Text should be submitted as close to our style guide as possible. The closer your manuscript matches this format, the faster your work will be released and the less likely there are to be mistakes in the process.
Final version of the manuscript must be in compliance before it can be moved to production. (You have not met the contract deadline until the manuscript has been through all edits and follows standard set by this Style Guide.)
CONTENTS DATA PAGE:
Title Page: The beginning of each file should have all of the follow (before story text begins):
- Story Title
- Author Name
- Story Blurb
- Word Count
- Author Blurb
- Production Notes
- Chapter List
Story Title & Author Name: First page should begin with the title of the work and the author’s pen name. Do not include author’s real name or contact information. While submissions may have other information, we don’t want things like the address of the author to be in the ebook, so do not include it in the manuscript for publication. Title and author information should be in normal first letter caps for title and name (“by” is not capitalized), be bold and centered and should look like this:
by Pen Name
Story Blurb: While Story Blurb’s are the editor and promotion team’s responsibility, we ask that authors provide a preliminary draft. A Story Blurb a teaser/description paragraph about the story. Blurbs are advertisements. FFP guidelines for writing blurbs:
- Tempt the reader. Focus on action and intrigue rather than build up or details.
- Give the reader a sense of what the story is about, particularly both setting and the primary conflict of the story. Using name of primary character helps. Give a sense of what people are getting.
- Do not give away the ending, resolution or any surprises in the story.
- Do not include any words that will flag the auto reject from our distributors (i.e. rape, torture, incest).
- Active voice is usually better than passive. Sometimes present tense works better than past tense for blurbs. Try not to use ellipses or otherwise trail off at the end.
(While titles, blurbs, genres and other promotional parts of the work are subject to editor and publisher’s changes, we like to have authors involved in this part of the process as well as others.)
Word Count: Total number of words in the story. Word and most other text software will give you an automatic count. Be careful not to include the title page in that though. To measure the word count of a specific area in Word, you select that section, go to Review menu and the select Word Count. (The same works for the full document.) Directions will vary in other programs.
Genres: Usually a list of the several categories we will use in marketing. Some examples include: Romance, Contemporary, Gay, Science Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Historical, etc. It should be the categories besides “Erotica” which the story fits.
Author Blurb/Bio: We require a 50-200 word bio (written in third person) to be put on the sites and in the ebooks we produce for authors. Authors can restrict their bio to only about their writing, but we encourage including some personal information as well. Again, please do not include untrue information in your bio. The bio on the site can be longer than that in the book, if you want. Keep your tone friendly but professional. If you need help with this, please let us know and we will happily help you get it right. Remember, this is the blurb that sells you as an author. (Note that the Author Blurb is not an author’s notes about the specific work and should be able to be used outside that work.) This blurb should be checked, and if applicable, updated with each new story release.
Production Notes: Add a Notes section if the formatting requires special attention:
- specify if the work uses non-US spelling, such as UK English
- poetry or other quotes that require specific line breaks,
- quoted text that’s indented,
- font shifts that matter for the story,
- included graphics, and/or
- deliberately-misspelled words or unusual names that proofreaders might otherwise correct.
Chapters List & Word Count: If the story is more than one chapter long (more than 5000 words), you need to provide a list of chapters including number, title and word count. (Again capitalize appropriately for titles.) Chapter numbers are numerals, not words. Do NOT include page numbers. They will not be the same in after production, so they only get in the way for the conversion to ebook and print book. (See above Word Count section for how to measure specific parts of a document.)
Chapter 1: Beginnings (3002 words)
Chapter 2: Action (3998 words)
Chapter 3: More Action (2502 words)
Chapter 4: Ending (3200 words)
Insert page breaks before you begin chapters and between chapters. To put in a page break in Word, hit the control-enter command. Do not insert extra lines at the beginning or end of the chapter to force it to the next page.
Currently we treat all works over forty thousand words as a novel. We ask for some additional content for these works.
