Do You Need to Include a Table of Contents or Index?

Design, Tips

One of the questions our authors frequently ask us is whether or not they need a table of contents, and index, both, or neither.

This is a big question because while it doesn’t mean much to the author’s main content, it can mean a lot to the reader. So here’s our quick and dirty guide to deciding whether or not you need a table of contents or an index.

Do you need a Table of Contents?

Is your book fiction or non-fiction?

All non-fiction books should have a table of contents to guide the reader. This is especially true of reference books and how-to guides.

Does your book include named chapters?

If your chapters are named as Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc, a table of contents isn’t overly useful to readers. But if your chapters are named, as in our upcoming White Raven trilogy, then a Table of Contents can be useful.

Does your book include extra materials such as tables, charts, maps, or other appendices?

A Table of Contents is useful for books with extra materials because it alerts the reader to the existence of the materials and helps the reader easily locate them.

Do you need an Index?

The answer to this really boils down to one basic question:

Is your book fiction or non-fiction?

According to Stephanie Dagg from the Books Are Cool blog, ALL non-fiction books need an index. She says that with non-fiction books, once they’ve read the book, readers “after may well want just to dip in and retrieve certain facts that they remember coming across, but not necessarily know exactly where.” An index helps the reader search by key word and avoids frustration.

Most fiction books do not have an index, but there could be the rare occasion where one is necessary. This would be especially true with special editions that include literary criticism or are meant to serve as reference.

Stephanie recognizes that many books are under-indexed, and she attributes this to the fact that most publishers don’t want to pay for indexing. We’d like to chime in here and say that’s one of the advantages of our partnership publishing model. We work directly with the author to include all elements the author feels are necessary to enhance readability. We don’t make the final call on indexing–you do as the author.

We Want to Hear from You

If you have a book ready to be published, we’d love to take a look at your book and see how we may be able to work with you to bring your book to the world. Review our publishing options, and if you think we’d be a good fit for each other, we’d love to review your manuscript.

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