Table of Contents in a Nonfiction Book

Contents in a non-fiction book

Each nonfiction should have a table of contents to guide the reader. It is advisable, some would say, for an author, to create a table of contents (TOC) for any non-fiction book or book that is a collection of materials, such as poems, short stories, plays, etc.. In printed novels, a table of contents is largely a waste of time and can be counterproductive. An index is the part of a book that is normally only used in non-fiction books with parts and chapters.

The content page is less common in fiction, but can be used if your work contains unique chapter headings.

Need a table of contents or an index?

We are often asked by our writers whether they need a table of contents and an index or not. That is a big issue, because although it doesn't mean much to the author's primary subject matter, it can mean a great deal to the readers. So, here is our fast and filthy tutorial to help you decide whether you need a table of contents or an index.

Need a table of contents? Your book is either a fictional or non-fiction book? Each nonfiction should have a table of contents to help you. The foregoing applies in particular to works of reference and instructions. Do you have a book with titles? When your sections are referred to as section 1, section 2, etc., a table of contents is not very useful for the user.

However, if your sections are labeled, as in our forthcoming White Raven triology, then a table of contents can be useful. Do you have additional material in your book such as spreadsheets, diagrams, maps or other attachments? An index is useful for reading a book with additional material, as it makes the readers aware of the material's presence and makes it easy to find.

Your book is either a fictional or non-fiction book? Stephanie Dagg from the Cookbooks Are Cold Blogs says ALL non-fiction need an index. It says that in non-fiction, once they have finished reading the book, the reader "may just want to dive in later and recall certain facts that they recall, but do not necessarily know exactly where they have gone".

The index will help the readers to find keywords and avoid frustrations. The majority of literature has no index, but there may be a seldom opportunity where one is necessary. In particular, this applies to extra issues that contain or are intended to be used as references for literature critic.

She acknowledges that many of these are under-indexed and puts this down to the fact that most publishing houses do not want to afford it. The authors work directly with us to incorporate any element the authors deems necessary to improve legibility. So, tell us, do you ever use the index on the back of a book?

How about the table of contents? Is it useful to you or do the additional pages just stand in your way?

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