I was in an informal roundtable discussion last week with a handful of authors and someone made a comment that they never put a table of contents in their digital books. I couldn't quite keep the surprise from my face fast enough. What ensued was an emotional debate on why any author should, or shouldn't, include a ToC in their digital book.
I think the fact that numerous retailers like Barnes and Noble and Apple will not include your book in their catalogue if it doesn't have a ToC is reason enough to put one in it. Why would you lock yourself out of reaching millions of additional readers? When I asked the four authors who admitted they didn't bother with a ToC that very question, I got a lot of shrugs and mumbling. Long story short, what I finally found out was that it was too complicated and they simply couldn't get it to work right.
Admittedly, it can be pretty confusing. The dreaded Meat grinder used by Smashwords is enough to make most authors avoid it all together, and the instructions Amazon gives leaves most aggravated and confused. Just 2 days ago I came across an author friend that didn't have a ToC in his book on Amazon. Shocked, I offered to do this for him. Once I got my hands on his .doc file, it was obvious why he didn't.
Using Jutoh to do his book, the program was set for automatic format. It was a tangled mess of formatting marks that were so terribly unnecessary. What should have taken me an hour to do, turned out to be 11 hours spent stripping the formatting out, then reformatting it just so I could get the ToC to work. However, his book now looks like a million bucks on Amazon, and he's tickled pink. It was worth it :)
In light of my experience, I wondered how wide spread this problem was. So far, it looks like about 1 out of 5 authors shy away from using ToCs, and another 1 out of about 8 that have one, it doesn't work properly. These are not hard stats, just a rough estimate on my part from asking around.
I'd like to run an informal survey. Please scroll down and take this poll. I'll post the results at the close of the poll.
If you need ToC formatting, or eBook formatting for upload to Smashwords and Amazon, you can contact me at Chameleonfirstname.lastname@example.org
Once I learned to format the ToC for Smashwords, I found it easy, though a little time consuming. Someone persuaded me to video how it's done when I next formatted a book for Smashwords - I did a screen capture video of the steps, but I haven't had the time to put it to voiceover instructions yet.ReplyDelete
Demelza, I did a video with voice that I shared with C.B, and according to her comments, worked like a charm. Glad it got her going :)Delete
This is interesting. The Kindle novel I'm currently selling doesn't have a TOC, and as I look at others I see that most novels that have them just list Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and the like.ReplyDelete
What is the point in that? I compile with Scrivener, which makes TOCs possible if not easy, so I could do it, but I don't understand the utility of an anodyne TOC.
Perhaps if I decide to put my book and its sequel up on B&N I will change my mind.
John, you can name the chapters anything. If yours happens to be The Shadowed Hallway, instead of Chapter 1, or Chapter One, that's ok. The point is, readers want a ToC, and just as importantly, retailers want it. If it locks you out of a segment of the market, why not take the time to just do it, especially if it's easy enough for you to do.Delete
My problem with TOC is that if you don't have one, I-Tunes will block your book. Once I added a TOC to my book, The Stone Gods, the 'open ticket' that was indicated on Smashwords vanished! Thanks to my friend, Chameleon Author, who showed me a quick way to work a TOC.ReplyDelete
Glad you got that going, Cynthia. Your series is so good everyone should be able to get it! Open those markets up, by golly :DDelete
Other than reaching all the readers one possibly can (due to some distributor requirements), I don't understand the necessity for a TOC. I can't remember a single time that I've actually used one while reading a digital book, but I have to assume that many, if not most, readers do use it. A couple of years ago, I was seeing reviews that mentioned whether or not the e-book was formatted with a TOC and added one to my first novel. It took awhile, but believe me...if I can do it, anyone can do it! Inserting a TOC has now become second nature.ReplyDelete
I use one rather often, but the best reason to have one is that readers want one. Retailers demand one. Just Do It. :)Delete
I compile with Scrivener, which makes a TOC a breeze, So far I also name my chapters as well as numbering them, so for me a TOC is a must.ReplyDelete
Maggie, glad to hear it! In this age of Indie authorship, we are left to do our own marketing, and that means reaching as many readers as possible. A ToC keeps numerous venues open to you that would otherwise be closed with the absence of one. WTG :)Delete
I don't have a TOC and my books are selling ok on both the sites listed as requiring them. Not really sure how I've slipped in there but got about 5 in so far I think.ReplyDelete
I code my books in html myself, then run them through Sigil. Makes producing both the NCX and the html TOCs very simple. The Smashwords TOC is also easy once you've done it a few times and get the hang of it. Just kind of tedious.ReplyDelete
I don't title my chapters, but I do put things in my novels like character lists, maps, glossaries, samples from other novels, blurbs for my other novels, and I list those on the table of contents so readers know they're there and can either find them or skip them as they choose. As a reader, I like to know what else is in the book and be able to go directly to it or skip it.
Kyra, thanks for the information! I love hearing about how other authors are dealing with what many consider to be a mountain to climb. I don't think I've heard of Sigil, I'm going to have a look at that one. Thanks again :DDelete
OK, the poll is over. There weren't near as many responses as I had hoped. I suspect this has more to do with people not wanting to admit to it. Just out of about 23 authors I spoke to on this subject, 15 said they didn't have a ToC, and didn't think they needed one. Of those 15, 11 admitted they didn't know how to do it anyway.ReplyDelete
Based on those numbers, I'm convinced the numbers are pretty high for those that don't have one, and aren't going to. And for those that don't have one, but might like to, they just don't know HOW to. So, there you go.