Saturday, 11 August 2012

Writing the List of Chapters

When writing your book proposal, you end up writing two tables of contents. The first of these, which has already been given in the first article of this series is the table of contents for your book proposal. Note that this is for the book proposal, not for your book.

Your are listing all the relevant sections in your book proposal. Now, I like to write my book proposal in PDF format and I often send both a paper copy and an eMail to the publisher. For the emailed version I hyperlink the proposal's tale of contents entries to the appropriate section of the proposal. Just to recap, here are the suggested sections for your proposal's table of contents.

1. Overview
2. Marketing
3. Promotion
4. Competing Books
5. About the Author
6. List of Chapters
7. Chapter-by-chapter Summaries
8. Sample Text

So far, on this blog I have covered sections 1 through 5 and we are now on section 6.

In this case, the 'list of chapters' referred to is the 'Table of Contents' for the book you are proposing. This will show the publisher how your are going to structure your book and will show that you can plan your book. For example, here is a first draft of my table of contents for my Big Book of Curry Recipes:

1. Table of Contents
2. Introduction
3. Traditional Curries
4. The Curries of South Asia
5. The Curries of Southeast Asia
6. The Curries of Indonesia
7. The Curries East Asia
8. The Curries of Africa
8.1 East AFrica
8.2 West AFrica
8.3 Southern AFrica
9. The Curries of the Caribbean
10. British Curries
10.1 Historic Curries
10.2 Restaurant-style Curries
11. Classic Spice Blends and Spice Pastes
12. Index

Essentially a chapter is a topic that you will cover in detail in the book. As you can see the table of contents shows an orderly pattern. The traditional curries come from the Indian sub-Continent. Indians introduced curries to south Asia, southeast Asia, Indonesia and East Asia following the spice routes and migrations of buddhist monks.

Indians also introduced curries to East Africa, but in Ethiopia there are native curry-like dishes, just as there are in West Africa. The British introduced one style of curry in South AFrica and Malays brought as indentured servants introduced another kind. The British and Indian immigrants brought curries to the Caribbean. So we traverse the world in a sensible historic fashion.

The penultimate chapter is on British curries, both historic and modern (many of the modern restaurant-style curries were developed in Britain) and lots of dishes that have curry flavours added to them were invented by the Victorians.

The final chapter is a series of recipes for classic curry blends that are used by a number of the recipes in the book.

As you can see, the table of contents is ordered and logical. This shows your thinking to the publisher. But if you have done this well, it is also a framework around which you can construct your book when writing it — which is exactly what your table of contents should do.

Whatever your filed and the subject of your book is, if you look at the table of contents of other authors you will get a very good idea of how complex (or how simple) a table of contents can be. And some authors keep them very simple, indeed.

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