Dedication: The dedication is a short (usually one line) dedication to someone who the author would like to acknowledge personally and will be placed in the front matter of the book. It is NOT the same as the acknowledgements section normally put in the Author’s Notes.
Author’s Notes: This will be placed at the end of the story, to avoid spoilers. Author’s Notes are usually a combination of the story behind the story and the acknowledgements. Readers often enjoy hearing how the story came about and what the author learned and experienced while writing it. This is also a chance for the author to thank those who helped them while they worked on the novel. This usually runs 200-500 words, although some leeway is given if the content is interesting enough.
Header/Footers: Do NOT include any. We will just have to remove them when we reformat.
Chapter Lengths: Any story over 5000 words will need to be put into multiple chapters. Recommended length per chapter is around 3000 words. Acceptable range per chapter is 2000-4000 words. (See document about serialization for explanation.) The total number of chapters should be [word count ÷ 3000], even if some chapters are longer or shorter.
Chapter Numbers & Titles: Each chapter should begin with the words Chapter # (numeral not word) and the title. Like this (centered, bold):
Title of Chapter
Chapter Numbers: Each chapter must have a sequential chapter number and an individual chapter title. We do not allow roman numerals or the alphabet for the chapter “numbers.” No content can be outside this system. That means if there is a prologue and/or and epilogue, they must be contained within the first/last chapters and still follow the chapter length rules above.
Chapter Titles: A chapter title is a short phrase (1-5 words) that tease at but does not spoil the contents of the chapter for the reader. (Nor should there be “Part 1” or “Part A” in your chapter titles.) Each chapter will eventually be serialized and therefore must fit into the format used by all the other stories to maintain consistent coding for the site. See our guide on multi-chapter works and serialization (FFP Multi-Chapter Formatting) as to why and how to title chapters.
Prolog and Epilog: There are NO separate sections allowed for prologs or epilogs. You can make the first section of chapter one into a prolog or you can make all or part of the final chapter into an epilog. You can even give it a subheading. Either way, these chapters must by one of the numbered chapters AND they must meet the word length guidelines for chapters. This will make much more sense if you look at the way stories are serialized on the website.
Paragraphs: Do not indent paragraphs. Use single line space block formatting with a line skipped between paragraphs. (Inserting tabs and spaces at the beginning of the paragraph will only cause more work for our production team when they have to remove them.) Make sure you have turned OFF the MS Words’ “insert line break after each paragraph” function so that you have actual like break codes at the end of each paragraph. If you don’t understand what this means, contact us and we can explain it or link you to a tutorial on it.
Spaces: Do not use two spaces between words or sentences. There should never be more than one space in a row. (If there’s a reason for multiple spaces in a row, put that in the Production Notes section, or the HTML formatting will remove them.)
You can turn on the feature in MS Word that allows you to see dots for every space and double check this. (For those of us who learned to type when the rule was still two spaces and haven’t yet unlearned this archaic practice, there is “search and replace” in MS Word that works just as well with spaces as words. Search for two spaces and replace with one.)
Window Spaces: There should be no extra spaces at the end of paragraphs. (Again, turn on the option that allows you to check this.)
Scene Breaks: Scene breaks are particularly important for ebooks because empty lines are not as easily distinguished for readers as they are for print. Use a scene break when there is a shift in 1) time, 2) place, or 3) character point of view (POV). Breaks must be marked with three asterisks centered on a separate line. (We will be using search function to replace it with our own graphic image for breaks.) Example:
Quotation Marks: Use “smart quotes” or “curly quotes” for dialog and apostrophes. Remember to use “straight quotes” for measurements.
Example: He had a talent for “looming over” people even though he was only 5’9″ tall.
Character dialog should be bracketed by double quote marks, not single. Quotes within quotes single.
Wrong: ‘I don’t know,’ he said.
Right: “I don’t know,” he said.
Wrong: “I told you he said “red light” first,” she said.
Right: “I told you he said ‘red light’ first,” she said.
