Scrap That TOC Post From Earlier

Back in May I posted a quick and dirty primer for making a table of contents.  It was just my way of doing things and I wanted to share it in the hopes that it might help someone.  Last week I was putting together a final collection of short stories for distribution to Smashwords and had to follow their model of making a TOC.  It was much easier.

Don’t do it the way I posted about earlier; that’s old and busted.  The new hotness is actually easier to work with and produces better results.

The way to do it correctly is this:

1). Use whatever you want for your chapter headings.  I still use Word’s Heading 1 style because it throws the chapter title into the navigation pane and that makes editing easier.

Head 1 sample

2). Highlight the chapter heading in your manuscript and select Insert in the Word ribbon (that thing at the top that replaced easy to understand menus) and click Add Bookmark.

Insert Bookmark

Repeat this process for each chapter header.  Note: you can name the bookmarks whatever you feel like.  Make them something easy to remember.  I used the chapter name (or a variant) with no spaces in the name.  Spaces are bad, mmkay.  Don’t worry, no one will be able to see them but you.

3).  Type out your Table of Contents and style it however you please.  That’s one of the major drawbacks to using Word’s Table of Contents generator: it’s brutal to clean up the formatting.  This way is nice and easy and you can make it look however you want.  Once you’re done, highlight each chapter and go Insert on the ribbon bar and click hyperlink.  Make sure to select the Places in the Document button on the left.  Select the bookmark you created earlier and click okay.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Create Hyperlink

4). Voila.  Note, Smashwords is still trying to get epub submissions (you still have to submit a Word 2003 or 2007 doc file) to work and a lot of your formatting will go out the window as soon your book hits a Kindle (or other tablet).


This example is from the Kindle preview tool that Amazon built and is showing how the mobi file will look on an e-Ink device.

Simpler, easier, faster.  I believe you can do the same thing with Libre Office and Open Office.  Ditch Word’s TOC generator and do it the easy way.

Book Review – Tower of Tears by Rhoda by Rhoda D’Ettore

“Betrayal. Despair. Murder. Blackmail. Romance. Tragedy.

In the 1820s, a young woman embarks on a journey for a better life in America. She brings with her a three year old son, and plans to live with relatives she has never met in Philadelphia. Her loving husband remains in Ireland, taking in boarders and working the farm to save money for his departure.

Along the way, Jane realizes she is pregnant, then soon is told she is expected to pay rent, and work in a factory. Her new boss begins to sexually assault her, convincing her that a pregnant Irish woman would never find work. She turns to her priest with no results. She is trapped!

Don’t miss out on this Irish family saga!”

Tower of Tears

It’s telling how much the times have changed when you read a line in a book that says there’s no way a woman can inherit property and you wonder if you’re reading some kind of dystopian science fiction.  That’s not to say we, as a culture, have finally come to the startling conclusion that women are people, too, but at least women can vote and own property which is a damned sight better than they had it in early 19th century.

Now, before anyone starts talking about how women are still not completely equal, let me just say I agree.  There’s still work to do.  All I’m saying is it used to be one hell of a lot worse than it is now.

Which leads us full-bore into Tower of Tears, Rhoda D’Ettorre’s look at the life of a family in 19th century United States.  There’s relgious tension, class tension, and nationality tension.  This was the time of life in the United States where the country was a much different place.  People worked six days a week for a pittance, laborers had very little recourse under the law, women had precisely zero rights, and signs like this were commonplace.


This is the lan of opportunity that Jane, an Irish immigrant, and her son land in.  Needless to say, it’s a harsh awakening, and they discover a country that’s somewhat less than enthralled to meet them.  Tower of Tears is the story of a family struggling to get by and the lengths they go to just to make it from day to day.  It’s not an easy book to read but the best books rarely are.  Tower of Tears will take you places, and even if those places aren’t always nice they’re places everyone should know about.

Tower of Tears is as much a history lesson as it’s a work of fiction and the world becomes just as much a character as the rest of the characters in the book.  The world around Jane, Liam, Katie, Michael, Thomas, and the rest influences their decisions and drives their motives, and that makes for an interesting read.  All too often historical ficiton focuses exclusively on the role the environment and ignores the characterization of the people driving the narrative.  Tower of Tears manages to effectively blend the environment and the characters to create wonderful read.

Buy a copy here

Follow Rhoda on Twitter

Check out Rhoda’s website

Conquer the Dreaded Table of Contents

Edited 09/26/2015: There’s still some fairly useful information in here, but there’s a far easier way to make a better looking TOC in Word.  See my latest post on it here.

