An Easy Way to Prepare Your Book’s Table of Contents for E-Book

sample e-book properly formatted (not just converted!)
sample e-book properly formatted (not just converted!)


One of the most challenging aspects of Self-Publishing for me, in the beginning, was preparing my book for e-book conversion for proper viewing as an e-book on electronic devices. Of course, formatting and conversion slightly differ (anyone can use the method I am about to show to make ePub and Mobi files, but unless you format the underlying HTML and CSS properly, the result will not look as professional as we all intend as authors like the image above. Often there will be blank lines between paragraphs, no indentations, no TOC (table of contents), links that don’t function, and everything left aligned including headings that were meant to be centered hence, the difference between conversion and actual formatting…. but that’s another post for another day).

So anyway, as I ventured on this Self-Publishing endeavor, I was practically pulling my locs out trying to prepare my manuscript to be accepted by retailers for electronic devices. As we are familiar, manuscripts that are prepared for an e-book has to be done in a way where the electronic device can easily navigate the book. The electronic device easily accomplishes this by utilizing the navigation functions built into an EPUB file to move around the e-book. This is done by properly creating a Table of Contents section or in technical terms, a Navigation Control File. Basically, because your device is not going to be printed like in the old days, it needs guidance on how to move around. Your Kindle or Mobile phone needs to know where each section begins and ends. It does this by looking for Header Styles in your document. While you can either pay someone else to do this or let your POD (Print on Demand) service do it for you, an easy way to learn to do it yourself is to format your manuscript using Heading Styles. Heading Styles are at the top of your Word Document and looks something like this:

styles MS Word

So Below I’ve listed how each section should be properly headed using these Heading Styles to create the TOC. To make this simple, I am only going to assume your book has a few main levels: Title Page, Copyright, Chapter, Sub-chapter, Preface, Body, Epilogue, and Sections:

1. Apply Heading 1 style to the Title and to each line containing a Section name (copyright, prologue, etc.) or section (Part 1, Section II, etc.). Heading 1 style will always appear at the top of the next page.

2. Apply Heading 2 style to each line containing a Chapter name or number

3. Apply Heading 3 style to each line containing a sub-chapter / subtitle or subsection.

That’s it! Pretty simple huh? I know most of you already know how to do this, but you never know who else may be pulling their hair out :). In most cases, your POD distributor will not reject your manuscript if you use this format.

(Don’t use additional Heading styles (Heading 4, Heading 5) to denote chapter or section breaks, as these will not generate most TOC *Table of Contents* entries. Most readers will not be able to navigate to these chapters resulting in retail distribution partners, such as Amazon Kindle and B&N, to reject your e-book).