Ellipses: Use sparingly. Never use them when a comma will do just as well. Formatting for these has no absolutely “correct” standards, and the standards that do exist, were designed for print. Since most of our publications are online or ebooks, the layout preferences are different.
When they are used, they should be three periods (…) or an ellipsis (…) with a space after in most cases. We only allow the four periods version (….) at the end of the sentence.
Wrong: Well … I thought so.
Right: Well, I thought so.
Wrong: The ship was full of … aliens.
Right: The ship was full of… aliens.
Wrong: “I don’t believe it . . .” he trailed off.
Right: “I don’t believe it…” he trailed off.
Wrong: If her father ever found out… She shook her head and went back to her console.
Right: If her father ever found out…. She shook her head and went back to her console.
Wrong: “If your father ever finds out….” Lindsey said.
Right: “If your father ever finds out…” Lindsey said.
Wrong: “… I’m sunk,” she agreed.
Right: “…I’m sunk,” she agreed.
Do not combine ellipsis with other punctuation in the same place. Choose the most appropriate option for the specific sentence. If more is needed, consider adding description to make your point.
Wrong: “I don’t know…, ” she began.
Right: “I don’t know…” she began.
Right: “I don’t know,” she began.
Wrong: “Are we…?”
Right: “Are we…”
Right: “Are we?”
Word Emphasis: Do not use underlines to emphasize a word or designate character thoughts. Use italics. Do not use asterisks to indicate emphasis. (If you have a story written entirely with asterisks for emphasis and need help converting them, talk to us.)
Wrong: He knew it had to be true.
Right: He knew it had to be true.
Wrong: For her *first* time, she wanted an expert.
Right: For her first time, she wanted an expert.
Internal Quotes: Quotes of direct character thoughts, which are not shared or spoken aloud, should be in italics. Example:
Oh, no, what do I do? Shane thought.
Shared Thoughts: A special case is stories that call for mind speech (telepathic) communication. Thoughts that are actually shared require a hybrid of both the smart quotes and the italics. Example:
“Can you hear me?” he thought to his friend.
Numbers: Spell out any number under three digits. Numbers over a 100 can be digitized if spelling them out will be too long and break the flow of the story.
Wrong: She was 18 years old.
Right: She was eighteen years old.
It works better to say, “that tool has a million uses” instead of “it has 1,0000,000 uses.” On the other hand, it would be better to say, “He made $101,256 from the sale” instead of “he made one-hundred and one thousand, two hundred and fifty six dollars from the sale.”
Dashes: When you put a dash between phrases or clauses, do not use the single hyphen. Use the longer dash, with no spaces on either side.
If at the end of a sentence (primarily where the words were cut off in dialogue.), do not put the spaces around the dash. (If you can’t figure out how to do this, insert a double-dash and we’ll replace it later.)
Wrong: I can’t believe there are two – both red.
Right: I can’t believe there are two—both red.
Alternate: I can’t believe there are two–both red. (Two hyphens are better than space-hyphen-space. Word will autocorrect this if it comes up during normal writing, but not if it’s added later.)
Wrong: He shouted, “Come back here you —”
Right: He shouted, “Come back here you—”
Note that these are “em-dashes,” not “en-dashes.”
Endashes are only for ranges, often of years or numbers: “the report spanned 1960 – 1980,” or “each dish contained 75 – 100 pieces of candy.” The endash gets a space on either side.
Default settings for Word will convert space-hyphen-space to space-endash-space by default; watch out for that and replace with emdash or two hyphens where necessary. Word will automatically correct two hyphens with no spaces on either side to an emdash.
Divinity Names: When the word god or goddess is used as a name or as part of a title, it should be capitalized.
Religions: Names of religions such as Christian, Pagan, Jewish, Muslim, etc. should be capitalized.
Titles of Publications & Shows: Capitalize the first letter in primary words of and italicize the titles of books, movies, television shows, plays, magazines and other publications.
