What does a publisher do? Commission indexes?

What does a publisher do? is a series of posts designed to answer that question, interpreted not in the sense of “What functions does a publisher seek to fulfil?” but rather “What operations does a publisher (well, this publisher at any rate) perform?” This is the eighteenth post in the series.

The second post (‘What does a publisher do? Manage stakeholders’) in this series set out a framework for subsequent posts – a framework based on the types of stakeholders a publisher needs to work with. Today’s post focuses on a publisher’s relationship with indexers. So:

Owners, investors Workforce State
Clients, customers

Most publishers’ standard contracts require authors either to compile their own indexes or to bear the cost of hiring a professional indexer. I’m glad to say that with our Creative Writing Studies imprint we do things differently: we hire a professional indexer and we bear the cost.

We do this because we see an index as an integral part of a professional or scholarly publication. In the process of helping readers to discover or retrieve information, the index helps to display the content and the conceptual framework of the work.

For our the index of our latest publication, Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches(published in hardback, ePub, and PDF editions on 30 June 2012) we have, as with our previous publication, Rethinking Creative Writing, employed the services of Christina Garbutt.

For Teaching Creative Writing, however, we asked Christina to develop a new approach. Teaching Creative Writing is not designed to be read primarily in a continuous, linear, manner. Rather, the book is designed as a flexible tool.

The body text comprises fifty essays, each outlining a practical idea for teaching creative writing. Users of the book are likely to have diverse needs and interests. One might be a novice teacher, looking for ideas to start out with; another might be an experienced professional seeking to extend their repertoire of approaches. Similarly, users will be working in diverse settings – for example, on undergraduate courses, or in adult or continuing education courses, or perhaps teaching online. Some might focus on a particular genres, while others might range more widely.

For such a book, few readers will be interested primarily in tracing the development of a specific idea from the beginning to the end of the book. Readers are more likely to want to find the best way to dip into the book and then to choose a reading path leading from one essay to another.

We therefore asked Christina to develop a thematic index. To do this she created the following main headings: characterisation; developing skills; developing writing practice; exercise duration; fiction; genre; particularly suitable for…; performance; poetry; point of view; reading; setting and context; structure; students’ common needs; virtual learning; and voice.

Under each heading she provided more detailed information. For instance, under ‘Genre’ are four sub-headings: Fiction; Non-fiction; Poetry; and Song-writing and then the detail. For example, under ‘fiction’ here comes: fantasy; flash fiction; for children; micro-fiction; monologues; drama; short stories; suspense; and young adult.

Many of the detailed entries are written descriptively to help readers to decide which to dip into. For example, the entries under ‘Point of view’ read:
– Using free indirect style to gain narrative flexibility
– Using multiple view points for narrative enrichment and development
– Writing from opposing viewpoints

Overall, we hope this approach helps both to convey to users the kind of book it is and to find their way around according to their own interests.


2 Responses to “What does a publisher do? Commission indexes?”

  1. Your book about teaching creative writing has clearly been creatively considered and published … you are thereby building your brand, giving readers pleasure and expressing your core values in the most important way, by being rather than saying. For the opposite, see the caveat to the 5-star review of Genette’s *Paratexts* http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paratexts-Thresholds-Interpretation-Literature-Culture/dp/0521424062/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351170513&sr=8-1

  2. I like the reviewer’s question – ‘Have the publishers not read it?’ I think it is conceivable that not all publishers read all their books.

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