There’s a lot of debate in the eBook world about whether or not eBooks actually need a Table of Contents.  The trends is leaning toward short story and anthology collections should definitely have one and novels may not need one.  Personally, I like the idea of a TOC in novels but that’s just because I’ll usually go back and read parts of a book later.  A TOC makes that a lot easier to do.  I’ve also been toying with the idea of adding a last page enty into my table of contents to support people like me who like to read the last page of a novel just to see what happens.

Fortunately, making a decent Table of Contents is fairly easy in Word.  Formatting it is a bit trickier but by no means rocket surgery.  It’s just step intensive and prone to failure.  Before you begin remember a couple things: have a backup of your book and Ctrl-Z (undo) is your friend.  We’re going to start with a raw Word doc (it’s got story titles and the first paragraphs of some of the stories I’m working on) and proceed through making a table of contents and formatting it for an eBook.

If you want to make life easy for yourself, get the whole book done before you even begin tackling this.  I’m not kidding here, you want the whole thing done and ready to go.  The TOC is absolutely the last thing you want to do because any changes in the text will mean you have to rebuild the TOC.

As a side note, this is an image-heavy post but the images are actually useful (unlike most of what I put in blog posts), so check them out.

This whole post springs off an earlier post about eBook formatting that I felt lacked some of the necessary steps to make it really useful.  Before you begin, make sure you’ve got some software handy and a basic understanding of how to use it.

Calibre (a wonderful and free eBook converter)

Sigil (a piece of software that will let you crack open ePub files and modify the HTML inside of them directly)

Kindle Previewer (an Amazon tool that will let you convert ePub to mobi using Amazon’s KindleGen software and see what your final file will look like on a Kindle)

A word processor (I used Word 2010, Libre Office and OpenOffice have similar features and cost much less)

To get started I mocked up a collection of stories and added a couple paragraphs from each one.  This is just meant to represent a normal document.  Your manuscript is probably a bit longer than two pages.  Normally you’d have page breaks between the stories but that’s beside the point and I’m a bit lazy tonight. (Click each picture to embiggen them, or right click and open in a new tab).

The actual stories will be out later this summer

The actual stories will be out later this summer

Not much to see here.  This is just some story titles and some text using Word’s default styles.  That’s okay because this is about the dreaded Table of Contents not the rest of the book.  The rest of the book is actually much easier to deal with.

We’re going to start by telling Word what constitutes a chapter header and, therefore, what to add to the table of contents.  You’ll do this with your good buddy styles.  To be frank, all your formatting should be done with styles, and making your TOC starts with styles.  Mark each story title with a Heading 1 style (you can format it to your heart’s content).  Select the text you want to make a TOC and click the Heading 1 style.  Boom.  Done.

I don't know who decided Word's default styles but they're pretty bad.

I don’t know who decided Word’s default styles but they’re pretty bad.

As you mark things with Heading 1 the navigation panel on the left fills in with data.  You can, like, totally click on those lines and they’ll take you to the points in the document.  Navigariffic.  This is, incidentally, the only formatting I do while I’m writing and that’s just because it makes it so much easier to navigate around the document.

From here, add a new blank page and add a Table of Contents.  This part is pretty trivial because Word loves you so much.

What's wrong with this picture.

What’s wrong with this picture.

Only one problem: eBooks don’t have page numbers because they’re really nothing more than a website running off your reader.  So, we need to get rid of those page numbers.  Should be easy, right?  Wrong.  Why?  Because Word hates you.  If you try to just highlight the part you don’t want and delete it you’ll wind up deleting the whole line and that’s where your good buddy Ctrl-Z comes in so handy.  This is also why you have a backup.

You do have a backup right?

To rid yourself of the hated page numbers, place the cursor right after the the text of the chapter title and press delete once.  This will remove all of the elipses (Are they still elipses when there’s more than 3?  Inquiring minds want to know) and you’ll have something that looks like this: titlenumber.  Leave the cursor where it is and press shift and the right arrow key until the whole number is highlighted.  Then press delete.  Bam!  You’ve got a clean chapter line.


Word looks like it’s highlighting the entire TOC, but it’s really not. This is just to confuse you.

Now, just to get fancy we’re going to put a little blurb under the title.  Don’t move the cursor, just press Enter and type up something.


Great for anthologies!

It’s ugly now, but that can be changed.  We’ll make a couple new styles and do some formatting.  To make a new style, right click anywhere in your text that you want the new style applied to, go to styles and click Save selection as new quick style.  Give it a name (I called mine TOC blurb) and click the modify button.  Now you can tweak the layout and font choices.  Be careful with fonts; Kindles have a limited font set that they’ll display in.  If memory serves, they tend to convert to Georgia, although I’ve good luck with common fonts like Arial, Times, and Garamond.  Don’t go nuts with your fonts and definitely don’t use Papyrus or Comic Sans.

CSS O' Matic

CSS O’ Matic


Style names can be clever but no one but you will ever see them.



