Manuscript Style Guide

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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 with our style guide before it can be moved to production. If the manuscript is not in compliance, you have not met the contract deadline, even if all other edits are complete.

File Name:

The name of the story file should always a string of four things:

  1. Working Title. While we can change the title at publication time, this file should always have the “working title” which is the one displayed on the contract.
  2. Date last modified. Date should as it is done in the UK: Year-Month-Day.
  3. EP Code for the last person editing the manuscript. Your code is on the contract for your story at the bottom of the last page. It will be a three letter/number code. For example, the publisher’s name is D.M. Atkins, so their code is DMA. If your pen name is two names it’s likely to be the two initials and a number. For example, Lon Sarver’s code is LS1.
  4. The .doc at the end which tells us you have saved the manuscript in the correct file type.

For example a story called My Romance, last edited by D.M. Atkins would look like this:

My Romance-2017-09-17-DMA.doc

When you go to edit a story file returned from editorial, open the document and immediately save as with a new date and your code. Make sure to update it again just before sending back to editorial. When you get it back, it will have the date and code of the editor who just worked on the manuscript, and so on, until the last version goes to production.

We have established this system to enable us not only to track versions of the story, but to make sure we are opening the correct, most current version each time.

Contents Data Page:

Title Page(s): The beginning of each file should have all of the following on the first pages of the document, before the story text begins:

  1. Working Title
  2. Author Pen Name
  3. [Suggested Publication Title(s)]
  4. Story Blurb
  5. Word Count
  6. Genres
  7. Author Blurb
  8. Production Notes
  9. Chapter List
  10. About the Story

Story Title & Author Pen Name: First page should begin the working title and the author’s pen name. Do not include your real name or contact information. We want to minimize the risk that your personal information could be compromised, so please do not include it in the manuscript.

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:

Story Title
by Pen Name
[Suggested Publication Title]

Suggested Publication Title(s): As story progresses through edits, the author and editor can make suggestions for final title, under the working title and author’s pen name, in brackets. Since titles are vital part of promoting the work, the publisher will work with authors to find a title that will both sell the work and capture the story. When looking for potential titles, one of the first things the team does is search Goodreads and Amazon for other works that have the same title. With novellas, novels, and anthologies we usually avoid using a title already in use in the same genre, or related genres. When readers search for your work, we want it to show up at the top of the page, not in the middle of the second or third page of hits.

Story Blurb: While Story Blurbs are the responsibility of the editor and promotions team, we ask that authors provide a draft Story Blurb. A Story Blurb is a one or two paragraph teaser for the story. They’re advertisements, and we have guidelines for making them effective:

  1. Tempt the reader. Focus on action and intrigue rather than build-up or details.
  2. Give the reader a sense of what the story is about, particularly both setting and the primary conflict of the story. Using the name of primary character helps.
  3. Do not give away the ending or spoil any of the story’s major reveals.
  4. Do not include any words that are likely to flag the auto-reject from our distributors, such as rape, torture, or incest.
  5. Active voice is usually better than passive. Sometimes, present tense works better than past tense for blurbs, as it lends a sense of urgency. Try not to use ellipses or otherwise trail off at the end—this includes ending on a question, a device that has been overused

While titles, blurbs, genres, and other promotional parts of the work are subject to changes by the editor and publisher, we like to have authors involved in this part of the process.

Word Count: Total number of words in the story. Word and most other text software will give you an automatic count, but be careful not to include the title page in that count. To measure the word count of a specific area in Word, you select that section; the word count in the lower left corner of the window will show the word count of the selected text before the total for the document, as [selected text]/[full document]. You can also go to the Review tab and the select Word Count from the Proofing toolbar. Of course, 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, and so on. You should list all the categories besides, “Erotica,” which fit the story.

