Using Wikibooks/Starting a New Book

Note: this page is transcluded from Help:Contributing#Starting a book

Books, chapters and pages can be created, rewritten, altered, renamed, and improved by anyone. Chapters can be changed in order, added, and deleted. Books should conform to the definition of What Wikibooks is about.

Please check Wikibooks Stacks/Departments to see if your work could be part of an existing book, before starting a new one. Perhaps it is better to add the text to a related page (especially if the text is not very long); that page can always be split later, after it has grown.

Basic considerations

Does the world really need the 1001st introduction to some topic? If the web, library, and other documentation projects are already full of free information about a topic, is there really a need to have yet another document? Maybe the time would be better spent to support an existing project, or start (and finish) something truly original?
Is your effort really well spent on some trivial piece of "book"? In the extreme case, if the yellow press (or what amounts to the equivalent publication in a certain area) has already covered the topic extensively for years (and they even got it right), is there really a need for such a book? Wouldn't your effort be better spent on some less trivial task?
Lack of Perseverance
Does your perseverance not last longer than setting up a "wish list" of chapters? Are you not in a position to regularly spend time to ensure some coherence in a book, and is there no reasonable expectation that you will find other contributors? Then maybe your time is better spent contributing small parts to an existing book than rushing out to set up the structure for THE ultimate book about some subject, and then abandoning the book.

No complex rules


You can learn how to create a good book and find new ideas by analyzing existing ones. Wikibooks doesn't have strict policies determining the shape of a book so don't be confused if you find books that are designed completely different. Generally, it's a good idea to look up some featured books like Using Wikibooks and How To Assemble A Desktop PC.

  • Review the book naming conventions.
  • Choose a book title carefully. Names are important, undoing mistakes can take time, so it's always a good idea to do it right the first time.
  • Once you have a few strong ideas about a new book, write a few paragraphs and lay out an outline for it.
  • Decide on a writing style and how to format contents. See Wikibooks:Manual of Style for ideas.

Defining an outline and scope


Wikibooks are all about working with others. To help others contribute to a new book, it helps very much to define and publish the concept, layout, and scope of the book right from the beginning. This serves as some kind of contract and can avoid long discussions of what should or shouldn't be in the book and how the book should look. Please be aware that there is really no such thing as "your" book on a wiki like this—it is up to early contributors to demonstrate the writing and leadership for other contributors to accept them as the "lead authors" for a book. Some books have no lead authors, and develop organically over time.

Some questions you want to answer in defining the book:

  • What type of book will it be? Reference, textbook, self-study course, tutorial, experimentation instructions, travel report, etc.
  • Who is the target audience? How old are its constituents? What is their background? How advanced are their reading skills? Are they children or adults, students, hobbyists, or professionals, researchers or scientists? An advanced level for a hobbyist is quite different from that of a researcher.
  • What is the scope of the book? How much you want to cover -- in terms of topic, history and/or audience level -- helps determine where you start, and where you end. This also determines what to leave in and what to leave out.

Publish this information at the beginning of the book and on the discussion page, so people can decide if this is the right book they want to read or contribute to.

Write the first page


Read the naming policy on how to arrange and name your book. Visit Help:Pages for details on creating a new page for the book's table of contents. Choose a title, something short and descriptive without abbreviations. Create the page the way you want it, and save it.

When creating pages it is also good practice to run the text through a spell checker before submitting. You may find it more convenient to take a copy of the original page, work on it, then paste the edited copy back in. Creating brand-new topics is a great way to help Wikibooks increase its breadth (and depth).

Show the book to the public


Make the book available to other users. Of course, people can see it on Recent Changes, but its visibility on that list is not permanent, so you need to properly categorize it. Put the {{shelves}} template on the main page to put the book into an appropriate category. If you are not sure what shelf to put your book on, you can browse Wikibooks Stacks/Departments, or ask at the projects reading room. Place {{status|0%}} on the main page to indicate the book's new status and adjust in increments of 25% as the book develops. Add your book in the correct category (if applicable) in alphabetical order with {{alphabetical}}. Readers will find your book in no time!

Create printable books


If you want people to read your book as continuous text, in a PDF file etc., it is worthwhile maintaining a "collection" and/or "print version" from the start.

Note changing stages of development


You can mark which chapters are finished using development stage marks. You should similarly show how much of your book is ready next to its entry on the pages for its parent bookshelves.

Suggested chapters and appendices

Forewords and Postscripts
You can create "Foreword" or "Introduction" or "Postscript" chapter explaining the scope of the book and how to read it.
List of authors and manual of style
It's likely that other people may edit your book. There should be a page listing most important contributors to the book. It can be named "Authors". It is also good practice to create a local manual of style for the book—explaining how it should be written, which templates are used, etc.