I’ve selected 11pt Arial (the size is kind of immaterial), Italic, with a .5″ indent.  I also made some other styles for the chapter titles and the Contents line.  The style looks okay, not great, but works to show off what you can do.  Again, no Papyrus or Comic Sans.  Also, Old English script doesn’t make things look classy; it makes them look gangsta.


So, that works.  Convert it to epub however you wish (I used Calibre) and open the converted epub file in Sigil.  Remember how I said an ebook is really nothing more than a website?  This is what your epub looks like when you crack it open in Sigil.


Book View

The damned chapter titles are blue and underlined!  WTF?

Don’t fret.  The chapter titles are hyperlinks (<a href …> tags) that link internally to the document.  Default styling for a hyperlink is underlined blue.  Switch it over the code view and you can see what’s going on better.

Code view. Note the highlighted line.

Code view. Note the highlighted line.

Right above the highlighted line is a bit of text that reads <a class=”text_”… This is a reference to your CSS stylesheet class that controls how the book renders.  On the left hand side of Sigil is a list of folders.  If you look in Styles for stylesheet.css and open that file you’ll get the following.  I’ve already scrolled this all the way down the .text_ {} line and done some modifications.  First, I set the color to black and removed the line that did say text-decoration: underline.


Note in the preview pane the chapter title is still underlined.  We can fix that guy’s little red wagon, but you’ll see in the final that it doesn’t do much due to the way Kindles have been coded to render files.  Since our chapter titles are just hyperlinks and hyperlinks are, by default, underlined, we can add a new bit of CSS code to override the default <a> tag behavior.

It's just a few lines.

It’s just a few lines.

Down at the very bottom (or really wherever you feel like putting it) add the following code:


It's just a few lines.

It’s just a few lines.

Now look at your preview.  No underline, yo.  Fo shizzle!

Save the file and open it in Kindle Previewer to convert to Mobi and see how it’ll look on a Kindle.  You should see something similar to this:


The titles are back to being underlined.  Not much you can do with that, it’s just the way Kindles render those hated <a> tags.  In the final analysis, though, this isn’t really a bad thing.  Underlining provides a visual cue to your readers that they can click or tap something and move around the document.

Upload your new mobi file and you should be good to go.

Questions? Comments?  Drop a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Createspace and Gutenberg

I’m sure at this point everyone knows about Johannes Gutenberg.  If you missed out on Gutenberg, go check him out, he was an interesting guy.  We’ll still be here when you get back.

Also responsible for first pictures where eyes follow you everywhere.

Also responsible for first pictures where eyes follow you everywhere.

Movable type printing presses revolutionized the world in the 1400s.  Prior to printing presses books were hand written, usually by monks or others who had all the free time in the world to write a book – and usually illustrate it – with a quill pen and some ink.  Needless to say this was something of a tedious process and it wasn’t uncommon for books to take decades to write.  Sure, they were absolutely gorgeous when they were done, but imagine waiting 20 years for the next Charles Stross novel.  Hopefully it wouldn’t land with a thud like the last Star Wars movies did.  And even when it came out there would be precisely one copy of it.  Ever.  Unless you could find a monk or someone willing to copy it, which could also take decades.

So, along comes the printing press and suddenly it takes a whack of time to set up a book because you’ve got to custom make the plates but you can crank out a ton of copies in a short amount of time.

Groovy, man.

Now, imagine moving from this world into the movable type printing press world.  Mass communication just became a reality and it was a serious thorn in the side of both political and religious leaders.  It made information easier to come by and made it a damned site harder to hide secrets.

In its own way, mass communication was a weapon more powerful than anything that had ever come before.  Movable type printing presses allowed the first mass production and dissemination of information.  Things like this allowed the Renaissance to happen, kick started the scientific revolution, and wrested information from the iron grip of the literate elite of the time.  Writing made information portable, printing presses made it affordable.  And that right there is a powerful weapon.

Information is still a weapon, and an amazing one at that.  To paraphrase Spider Jerusalem, with the right information in the right place you can blow the kneecaps off the world.  And you can do it with a single shot.  Wars are won and lost on information.  Kings fall because of information.  Lies are opened wide to the world instead of lurking in the shadows.  Information, as they saying goes, is power and printing presses redistributed power.

At the time Gutenberg was working with movable type the presses were expensive and cantankerous beasts.  It took some know-how and a lot of money, but you could put out a flier that not only said the king was a big doody head, but had proof.  You could publish novels and stories and all sorts of information that kings and priests would have preferred stay hidden.  It wasn’t easy, but you could do it without spending a lifetime writing it by hand.  Information could be more timely; maybe the king was a big doody-head at this moment in time, but he was okay at others.  By hand you could spend months or years writing up a diatribe about the king only to find when they were done that the king had been whacked and replaced with someone completely different.

