The client contacts me to discuss needs. What type of book, for what audience, expected length of both the book and the index, formats (paper,ebook, etc.) Most importantly, when will I receive the final proofs, and when is the index due?
The client sends me a table of contents, if available, and a chapter or two of representative text. This lets me estimate the complexity of the job, and I set a page rate- per indexable page. (Front matter, blank pages, etc. are not indexable. Depending on the book, photos may or may not be indexable.)
Once we are agreed on a page rate, we fill out a style sheet regarding the format of the index, and sign a letter of agreement. There may be a deposit required for new clients.
If there are any delays, I need to be notified immediately, so that I can modify my schedule.
Once I receive the final proofs in .pdf format, I begin work immediately, following the style sheet.
I deliver the index as a stand-alone .rtf file, which can then be incorporated into the book, just before publishing.
Once the invoice is paid, the copyright is transferred, and the index may be published.