Amy and I connected on LinkedIn and after a brief chat to learn more about her services, I asked her to participate in my industry interview series.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
I write back-of-the-book indexes. When you’re trying to find out if a particular topic is included in a book, the index is where you look. I index all kinds of trade books. Just to show you the range of some of the topics I work with, the book I’m working on this week is about how to be a good parent, my next project is about women’s health over the past few centuries, after that, a book about media bias. A series of business books is due to begin in a couple of months. My favorite books to index are cookbooks. A good index is so important for a cookbook.
While I have incorporated my business (Amethyst Harbor, Inc.), I’m the only one doing the indexing (I don’t use subcontractors). When I started my business in the early 2000s, I assumed that potential clients would look for me by my business name, but indexers’ reputations are more often tied to their personal names.
How would you describe your ideal client?
I’d say that about two-thirds of my clients are Production Editors for Big Five publishers. The rest of my clients are independent publishers or authors. Working with a Production Editor means starting a long-term relationship with that person—it’s not a one-time experience like working with an author on a specific project, and that can be valuable for both parties because you come to understand how each other works and what their needs are.
My ideal client is communicative. If there’s a delay, that’s usually something I can handle, but not if you go silent for weeks. Publishing a book takes a team (it’s often comprised of freelancers who don’t normally work together), and there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate. It’s understandable when there’s a delay. Just let me know what’s going on so that I can adjust my schedule accordingly.
How did things change for you in 2020 and how did you manage to weather through the year during the pandemic?
In 2020 I had a really unique opportunity to present a three-part webinar on behalf of the American Society for Indexing. I was asked to present a course on culinary indexing (my favorite indexing topic!) shortly before the pandemic. Ironically, it was always intended to be an online course, due to the large number of international participants. Preparing for that course took months, and I was invigorated by all the work that needed to be done.
Practically speaking, the pandemic didn’t affect my business very much. I work independently, and client communication is almost exclusively through email or LinkedIn. Indexers are used to a solitary work environment!
Throughout the years I’ve noticed certain seasonal patterns in publishing. There are highs and lows (sometimes to a feast-or-famine extreme) over the course of the calendar year. While everyone wants to publish their book in time for holiday gift-giving, it’s just not possible, and often not in the best interest of the author anyhow. When I do have quiet days or weeks, I try and tackle household organization projects that otherwise tend to get ignored.
What is your favorite tip for using social media?
Keep it professional. Your vendors, clients, and potential clients may be turned off by polarizing or political posts. I think it’s best when there’s a separation between your personal life and your business presence.
What are your goals for 2021?
I’d like to take more courses this year. Learning something new is one of my favorite hobbies. I love the interactions with others when you take an online course.
It would be nice to travel at some point this year! My family has been wanting to take a road trip up to Quebec for a while now.
Where can authors find you?
I am a frequent commenter on LinkedIn. I may not post much myself, but I truly enjoy the back-and-forth with everyone. You can find me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bookindexing/
My website is http://www.AmethystHarbor.com/
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My advice to those writing a book right now or in the near future is to think “Big Picture.” Trying to save a few dollars and do everything yourself or as cheaply as possible will show in your final product. You’ve worked so hard on the content—don’t skimp on the book’s appearance. Hire a professional editor, a professional book cover designer, a professional typesetter, and a professional indexer.
Amy Hall is a book indexer with specialties in the areas of cookbooks, culinary arts, sports, communications, advertising, L&D, social psychology, criminal justice, and health issues. She was recently the featured presenter for the three-part American Society for Indexing online learning webinar “Culinary Indexing–Food for Thought.”
Amy was the indexer for an Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal winner (2020), National Book Award for Nonfiction 1st place winner (2017), IACP cookbook award 1st place winner (2016), and James Beard Award finalist (2016).
Amy has a BS in Advertising from San Jose State University, a certificate in Basic Indexing from the Graduate School of the USDA, a certificate in Perinatal Issues, and she regularly take classes just for fun in all kinds of subjects. She has been a member of the American Society for Indexing since 2006. Amy lives with her family in Montgomery County, Maryland.