To TOC or not to TOC

Well, again on the Mobilreads forum, that’s a forum for all of us who produce ebooks for Kindle as well as epub… on a thread that has been ongoing for months about the Start point in Kindle ebooks… we have found that Amazon is doing something to our books even after they are uploaded. Here’s the story so far.

Back about last December Amazon started re-setting the Start point on ebooks, well on some ebooks. In the process that I and others use to produce Kindle content(and there are many ways to make a Kindle ebook) We start with an HTML file which has already been tagged with a Start point (Start_Reading) usually either on the Prologue if there is one, or if not on Chapter 1. Lately most of my clients want a Reader Letter right before the start of the book, so I put the Start_Reading tag there.

Then I take that ‘tagged’ HTML file, put it into Calibre and build an epub. But there’s more. Then I take the epub into a program called Sigil, a text editor that works with epubs as well as HTML, and re-tag all my points… Cover, Title page, copyright page, Table of Contents, and Start_Reading although the guide feature in Sigil calls this merely ‘text’.

Now here may be the problem. Amazon really wants the Table of Contents to be in the front of the book as if this were a non-fiction. But these books aren’t non-fiction and don’t even need a TOC, it’s just a courtesy to readers to put one in so they can get to things like… well, the Reader Letter, Acknowledgments, Dedications, Author Bio… stuff like that. But most of my clients don’t like to clutter up the front of the book with these things… they want me to put some of it in the back, most particularly the TOC. It affects the Sample size of the book. If your TOC runs 3 pages, then that’s 3 pages less of actual text.

The thread on Mobilreads has been discussing this lately and thinks Amazon has been inserting their own ‘Start-Reading’ tags or SRL willy-nilly (well, not really, they do have a process) into a book after it’s uploaded. They want the book to open at the text right after the TOC. AND if you don’t do this then it may affect these features “If You Liked The Book” and “Last Page Read”. That’s the rub, we don’t actually know if it DOES affect those features.

Do you see the problem? The TOCs in my books are at the end! Now I haven’t noticed that any of the books I have produced since December have a wonky start, or that the TOC cannot be accessed with the little ‘open book’ icon on my kindle… but then I’m not buying those books… They haven’t actually gone through the upload process at Amazon (or KDP their publishing site). And none of my clients have gotten letters either from Amazon or from Readers that their purchased books have a weird start point. But… I guess I’m putting the TOC back at the beginning where Amazon wants it. Most of the books that I have on my Kindle (the purchased books… and I have several hundred) open just fine where they’re supposed to and also most have the TOC in the back of the book. One of my Mobilreads buddies even said that James Patterson… well his formatter, I’m sure he doesn’t format his own books… puts a mini-TOC in the front of the book which is linked to the actual TOC in the back… I may try that… but personally I don’t think readers will know what to do with a Mini-TOC… maybe I’ll have to get a sample of one of his books and see what one looks like.

I think I shall take my problem to the top… tech support at KDP (Kindle’s publishing site). I’ll let you know how that goes!

About athirstyblog

If you're a published author and are sitting on a basement full of backlisted books, then you've found the right blog. Although I formerly filled these pages with book reviews, they will now be filled with tips on eBook formatting, talk about the current technology of eBooks, and other stuff that interests me and hopefully interests you. I'm currently an eBook formatter, formerly a bookseller, archaeologist, illustrator and lover of all things historical and scientific. And I'm now a permanent citizen of DownEast Maine with my own beach and 175 year old house and everything! Come along for the Journey!
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11 Responses to To TOC or not to TOC

  1. What’s up to every one, the contents present at this website are genuinely remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

  2. athirstyblog says:

    Thanks, I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but my goal in 2014 is at least twice a month.

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  4. Superb blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so
    many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed
    .. Any tips? Cheers!

    • athirstyblog says:

      Thanks for commenting. For a blog I’d go with WordPress, free and link it with your Author website. Months before you upload your first book, have all your author social media going and collecting friends and followers. Research all the eBook platforms, Kindle/Amazon (KDP), B&N (NookPress), Kobo, Smashwords, D2D, Overdrive (library) and decided how you want to load… have Smashwords upload and distribute to everyone except Amazon, or go strictly Amazon with KindleSelect. Lots of choices. Also look for good editors both copyeditors and developmental editors. And an excellent proofreader. Never rely on your own proofing. And a formatter for your eBook unless you have researched formatting and are very familiar with HTML code. Even though the platforms (B&N, Amazon, etc) say you can just upload a Word doc… you won’t be pleased with the outcome unless you have a very very simply book. Lots of things to consider. I use MadMimi for newletters, but Constant Contact is good too. Bottom line… have an outstanding website! Learn to use Twitter and FB (set up an author page on FB and an author account on Twitter)… don’t mix personal with professional!

  5. Eusebia says:

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  7. athirstyblog says:

    Emery, if you want your content copyrighted, put it into a book. A blog is an internet construct and as such you probably can’t protect your content with a copyright. It’s out there, free, for the world to see. If you want to try to protect your words slap a copyright symbol on it somewhere in the post. But I don’t think that will protect you. Some bloggers actually compile their blogs into a book and either sell it at Amazon or another digital platform, or give it away free. That you can copyright.

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