You just look foolish showing up with fliers decrying the previous king.  Especially if the new one actually turns out to be a decent guy (or gal).

Things stayed like that for a very, very long time, at least until mimeograph machines and later Xerox taught us a few new tricks and became economically viable to print up a slew of flyers about your missing cat or candlelight vigils for dead rock stars.


Not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens.

For the professional set, though, the printing press was still king and even in the late 80s (when I started doing page layout), you still had to know a thing or two about design and the rules of printing.  My first page layout was done on huge sheets of grid paper with a large ruler and a pencil.  I didn’t get to work with actual desktop publishing software until I was in college.

Again, things stayed like this for while.  You could photocopy some stuff or you could do it right and take the time to put things together and send it to a printer.  If you want to send something to a printer you found out quickly that printing was fantastically expensive.  $20k-$30k for the first book off the press.  The rest of them cost less than a dollar, but that first one was a doozy.  And, no, you can’t skip printing the first book.  Trust me, I tried.

Into this milieu drops a little thing called the World Wide Web, a subset of the Internet.  Most people think the web is the Internet, but it’s only a small portion of the whole Internet.  HTML and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol were relatively easy to use and let anyone put together something that looked – well, pretty godawful if I remember the early days of the web correctly.

HTML gave rise to a slew of publishing technologies including ebooks.  Amazon spearheaded the indie author revolution with the Kindle and self-publishing became a thing.  Now everyone, including me, has written a book (or several).  Some of these are books that never would have seen the light of day under the traditional printing press model.  Printing was still hugely expensive and publishers were wary of publishing anything they didn’t think would sell well.  Can you imagine anyone ever printing Bigfoot erotica?  No way in Hell, right?  Yet, someone self-published it and it became a huge thing for a while.

I have no idea what bigfoot erotica looks like, so here's a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.

I have no idea what Bigfoot erotica looks like, so here’s a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head.

Actually, when you get right down to it, the Kindle was a god-send for erotica authors.  Now you could be reading Bigfoot porn on the train ride to work and no one would ever be any the wiser.

There is a problem with digital printing, though.  The initial cost barrier, much like using a printing press, ain’t free.  You need a Kindle or a Kobo or an iPad or something similar to read these books.  If you lose power or network connectivity you’re boned.  This brings me to Createspace and on-demand printing.

Back in the day, some relative of mine (a great-grandfather, I believe) wanted to write a book.  He sat down, wrote that bad boy and found no one was interested in publishing a book about his dog.  So he did what any red-blooded American would do.  He payed to have it printed.  I still have a copy around here somewhere.

It was called vanity publishing at the time and it was hugely expensive.  That and you had to buy a lot of copies, which meant you just dropped a wad of cash on a bunch of books that you wrote and you still had no guarantee anyone else would want to read them.

On-demand printing is, in my opinion, a truly amazing technological marvel.  Forget ebooks, that’s just pushing electrons around.  I’ve seen on-demand printers and they’re incredibly cool.  Think about a large box, not entirely unlike an advanced copier.  Paper and instructions go in one end and a book comes out the other.

Chug chug chug ping!

Chug chug chug ping!

I hear Amazon has a couple of these things lying around somewhere.  Think of it as a World Wide Web in a box.  Gutenberg, after you peeled him off the ceiling and stopped his ranting about the demons controlling the magic box, would probably have loved these things.  The print on demand printer has finally done something Johannes set out to do back in the 1400s: made printing truly flexible and within the capabilities of the average person.  The input is relatively easy to do and the output looks pretty damned amazing.

I can see why traditional publishers would be leery of these things.  Now, after six hundred years of innovation, it’s easy to make a printed book.  Anyone can do it, Createspace lets you do it for free and even gives you royalties.  IngramSpark lets you do it for a minimal cost and even gives you royalties.  The eBook revolution may have let anyone write and distribute a book over the Internet, but eBooks are limited to digital distribution.  Print on demand technology will let you, with a minimal amount of work (Henchmen and Arise took less than a day to format) print an actual, factual book.  And it doesn’t even have to be a Bible.

And that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Normally I’m above such things…

Indie launching a book was quite the experience for me.  For some reason, I thought I’d be able to just put it out there and throngs of people would come and hail me as the new king of stuff and things.

Yeah, about that.

Anyway, in an attempt to get people to find my novel through the all the noise, I signed up with Story Cartel.  For the next 21 days, you’ll be able to get a free copy of the book and maybe some other free stuff (like Amazon gift certificates or a Kindle).  All you really need to do is sign up (it’s free to read stuff there) and you’ll have access to all kinds of indie authors absolutely free.  Catch?  What catch?  It’s strongly recommended that you leave a review, but it’s not really enforced.

Get a copy here, and enjoy the read