Reading the final proofs is a nitpicking task. The time for major revisions is long past, trying to make a major change now would jack up the expenses of producing the book and delay publication. This is the stage at which I’m trying to catch any typos that slipped by the first two rounds, fix any other errors (such as the spelling of a name), write in minor updates to make the text as current as possible, and fine-tune the writing that has already been done on a one-word-here, one-word-there basis. The keys here are concentration and attention to detail. Even with my best efforts, the text probably won’t be perfect, but my job now is to get it as close to that standard as possible.
Compared to constructing the index, though, proofing the text is a walk in the park. The basic rule of thumb is that if it’s a proper noun and appears in the text, it needs to be in the index as well with page references so that the reader can find every instance in which that name appears. Important concepts may also need to be included. If a particular topic is frequently referenced, subheadings may be needed. In a book like The Kentucky Oaks, in which the text touches on several hundred horses plus their owners, trainers, and jockeys, the index is by nature going to be extensive; add in references to other races run by the Oaks fillies, to racetracks, and to other significant people, locations, and institutions, and … well, I’m up to 43 single-column, double-spaced pages so far on my list and still have a third of the book to go through just to add all the needed subjects to the index. After that, it’s time to go back and add the page numbers on which those subjects are found.
Fortunately for the publisher and the reader, at least, the index as it actually appears in the printed book won’t take up so many pages; smaller font sizes and multiple columns will be used to compact the index while keeping it readable. And formatting, thank goodness, is not my job. Even so, a pretty fair chunk of my next three weeks will be committed to getting these final chores done. I hope the results will be worth the effort.