US, British and Australian Spellings: While we are based in the United States, our writers come from all over the world. We’ve decided to allow the different spellings depending on the setting of the story. If the story is set in the United States, we will expect spelling and word choices to conform to that area. Stories set in the UK should conform to British spellings. Stories set in Australia should conform to their spelling. The important part is to be consistent within the story—use US or UK spelling, not a mix of both. (If POV changes and you want to switch spelling styles, talk to us.) If you are using spellings or slang that is not standard to the United States, please let us know (and why) so we can avoid accidentally “correcting” them. Please make sure to note which you are using on the cover page.
Fanny: This is one of the more humorous problems. In the U.K., the word “fanny” means the same as “pussy” and in the U.S. it means “buttocks.” So, to avoid confusing readers, we suggest not using this word unless necessary (for example a point of humor in the story).
Come/Cum: We prefer the use of come/coming/precome (still undecided about the hyphen), but will accept “cum” for semen (no cumming) if it suits the story and audience. Our experience is that “cum” is likely to put off many readers. For more information and perspectives, see forum discussion on the topic. (requires login): Cum or Come – Does it matter? Why?
Spend/Spent: Ejaculation, almost always male, may be described as “he spent himself,” but the results are described as “his spend,” not “his spent.” (This is more often used in historical works than contemporary.)
Okay/OK: We prefer the use of the word “okay” not any of the following: ok, OK, Ok, O.K. Just stick the spelled out form.
Body Parts: Generally, keep in mind the audience for the piece as well as whether or not the words would be appropriate to the characters/story. For example, an adult modern man is not likely to use “manhood” instead of cock. Most women don’t find the word “boobs” sexy, so unless it’s necessary for the story, “breasts” would be better. When in doubt, check with the editor.
Extra Words: Avoid words and phrases that add nothing but length to the story.
“and then” – With some exceptions, most of the time this is redundant. Use “and” or “then” not both.
“that” – Most of the time, “that” just clutters the sentence. Read without and see if it’s needed for emphasis or not.
“overall” – Usually redundant and unnecessarily vague, unless it’s referring to an article of clothing.
“he started to” – Unless the character is interrupted before completing the task, then put the action in active voice. “He reached for” instead of “He started to reach for.”
We require consistent use of Narrative Modes. If your work slips from POV to POV randomly or in a way that disrupts the story, we will require you to edit and correct it.
Also called “Point of View” (POV). For a detailed explanation, see: Wikipedia on Narrative Mode or Point-of-View. Every writer should not only read up on this topic, but regularly seek articles or other information about how narrative modes are used in fiction. The importance of this in storytelling cannot be over-emphasized.
While most fiction is written in past tense, there are some wonderful works written in present tense as well. What matters to us is that the tense works for the story being told and is used consistently. Accidental tense shifts should be corrected.
1st, 2nd & 3rd Person Character Point-of-View
There are three traditional forms of character point of view: First Person (“I saw him”), Second Person (“You saw him”), and Third Person (“He saw him” or “Sam saw him”). Most successfully-done erotic fiction is either in first person or a limited third person. Many readers will rebel at being put into the “you” position of second person. Whichever one is used, it must be consistent and appropriate for the story.
Limited vs Omniscient POV
Both first and second position are specifically limited points of view. This means the reader does not see or feel anything outside of the specific character point of view. Third Person point of view can be Limited or Omniscient in various degrees. The favored version of this is limited to one character at a time — either for the entire story or one per scene, switching POV character when the scene changes. Bouncing points of view between characters within a scene can leave the reader feeling confused and disconnected from the character. Since erotic fiction is at its best when the reader feels connected emotionally and bodily to the character, disorienting POV shifts are a serious handicap. Omniscient viewpoints, because they are more abstract, lack the intimacy of the other modes and can be less enjoyable for readers. We know writers who can use this mode well, but not many, and we don’t recommend it for most. It is usually best to pick a character and tell the story/scene from her/his point of view.
What certainly does not work is the accidental point of view shift in a story or scene. That’s where the overall story or scene was limited to one character but slips intermittently into the perspective of another. These should be avoided.