#amwriting: the hyperlinked Table of Contents

When I read an ebook, I like to be able to easily navigate within the story by using a hyperlinked table of contents. This is also called a “Smart TOC” (Smart Table of Contents) and every one of my ebooks has one. A Smart TOC easy to create when you are formatting your ms for publication. The only difficult thing about creating one is, it’s time consuming. In my experience, it’s best to just sit down and get it all done in one session so you don’t lose track of where you are in the process. Therefore, I pick a time when I know I will have two or three hours cleared to do this because I get distracted easily. I don’t want to be called away from this task in the middle of it.

First make your table of contents. For ebooks you don’t need page numbers. Page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down, and have no meaning as ebooks don’t use page numbers to navigate.

Once you have your final manuscript proofed, you should turn it into two separate manuscripts, one for the ebook, and one for the print book. This post pertains to the ebook manuscript.

If your book is a novel, your print manuscript will most likely not need a TOC as most large publishing houses don’t waste precious pages on such things. Technical manuals and textbooks must include a TOC.  As an indie, every page you can do without when publishing your novel in paper form will keep the final cost down and make your paperback more affordable for your prospective reader. Very few people will pay $18.99 for a book by an unknown author.


The first thing you want to do is create a bookmark.  First highlight the words  “Table of Contents” and then go to your ‘Insert’ tab.  Click on ‘Bookmark’ in that ribbon. Type in the words ref_TOC

Then click “Add”.  In every ms it is important to name the Table of Contents bookmark exactly that, including the underscore: ref_TOC, because that’s what Smashwords looks for and it is simply a good practice to have a uniform system for naming files.  See the next picture for how it will look:


Now it’s time to bookmark the first chapter, or the prologue if you have one. This particular book will be called Billy’s Revenge, so the initials BR will be in all my bookmarks in this ms.  Billy’s Revenge doesn’t have chapters but is broken into eighteen parts. Scroll down to your prologue or first chapter and do it exactly the same way as you bookmarked the TOC, but for this ms I will name it BR_prt1. (Billy’s Revenge Part 1)

You will name yours with your manuscript’s initials and the word prologue or chapter 1: MS_chapter_1

See the picture below:


As long as you have the chapter title highlighted, click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left of the menu, you want to click Link to:  Place in this Document.  That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘ref_TOC’  and click OK.  This will turn your heading blue, which is called a ‘hyperlinky’. You will need to test it, so press control and click on the link. This will take you back to the table of contents heading. Once you have used the hyperlinky it will turn purple.


Now that you are back at the Table of Contents, highlight either Prologue or Chapter 1, which ever you are starting your book with, and click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. Again, on the left of that menu, you want to click Link to: Place in this Document, which will will bring up your bookmarks. Select the bookmark for your first section, either prologue or “MS_chapter_1” and click OK.  That will turn it blue. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the heading of your prologue or the first chapter. Once you’ve used a hyperlinky, it will turn purple.

Scroll down your manuscript to the next chapter, and highlight the chapter heading, just as you did the first time. Repeat the steps you did for the first section.

Do this for the entire table of contents, always remembering to link your chapter heading back to “ref_TOC”, and test each link as you go.

As I said earlier, creating your hyperlinked table of contents can be time consuming, and it requires you to pay attention, but it is a simple process and makes your ebook a nicer experience for the reader.



Filed under Self Publishing, writing

6 responses to “#amwriting: the hyperlinked Table of Contents

  1. Stephen Swartz

    This I shall save and print and laminate and hang upon the wall forever and evermore!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your usual expert advise. thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, thank you! For my set up I am seeing that I need to 1) Name the chapter heading as a Bookmark, then 2) link that Bookmark to the TofC and then 3) Link the TofC to the Bookmark. Tedious but I am conquering it! I really appreciate your help on this!