Index Anguish

A wise man, John Kaminski, once told me that the index is the most important part of the book.  “The index is where most researchers will begin,” he said.  “If they are looking for material on paper money, for example, and find no entry for paper money in your index, they will put your book down in five seconds, even if it has an extended discussion of paper money and related issues.”

Following John’s advice, I prepared the index myself for my first book.  The contract for my second book called for the index to be prepared by the publisher and reviewed by the author.  That sounded alright until two days ago, when I started reviewing the draft index for Seward.

There were some understandable confusions.  For example, from time to time I refer in the text to the Albany Evening Journal just as the Evening Journal.  The indexer had made separate entries for these; I have collapsed into one.

Far more distressing, however, were the omissions from the draft index.  On the first page of the first chapter, I mention that Thomas Jefferson appointed Seward’s father as postmaster.  Thomas Jefferson is in the index, but there is no reference to this page.  In the early chapters I carefully included a few references to Skaneateles, New York, a lovely town not far from Auburn in which I stayed while doing research  No mention at all in the index.  I currently live in Exeter, New Hampshire, and researched hard to learn that Seward stopped here as part of a whistle stop tour of New England in 1860.  No mention in the index.  Isabel Barrows, the first woman to work in the State Department, left a short memoir of her time there and impressions of Seward.  In the book but not in the index.

I could go on and on but it would just raise my blood pressure.  I am working this weekend to correct as many of these errors as I can; the publisher’s deadline for returning the index is Monday.