Author Blurb/Bio: We require a 50-200 word bio (written in third person) to be put on the site and in the books we produce for authors. Authors can write their bio to mention only their writing, but we encourage including some personal touches, as well. Again, please do not include untrue information in your bio. Remember, this is the blurb that promotes you as an author, and showing a bit of your personality helps sell your authorial brand. The bio for the website 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. Note that the Author Blurb is not an author’s note 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
  • deliberately-misspelled words or unusual names that proofreaders might otherwise correct
  • if the story has been published before, give the date and publisher of original publication.

Chapter List & Word Count: If the story is more than 5000 words long, you’ll need to divide it into chapters (see Text Formatting, below, for details), and provide a list of chapters, including number, title, capitalized appropriately, and word count. Chapter numbers are numerals, not words. Do NOT include page numbers, as they will not be the same in after production. (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)

Important: Do not use tabs when making the Table of Contents. You only need a space between words; the production department will handle the formatting.

Insert page breaks between the Contents Data Page(s) and the beginning of the story, and between chapters. To put in a page break in Word, press the control-enter, or go to the Insert tab and click on Page Break on the Pages toolbar. Do not insert extra lines at the beginning or end of the chapter to force it to the next page.

About the Story: We need a 300-500 blog post style about the story. This is a short behind-the-scenes feature, to entice would-be readers. Tell a story about what inspired you to write the story or something else interesting about the story behind the story. It should have no major spoilers, but be aimed at drawing the attention of potential readers to the story.

Novel Extras:

Currently, we treat all works longer than forty thousand words as a novel. We will ask for some additional content for works of such length.

Dedication: The dedication is a short, usually one line, addressed to someone who the author would like to acknowledge personally, and will be placed in the front matter of the book. You should include the dedication in the Production Notes section, as above. It is not the same as the acknowledgements section normally put in the Author’s Notes.

Author’s Notes: Author’s Notes are an essay of 500-800 words, usually a combination of the story behind the story, and acknowledgements thanking those who helped you while you were working on the novel. Readers often enjoy hearing how the story came about and what the author learned and experienced while writing it, and it will help entice them to look up any other work you have published.

Text Formatting:

Header/Footers: Do not include headers or footers. They will have to be removed by the production department when we format the text for publication, and every extra step slows the progress of your work through the system.

Chapter Lengths: Any story over 5000 words will need to be cut into multiple chapters. Recommended average length per chapter is around 3000 words, with a minimum length of 2000 words and maximum length of 4000. These numbers were devised with an eye to serialization on our website, and you’ll find a detailed explanation in the document on serialization. The ideal number of chapters is equal to the total word count of the work, divided by 3000, even if some chapters are longer or shorter. There is a little flexibility regarding the number of chapters in a work, but it’s best to assume that the editorial staff will hold you as closely to the ideal number as possible.

Chapter Numbers & Titles: Each chapter should begin with the words Chapter # (numeral, not word) and the title, in bold text and centered, like this:

Chapter #
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 letters of the alphabet in place of Arabic numerals. No content can be outside this system; we don’t use “prologue” or “epilogue” outside of the numbering system. If there is a prologue and/or 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 of no more than five words that teases but does not spoil the contents of the chapter for the reader. Chapter titles should be self-contained; we won’t accept “Part 1” or similar phrases as part of the chapter title. 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 (Multi-Chapter Formatting) as to why we require this format for chapter titles.

Prologue and Epilogue: There are no separate sections allowed for prologues or epilogues. You can make the first section of chapter one into a prologue, and you can make part or all of the final chapter into an epilogue—you can even give it a subheading. Either way, these chapters must be one of the numbered chapters, while meeting the word length guidelines for chapters. This will make much more sense if you look at some of the stories already serialized on the website.

Paragraphs: Do not indent paragraphs. Use single-spaced block formatting with a line skipped between paragraphs. Make sure you have turned off Word’s “insert line break after each paragraph” function so that you have actual line 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. Not following these guidelines will only cause more work for our production team, delaying publication of your work.

