Should a book have a Table of Contents?

Recently in a writer’s forum, there was a discussion about whether to put a Table of Contents in a novel. Writers fell on both sides of the fence with their opinions.

The consensus was that we shouldn’t clutter the front portion of an eBook with drivel, or interrupt the reader who probably just wants to lose themselves in a good story. eBook devices make it easy to bookmark your place, so there is no need for a Table of Contents to get you back to where you were.

I thought they were missing a golden opportunity to better connect with their readers. A good Table of Contents can tell people what to expect from a book. It can also help sell the book.

I listed a few examples from my own books in the forum, demonstrating that it’s as good as a bulleted list of selling points.

From Yankee Go Home:

  • Cow Killers
  • Booger Dawg Rises Again
  • Lust or Bust
  • Daughters of the Revolution

From Bad Dog to Best Friend:

  • Dakota’s Trip to Misery
  • Deadly Prey
  • Don’t Kill the Dog
  • Potty Training a Problem Dog

From Alien Nightmares:

  • Faces in the Dark
  • Fright Nights
  • Flying Saucer in My Back Yard
  • We Can’t Handle the Truth

From The Wizard of Awe:

  • Spiders Hanging From the Trees
  • Oozing Blobs That Think
  • Will It Kill You?
  • Face First into the Spiderweb
  • Witch’s Curse That Creates Mummies
  • Genie in a Bottle

From Ancient Aliens and the Lost Islands: Through the Wormhole:

  • Legendary Creatures
  • Magic Mirrors
  • Forever Young
  • Gateways to the Otherworld
  • Lost Civilizations

Then I realized that all they’d see was me marketing my own books, and they’d probably just glaze right over the point I was trying to make, so I posted again using someone else’s book as an example.

Now this was the perfect example because I’d never heard of Vickie Mendenhall until she posted a link to her book in an author’s forum. I checked out her book and like me, she’d given it a Table of Contents including:

  • The Tooth Fairy Sucks
  • Those Damn Nuns
  • Small Children in Church
  • In the Doghouse
  • Button Button, Who’s Got the Goddamn Button?
  • I Killed the Boogeyman

For some reason the chapter “Those Damn Nuns” really stood out even though I’d never had dealings with nuns. But now, I wanted to read about Vickie’s experiences. What about those damn nuns? What did the damn nuns do? I had to know.

I read Vickie’s book, Jumping in Mud Puddles, and now I’m one of her biggest fans. I pass out her name more than I do my own. Because of a single chapter title, Vickie now has a fan spreading the word about her book and I know that my exuberance has sold copies for her. People have publicly said so.

THAT’S what a Table of Contents can do for you!

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