Author Topic: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!  (Read 2331 times)

Offline Amie

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Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« on: May 06, 2016, 02:05:25 AM »
I think this could increase your sales significantly.

So often, I am browsing a book on Amazon, and there is either no table of contents (instant killer for me), or the table of contents simply lists Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 etc. I immediately lose interest when I see this. I like a structured preview of what's coming in a non-fiction book before I buy. I don't think I am necessarily that dissimilar to the average reader in this respect.

I actually think it could be helpful for fiction too, although nowhere near as critical. I remember old-fashioned books (Gulliver's Travels sticks out in my head) used to have descriptive paragraphs in the table of contents, telling you the highlights of what would happen in each chapter. A teaser can be as good as a cliff-hanger for sparking the interest and keeping people reading.

Just saying is all :)
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

hillwalker3000

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2016, 11:46:43 AM »
The problem is, by the time you include your front cover, title page, flattering quotes from various literary publications, epigraph, biographical notes, acknowledgements, copyright guff and the list of chapters (complete with summaries) there would be no room left on the Amazon 'Look Inside' feature to include any of the actual text of your story.

I was advised to waste as few pages as possible on the Kindle version of my books to enable browsing readers to see at least the first 10-12 pages of the opening chapter(s).

H3K

Offline Amie

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2016, 02:27:44 AM »
Well, unless I'm some kind of oddball (I am, but I don't think this is one of my peculiarities), then it's very bad advice. For me, no table of contents = no sale. At least, if it's non-fiction. Very often I won't even bother trying something on kindle unlimited if there's no table of contents.

1. Besides the reasons in my first post, no toc screams amateur. There is a direct correlation I've found between the quality of the writing and editing and the presence or absence of a toc.

2. Again, sticking with non-fiction - you aren't always interested in the whole book. You might just be interested in what would be in chapters 4 and 6, if you could find the #$$!!##s !

3. Related to point 1, when I see no toc, I don't think "ah, economising on preamble so that they can show me ten pages of their excellent writing!" - I think "disorganised brain, probably no structure, and I'm gonna have to wade through loads of waffle hoping I don't tune out before I get to the good bits, if there are any"

Anyway, the "look inside" feature is not restricted to the first pages in strict sequential rider. I've sampled many books with this feature that skip the opening pages and go straight to chapter 1 (in these cases, I give them a chance if it's kindle unlimited, and download to see if there's a toc. If there's a toc, I keep reading. If not, I give it back. Non-fiction books aren't worth reading, even for free, if I don't know what I'm going to invest the next several hours or days of my life reading).


ps - thanks though for explaining why authors do that!
« Last Edit: May 07, 2016, 02:35:18 AM by Amie »
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

hillwalker3000

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2016, 04:56:53 AM »
I didn't read the title of your post thoroughly enough because I was referring to Fiction rather than non-Fiction.  :-\

Since I rarely read non-fiction the problem has never arisen but you make some excellent points.

H3K

Offline Amie

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2016, 07:48:49 AM »
Ah yes - for fiction it doesn't really matter so much. I can take or leave ToCs in fiction.
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Artemis Quark

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2016, 08:15:52 AM »
For fiction, I like (and use) a TOC that has more than a simple 'Chapter 1' title. As a writer, I use the title as a teaser or tone-setter for the contents to follow. Reading such a TOC on one or two pages in the front matter provides a snapshot of the plot and the type of action in the book. In my case, I'm referring to Action/Adventure stories.

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, consider the TOC in Trouble on the Straits:

CONTENTS
FISH TALE
DEATH CHAIR
DEAD MANíS MAP
SOMEONE WATCHING
STRANGER CALL
MIAMI DEA
LITTLE BIG SISTER
TREASURE HUNT
A FAVOR
SECOND TRIP
SNAGGED AND BAGGED
RANSOM DEMAND
DIAMONDS UP THE WAHOO
DRUG LORDíS LAIR
THE SWAP
THE CHASE
OPERATION KATE
PLEA BARGAIN
FAMILY REUNION
DRUG LORD STING
DEAD MAN TWO
COVERT CAPER
TRIAL AND ERROR
VOLATILE VERDICT
BREAK TIME
JAWS OF JUSTICE
SEARCH FOR TRUTH
REPTILIAN REDOUBT
CARNAVAL DE COZUMEL
GIFT FROM THE SEA
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I think two or three pages of Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc. is a waste of space and provides no information other than the number of chapters in the book. Of course, in an ebook each title can provide a jump link to that chapter, but the Amazon Read Inside feature doesn't always link you to later chapters if it is not in the first 20% of the ebook content.

AQ

Offline Amie

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2016, 09:31:45 AM »
Quote
I think two or three pages of Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc. is a waste of space and provides no information other than the number of chapters in the book

Exactly! It's marginally better than nothing at all, just in terms of being able to find the next chapter, but really a bit of information should be provided.

I like your teaser chapter names :)
"You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet." - Kafka

Artemis Quark

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Re: Non-fiction writers: title your chapters!
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2016, 12:13:16 PM »

I like your teaser chapter names :)

Thanks, Amie. I create them when I outline the book, sometimes changing them after it's finished. I find they act as writing prompts that keep me focused on the main events in the chapter.