Spaces: Do not use two spaces between words or sentences. There should never be more than one space in a row, excepting special formatting as a storytelling device, such as quoting a badly typed note. If there’s a reason for multiple spaces in a row, put that in the Production Notes section, or the production department will remove them.

You can turn on the feature in MS Word that allows you to see dots for every space to 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 on a screen 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:



Commas: We use the Oxford comma. If there is a list of three or more things, put a comma after each item, including before the “and” with the final item.

Wrong: I saw on the table a book, a quill and an ink well.
Right: I saw on the table a book, a quill, and an ink well.

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 use single smart quote marks.

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 works are published online or as ebooks, our 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 ellipses with other punctuation. Choose the most appropriate option for the specific sentence—it’s almost never the ellipsis. 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 underline text to emphasize a word or designate character thoughts, use italics. Do not use asterisks to indicate emphasis. If there is storytelling reason to do so, as in quoting a text message, list that with the Production Notes at the beginning of the text.

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 or 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 100 or greater 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.

An exception is the use of numbers in idiomatic speech; it works better to say, “that tool has a million uses,” instead of “it has 1,000,000 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. Two hyphens are better than space-hyphen-space. Word will auto correct this if it comes up during normal writing, but not if it’s added 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.

Wrong: He shouted, “Come back here you —”
Right: He shouted, “Come back here you—”

Note that these are “em-dashes,” not “en-dashes.”

Em-dash: —
En-dash: –

En-dashes are only for ranges, often of years or numbers: “the report spanned 1960 – 1980,” or “each dish contained 75 – 100 pieces of candy.” The en-dash gets a space on either side.

Default settings for Word will convert space-hyphen-space to space-en-dash-space by default; watch out for that, and replace with an em-dash or two hyphens where necessary. Word will automatically correct two hyphens with no spaces on either side to an em-dash.

Flashbacks: Some people are tempted to use italics for flashbacks, but for anything more than a couple of lines, italics is difficult to read. The better way to offset a flashback scene is with scene breaks. Remember that scene breaks are for any change in place, time, and/or point of view.


Divinity Names: When the words “god” or “goddess” are used as a proper name or as part of a title, they should be capitalized.

Religions: Names of religions such as Christianity, Paganism, Judaism, Islam, etc. should be capitalized. Similarly, the adjectival forms of those names—Christian, Pagan, Jewish, Islamic/Muslim—should also be capitalized.

Titles of Publications & Shows: Italicize the title, and capitalize the first letter in primary words of 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 regional 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, we might allow this. If you are using spellings or slang that is not standard to the United States, please let us know so we can avoid accidentally “correcting” them. Please make sure to note which you are using on the cover page.

Word Usage:


Okay/OK: We prefer the use of the word “okay” not any of the following: ok, OK, Ok, O.K. Just stick to the spelled out form, it’s easier on everyone.

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.

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.”

Narrative Modes

We require consistent use of Narrative Modes. For a detailed explanation, see: Wikipedia on Narrative Mode or Point-of-View. Every writer should not only read up on this topic, but also regularly seek articles or other information about how narrative modes are used in fiction. The importance of this in story-telling cannot be over-emphasized.

Past/Present Tense

While most fiction is written in past tense, there are some wonderful works written in present tense. 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 Point-of-View (POV)

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. Be warned, many readers will resist being put into the “you” position of second person, pulling out of the story emotionally. Whichever one is used, it must be consistent and appropriate for the story.

Limited vs Omniscient POV

Both first and second person are specifically limited points of view. This means the reader does not see or feel anything outside of the specific character’s point of view. Third Person point of view can be Limited or Omniscient in varying degrees. The favored version of this is limited to one character at a time—either for the entire story, or one character per scene, switching POV character when the scene changes.

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. Intentionally shifting points of view between characters within a scene can leave the reader confused, and feeling disconnected from the story. 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.


[Copyright 2012. This document is the sole copyright and confidential property of Fantastic Fiction Publishing. It may not be shared or distributed without written permission from EP. Last modified 09/17/2017.]