Novice Self-publishing, 5 – Table of Contents

screenshot TOC
  • Amazon’s formatted templates include a Table of Contents  (TOC). As far as I can tell (not having explored it thoroughly) this is updated manually .
  • Smashwords Style Guide tells how to use Bookmarks to set up your own Table of Contents (find Bookmarks on the INSERT tab). I have used this method, but it requires assiduous monitoring. I found Word’s built-in Table of Contents an easier option. (Find it on the REFERENCES tab.)
  • If your document uses Word’s built-in Styles for your chapter headings (ie. Heading 1, Heading 2, etc) you only have to select one of the automatic Tables of Contents built-in to Word (see pic below). Remember you can tweak these Styles yourself by right-clicking in the Style Gallery and selecting Modify from the context menu (see previous blog post).
  • Or you can customise Word’s automated Table of Contents, as I did.

Table of Contents

I had set up my own Styles for chapter headings, and author attributions, which we wanted to include in our Table of Contents, so I customised Word’s automated TOC.

screenshot TOC

To customise your TOC, go to the REFERENCES tab, click on Table of Contents (left of the ribbon) and find Custom Table of Contents near the bottom left.

screenshot ToC

If you are formatting for an e-book, tick the box for hyperlinks. For a print manuscript you will need page numbers instead.

screenshot TOC options

If you don’t like the way your listed Contents look, you can try different templates by clicking the Format box on the left near the bottom.

To enter your own Styles, go into Options (bottomish right). In the new box that appears, move down the right-hand column for TOC level.

NOTE: The Styles you use for your TOC cannot be used elsewhere in your document or they will be picked up and included in the Contents.

screenshot ToC
  • The Style you use for your top level (usually chapter headings) should have the number 1 in the box beside it. Check all the way down to the bottom and remove all other 1s. (If you haven’t used Word’s Heading styles at all it doesn’t matter if you leave their numbers in there.)
  • If you want to organise your chapters into sections, the style used for Section headings will be 1, your Chapter heading style will then be level 2. Any other subheadings – if you want them in the contents – would be designated as level 3.
  • Click to accept your changes.

Don’t go back into the Custom Table of Contents setup again unless you want to change anything. Every time you click on Custom Table of Contents you will have to re-enter your Styles.

To update your TOC, click REFERENCES and Update Table. When prompted, update the entire table, not just the page numbers.

Further formatting

To complicate matters, we wanted to include author names after each story title. Our anthology was arranged in sections, grouping together stories written to a particular prompt.  This meant that any writer’s contributions were scattered throughout the book, and needed to be flagged in the TOC.

Ideally, the author’s name would be on the same line as the story title, but after some research it became clear (confirmed by Microsoft Support) that this is not possible when using Word’s automated TOC.

Setting up a third level gave us page numbers on every level – including the line with author names.

Removing the page numbers for a specific level required research into what goes on in the background involving switches and field codes (which was Klingon to me on a first read). I won’t bore you with detail in this post, but for those wanting to learn about field codes and switches, there is help available on Microsoft’s Help pages and other forums.

Having refreshed my memory for this post, I now feel (almost) equal to dealing with the TOC for the next volume (working title, A Following Wind). I’ll let you know, when I come to it, if there’s anything vital I’ve left out here.

TOC Styles

If the templates don’t offer what you want, you can also tweak the Styles of each level of your Contents in the same way as other Styles.

screenshot TOC styles

I recommend you save your file first and try this on a copy, in case you change something unexpected and don’t know how to change it back. Practising on a copy could save you from having to delete your painfully-amended Table of Contents and start again. (Although this does get quicker each time you have to do it. I speak as one who knows.)


Since posting this article, I have updated my Office installation with Office 365.

On going to update the TOC in our book’s manuscript, I am repeatedly getting the message that there is no Table of Contents. This in spite of the fact that…

  • my TOC links are working as expected;
  • I have tried removing the existing TOC ( in the approved manner, by clicking ‘Remove’ in the REFERENCES tab’s Table of Contents instructions) and installing a new one;
  • I have also tried all manner of saving and reopening to test the Update function.

This might be because I’m not using one of the Standard formats. I haven’t tried installing one of those because it isn’t what I want.

Today, I tried highlighting the Table of Contents before clicking on Update…


So – if your TOC isn’t updating as expected, try highlighting the whole thing first.

The next Novice Self-publishing post will deal with Headers and Footers in your printed book.

6 thoughts on “Novice Self-publishing, 5 – Table of Contents

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