Creating a TOC and Sample Chapter

How to Create a TOC and Sample Chapter

Every project starts with an approval process. The TOC must be approved before writing begins, and often a sample chapter is required as well.

Creating a TOC

  1. A table of contents (TOC) should include part divisions and titles (if applicable), chapter numbers and titles, and at least two heading levels per chapter. Your finished TOC should include page count estimations, anticipated dates, and percentage of revised material (if it's a new edition).

  2. Follow a traditional outline plan with parallel structure that reflects the parent/child relationship between topics. Every subhead should have a partner -- so no single subheads (sometimes referred to as "widowed heads"). See the following example on snack food.

    Intro (5 pages)
    Ch 1: When and How Often To Snack (10 pages)
    H1: What Type of Eater are You?
     H2: Determining what your "type" is
     H2: Changing your type
    H1: Determining How Often to Snack
     H2: Age
     H2: Health Concerns
     H2: Activity Level
    H1: Determine the Best Time of Day to Snack
    H1: Deciding How Much to Snack
     H2: Total calories from snacks
     H2: Percentage of fat calories vs. protein
    Ch 2: Types of Snack Food: Pros and Cons (28 pages)
    H1: Going Salty
     H2: Potato Chips, Pork Rinds, and Corn Chips, Oh My!
     H2: Pickles and Olives
    H1: Choosing Sweet
     H2: Cinnamon Toast
     H2: Candy bars (include sidebar "Does Snickers really satisfy?")
     H2: The Trifecta: Doughuts, cake and pies, and brownies
    H1: Eating Healthy
     H2: Veggies and hummus
     H2: Organic, low-fat granola bar
     H2: Apple and natural peanut butter or apple and cheese stick
     H2: It's all relative: air-popped popcorn, whole grain pretzels, cheese and crackers
    Chapter 3: When You Have to Eat on the Go (15 pages)
    H1: Portable Snacks for Breakfast
    H1: Portable Snacks for Lunch
    H1: Portable Snacks for Dinner
    Chapter 4: Recipes for Homemade Snackfood (20 pages)
    H1: Making Granola
    H1: Making Hummus
    H1: Creating the World's Best Yogurt Smoothie
    ...and so on and so forth

  4. Organize it logically, grouping like items together, grouping related groups in chapters, grouping related chapters in parts. Pay attention to the way you order the material. You can organize it chronologically to reflect the order that the reader will need the information as they use the software, program, database, or network tools that the book covers; or you can organize it from simple to complex. Read your series guidelines or discuss with your editor to see if there is a necessary organizational style if your book is in a series.

  5. Include at least two heading levels in each chapter (and more than one H1). Make each heading descriptive and unique, so they are useful as reference points for the reader. It's a good idea to include a summary paragraph after each chapter title (or comments as needed) to help describe the content you'll be including and the approach you are taking. This helps authors gather their thoughts, and it's helpful to editors who may not be as familiar with the topic matter.

  6. Make sure it includes all the necessary series elements (e.g., make sure a Beginning Book includes Try it Outs in the outline).

  7. Make sure it addresses the weaknesses of the competition (if the competing title does not have enough real-world examples, make sure your outline points out where you do include them, for example).

  8. Keep your audience in mind while building a TOC -- make sure you are including all of the relevant information they need while not including extraneous material, within the confines of the series in which you are working (a Wrox Professional book would not contain the history/evolution of a particular software product, for example).

  9. NOTE: If you are putting together a table of contents on a topic that isn't fully formed yet (like beta software, for instance), your task will be more difficult. Still, you must go into detail as much as possible. Research what to expect to be included, and note for the editor it is likely to change. Other tips for dealing with unknowns: look at prior versions, and assume it will be likely to have the same features until you confirm otherwise; check press releases and forums; look at similar competing products that are already out -- what features does that product have? It's likely that the product you're writing on will try to compete with it in some way.

  10. When creating a TOC on a new edition of an existing book, be sure to note the percentage of revised material.

  11. Before sending it to your AE, make sure you have estimated page counts for each chapter. Do not take a total page count and divide by number of chapters, which isn't useful. Instead, think about length and depth of coverage. Also, estimate how long it will take you to write each chapter (keep in mind you'll also be doing Author Review during the last fourth of your submission schedule) and prepare a submission schedule with your chapters. Aim to spread your chapters out somewhat equally over time; we prefer not to receive 75% of a manuscript at once. Doing so builds a log jam for you later. Incorporate your detailed TOC into the proposal form with dates, page counts, and competitive analysis and send it to your AE. You're well on your way to becoming an author!

  12. NOTE: We understand that a TOC is a work in progress. Once your TOC has been approved and you are writing the book, sometimes changes are unavoidable. As changes occur throughout the writing process, please be sure to update the TOC accordingly; if they are major changes (such as chapter additions/deletions) they will need to be approved by the Acquisitions and Project Editor.
Writing a Sample Chapter

After your TOC is approved, you will be asked to write a sample chapter (unless you have already written a book in the same series as your proposed book).

Here are the things you need to consider when preparing a sample chapter:

a) Have you obtained the series guidelines from the AE and read them in detail?

b) Choose a meaty chapter (read: not the intro, Chapter 1, or an appendix) from the approved outline and write that chapter.

c) Make sure you attach the SD template and style things appropriately, according to the design PDFs.

d) Make sure you use the series elements at your disposal. The sample chapter should include properly referenced and captioned figures, notes/tips features, and any series-required elements (such as intro bulleted lists in a Wrox Professional or Try it Outs and a Summary Table in a Wrox Beginning).

e) After you've written and formatted your chapter, do a last proofread. Run spell check and make sure you are sending us an example of good work.

f) Submit the chapter and the figure files and code files to your AE.