The Ultimate Guide On How To Make A Book Table of Contents

Table of Contents

You always need to create a table of contents when you write a book.

Adding a table of contents (TOC) is often the last task you think about after you have written a book.

But when you try to add one, it can lead to some confusion or frustration.

A table of contents in books needs the correct formatting before you can insert it into your contents page.

When you learn to apply heading styles correctly, it is easy to create an updateable TOC.

In this guide, we will look at how to add a TOC using a word processor in:

1. Microsoft Word

2. Apple pages

3. Make A Clickable TOC

4. In an ebook

Heading styles create your Table of Contents

Creating a book table of contents to show what your book includes, depends completely on the heading styles you have used for your chapter titles throughout your book.

It is an automatic table, so before you start you need to check all your heading text in your document.

To do this, in Word go to the Home Tab, then Styles Toolbox from the View menu. In Pages, under the Text menu, click on the arrow near the Default tab.

Microsoft Word and Pages Styles

Consistent headings are the most important step before you can create references, table of contents, or footnote insertions. So make sure every heading is correct.

You need to check all your heading text. In most cases, you will choose heading 1 style for your book title and heading 2 style for your chapter titles.

On rare occasions, you might want to have sub-headings in a chapter. If you want to use this heading level, select heading 3 style.

Make sure you don’t use and headings in your copyright notices. You don’t want these appearing in your TOC.

Heading 2

Go through your Word document and select the text for each chapter heading and select heading 2. Use heading 1 only for your book title on the title page.

You might also want to insert page numbers in the footer if you haven’t done so already. But if you are formatting an ebook, you should not use page numbers for an ebook table of contents.

Once all the headings in your document are set correctly, you are ready to create a TOC.

Related reading: How to add an index to an ebook


1. How to insert a table of contents field in Word

Go to the point in your document where you want to insert your TOC and place your cursor at the insertion point. This is usually your contents page.

Then go to the Insert menu.

insert tables menu

Click Insert Index and Tables. You will see the following dialog box.

TOC dialogue box


You can select your TOC style from the Formats box. Next, click Options.

TOC settings


This is the most important setting.

Make sure that you number the priority of your headings.

Delete any other numbers in the Available Styles list and only retain the heading styles you are using for your chapter headings. Then click OK.

Now click the modify button.

TOC modify


In this box, you can change the look and feel of your TOC heading style. If you want to make font and style changes, click the Modify button.

TOC Font


Click OK when you have finished styling your text. Then click OK again.

Your custom table of contents is now in your document.

TOC complete


If you want to make changes to your TOC styling, select all the text in your TOC and right-click. You can then select from the menu to change the font or paragraph styles.

In the same popup menu in the image below, you can update the table of contents dialog box by clicking Update fields.

If you make any changes to your document, this will automatically update the page number or text changes you have made to your chapter headings.

Any time you make changes in your document, right-click on your TOC. Then update the table of contents and choosing update field.

The Toggle Field Codes is not very useful as it only shows the code behind your TOC.

TOC customise


The process above is similar for most versions of MS Word including Word 2007, Word 2010, and Word for Mac.


2. Add a table of contents in Apple Pages

It is a similar process to Word, but with a couple of small differences.

First, choose Insert Table of Contents and then Document at your insertion point.

Pages insert TOC


Next, select only the headings that you are using for your chapter titles. Again this is usually Heading 2.

Pages headings


To style your TOC, click into the table of contents field. This will change the menu tab on the right.

Pages set text


Now you can style your text and fonts. But there is one last setting to have your page number in the correct location next to your chapter titles.

Pages stops


Right at the bottom, you can change the tab stops, alignment, and add a leader if you wish.

To make any alterations or changes, click into the TOC and the same dialog box will appear.


3. Creating a navigational table of contents

There are some uses for having a fully navigational, or clickable TOC.

While a standard TOC will navigate from the page numbers, it is not very obvious for readers or users.

It is a manual process, so you will not be automatically generating your TOC. But again, make sure your chapter heading style is consistent and using heading 2.

You start by adding a bookmark to your chapter headings.

Select your chapter text, and then from the Insert menu, Bookmark.

create bookmark


The next step is to name your bookmark. You cannot have spaces in the name. It can only be letters, so choose something recognizable for each of your chapters.

name bookmark


Click Add, and you have set your bookmark. Now you need to add your chapter title in your navigation list manually. As you can see, I have already added the first three chapters.

Add chapter title


Now select the text and choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu.

Add hyperlink


In the next dialog box, select Document and then click Locate.

Select Document


In the next dialog box, open the Bookmarks menu if necessary and then select your chapter bookmark. Then click OK.

Select bookmarks


You now have a hyperlink to chapter four. You can see the alt text box when you hover your cursor over the link. Clicking the link will take you to Chapter Four.

Link added

4. Adding a table of contents to an ebook

Good news. There is no need to create a table of contents in an ebook if you use the right software or upload directly to Amazon KDP or an aggregator.

The only action you need to take is to ensure that ONLY your chapter headings are using heading 2. You should check your document carefully to make sure there are no other instances of heading 2.

If you use Draft2Digital (D2D) to publish your ebooks, you only have to supply a Word docx file, with no copyright or title page. D2D will complete all the front matter including your title page and table of contents.

If you are using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) it is almost the same. However, you need to create a title page and copyright page in your docx file before you upload.

If you want to create your own ebook files in mobi and epub, you can use Calibre to make the conversion.

Read this article for instructions: How To Convert A Document From Word To Epub Or Mobi

An automatic table of contents is created for you when you convert to epub or mobi using Calibre.

Go to your book on Calibre and click on the book or the file type to open it.

Now click on the TOC icon, marked with the red arrow. You will see your all your chapters are listed.

They will be used as ebook navigation points on a Kindle device or any other ebook reading app.

Calibre TOC


For all the different ways you can create a table of contents the most critical factor is in formatting your chapter heading using styles.

Heading 2 must be used to make sure that all entries in the table are correct.

As all TOCs are automatic, if your styles are mixed, or not reserved for chapters headings only, your TOC will be inaccurate.

Once you have mastered the basics, adding a table of contents is a quick and easy task.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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