Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cater to Your Reader: Create a Linked Table of Contents in Your E-book

To add to the enjoyment of your reader, consider including a linked table of contents in your e-book. Not only does it enhance the professional look of your work, it gives the reader ease of navigation around your book.

Although a linked table of contents is more necessary for nonfiction, it is also useful in fiction, especially if you have descriptive chapter headings. If a reader “leaves” your book for a few days, even though an e-reader device normally opens to the last page read, the reader may want to review areas of the book she has previously read. A linked table of contents allows a reader to click on any chapter heading in the contents list and go directly to that chapter. It also allows them to click on any chapter heading within the narrative and return to the Table of Contents. With a linked table of contents the reader can easily maneuver through your book without having to go page by page. 

For manuscripts created in Microsoft Word, Word has a tool to automatically create a linked table of contents within your document. However, it has not worked smoothly for me. As a matter of fact, some e-book publishers recommend against using Word’s automatic feature because it can cause issues when converting the file into e-book format. I have tried the automatic feature and it looked fine until the file was processed into an e-book, then some of the links no longer worked. I had to revise and re-upload my e-book file three times before I figured out that the manual links work best.

So, hoping to save other e-bookers the same frustrations, I have put together the following step-by-step method for creating a manual linked table of contents in your e-book. Several of these tips originated from the Smashwords publishing guide, and others came from bits and pieces of information I have learned from other e-book publishers, which I have written in the way that makes the most sense to me. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Create Your Contents List

If you haven’t already done so, type your Table of Contents list into your book’s manuscript file near the front of the book, listing the sections and chapter headings that you want to be bookmarked and linked in your book. For demonstration purposes, I’m going to use the following sample list:

Chapter One
Chapter Two

Step 2: Create Bookmarks for Items to be Linked

Once your contents list is in place, begin going through your manuscript and bookmarking each item that is in your contents list. Using the example above, you would first go to the Prologue. When you reach the beginning of the prologue section, highlight the heading, Prologue. Then, on the Microsoft Word tabs at the top of the page, select Insert, then Bookmark.

When you click on the Bookmark button, you will be prompted for the bookmark name.

Hint: You will make it easier on yourself later in the process if you name the bookmark exactly as the chapter heading, as one word with no spaces. For example, if you are bookmarking a chapter titled Chapter One, name the bookmark ChapterOne. Or if your chapter is titled On the Road Again, name the bookmark OntheRoadAgain.

Once you name your bookmark, click Add, then go to the next chapter heading (Chapter One, Chapter Two, Epilogue, etc.) in your manuscript and bookmark it. Continue until all of the items that are listed in your table of contents are bookmarked within your manuscript.

Step 3: Create a Bookmark for your Contents Page

Return to your contents list at the front of the book. Highlight the heading for your contents, such as Table of Contents, or Contents, or whatever you call your contents list. As you did in Step 2, click Insert, Bookmark, and label this bookmark accordingly.

Step 4: Create Hyperlinks to Bookmarked Items

You now need to create hyperlinks to the items you just bookmarked so that a reader can click on a chapter heading in your contents list and be taken directly to that chapter in the book. In the contents list highlight the first item below the contents heading; in this case, Prologue, from our example above. Then, on the Microsoft Word tabs at the top of the page, select Insert, then Hyperlink.

When the Hyperlink menu comes up, click on the Place in This Document button on the left-hand side of the menu. (See below.) You should now see the bookmarks you made earlier listed in the main menu window. Now select Prologue and click OK. Repeat this process for each item in the Contents list.

 Step 5: Link back to the Table of Contents

To allow your readers to return to your Table of Contents from within your book, move through your manuscript and return to each bookmarked chapter heading. Highlight the heading, select Insert, Hyperlink, and Place in This Document on the menu. From the list of bookmarks showing in the main window of the menu, select your Table of Contents bookmark. Do this for every bookmarked heading through your manuscript, selecting the Table of Contents bookmark each time.

Step 6: Test Your Links

After completing Step 5, all of the headings in your contents list, as well as the chapter and section headings that you bookmarked in the manuscript, should appear blue and underlined.

Test your links by clicking (ctrl-click in Word 2007) on the chapter headings in your contents list to make sure they take you to the corresponding chapter heading within in the book. In turn, clicking on a chapter heading within in the book should take you back to the contents list at the front of the book.

If any are not working, check and revise.


(Well, almost.)

Step 7: E-reader Internal Links

Now that you have created a hyperlinked table of contents for your e-book, there are two more small items you should consider doing.

Many e-readers have menus that allow a reader to go directly to an e-book’s table of contents, and to go directly to the beginning of the book where the reader can skip the front matter and begin reading. This is an internal function of some e-readers and you can make sure this option works correctly in your e-book by bookmarking those two places with the two codes the e-reading devices recognize:  toc (for the “go to the table of contents” function) and start (for the “go to the beginning of the book” function).

To do this, go into your manuscript and place your cursor just before your Table of Contents heading. (Don’t highlight the heading because you are only going to bookmark a single point.) Then go to Insert, Bookmark, name the bookmark toc, and click Add. For the "go to the beginning of the book" bookmark, go to where you would want a reader to begin reading if they skipped the front matter. This might be a prologue, the first chapter, etc. Go to that spot and, as before, place the cursor where you want the reader to begin, go to Insert, Bookmark, name the bookmark start, and click Add.

That’s it. The file conversion process should pick up on those two bookmarks and give your reader additional maneuverability within your e-book.


I’ve found that, although it takes extra time, linking the table of contents with your chapter headings in your manuscript manually results in error-free links once your book is converted to e-book format and published.

Plus, having a functional, linked table of contents will make your readers happy.

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