive independent professional entity for indexers across the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Society of Indexers associates accrediting indexers and student members working towards an accreditation. The Society recommends book indexing services rates starting from £31.60 an hour, £3.55 per page or £9.55 per thousand words for an index to a non-academic text.

OrganisationRate per hourRate per pageRate per 1,000 words
The Society of Indexers£31.60£3.55£9.55

The Indexing Society of Canada

According to a survey carried out by the Indexing Society of Canada, members quoted from C$20 to C$65 per hour, while typeset page fees varied from C$1.85 to C$10, and manuscript page rates fluctuated between C$3 and C$8. The broad range reflects indexers’ various tasks across multiple platforms like books, journals, websites and databases. It also highlights the variety of clients, including trade publishers, university presses, governmental bodies, legal services and web-based platforms.

OrganisationRate per hourRate per typeset pageRate per manuscript page
The Indexing Society of CanadaC$20–65C$1.85–10C$3–8

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers (ANZSI)

The ANZSI suggests a minimum rate of A$70 per hour for proficient indexers. In New Zealand, the current rate stands at NZ$55 per hour. Typically, these rates guide fee calculations for assignments, often presented as client quotes rather than hourly charges. Complex or urgent projects may warrant a higher hourly rate or an extra fee. 

OrganisationRate per hour
The Australian and New Zealand Society of IndexersA$70 / NZ$55

The American Society of Indexing (ASI)

According to ASI, typical book indexing services rates range from $2.50 to $4.00 per book page, amounting to approximately $750 to $1,200 for a 300-page book index.

OrganisationRate per page
The American Society of Indexing$2.50–4

The Association of Southern African Indexers and Bibliographers (ASAIB)

ASAIB determines book indexing services fees based on the material type and the expertise of an experienced freelance indexer. It’s important to note that these figures offer a reference point and may vary. For primary and secondary school textbooks, rates range from R25 to R30 per page, while tertiary-level textbooks fall between R30 and R35 per page. General non-fiction is typically priced at R35 to R38 per page, academic works at R38 to R45 per page and specialised publications at R40 to R48 per page. EPUBs (eBooks) are typically R40 to R45 per page. Indexing speed is influenced by subject knowledge, experience, text complexity, and indexable elements like footnotes, endnotes and illustrations.

The Association of Southern African Indexers and BibliographersRate per page
Primary & secondary-level school textbooksR25–30
Tertiary-level school textbooksR30–35
General non-fictionR35–38
Academic worksR38–45
Specialised publicationsR40–48


Comprehending the indexing process, its stages and the factors impacting pricing empower you to appreciate the value of this service. While professional organisations offer fee guidelines, the dynamic nature of projects and the indexer’s expertise lead to varying pricing structures. Collaborating with experienced indexers enhances not only the quality of the book but also the reader’s experience. Recognising the significance of book indexing and its associated costs enables you to produce well-structured and easily navigable books, catering to readers’ needs and your publishing goals.

Contact me to ensure your index does precisely that; you can also ask me for a free sample index (and remember to use my early bird discount). If you want to hear more from me, including self-editing and writing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.