What does your book’s table of contents tell readers about you?
If you are anything like me, when choosing a book, you first read the book title, then the back-cover blurb. Finally, you flick through the table of contents.
And it’s there that many authors’ hopes and dreams come asunder. Instead of clarity, the browsing reader sees chaos. Instead of intriguing, they see boring.
Your book’s contents page should reveal your personality as well as your mind.
Take Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life.
Chap 3 of Part 1 is endearingly called, “Shitty First Drafts”. This title tells us a lot about LaMott and endeared her to me. I often quote from this section as my clients struggle with their first drafts.
Chip and Dan Heath divide their book into chapters that spell SUCCESS (almost). They admit it’s naff, but it’s an example of what they expound in their book, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”.
William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well: The Class Guide to Writing Nonfiction”, is a systematic thinker, and it shows in his structured contents. But his personality shines through in chapter titles such as 2. Simplicity and 3. Clutter, and 21. Enjoyment, Fear and Confidence. A man who walks the talk.
Your table of contents will sell you and your book if you get it right. It’s worth a little extra attention.
What would you like your book’s table of contents to say about you?