Virgin Publishing Ltd
Thames Wharf Studios
London W6 9HA
CHEEK GUIDELINES OUTLINE
Pacy, feel-good, contemporary young women’s fiction with sexual content that is explicit but not anatomically, and not ‘scarily so’. Central character should be female – 18 – 35, and the story told primarily through female p.o.v. If written in third person, there should be some male p.o.v. but always with the accent on his emotions (i.e. who he is fancying and why).
What the books are about
Cheek should appeal to the indulgent side of the young female. In the way that women’s magazines are narcissistic (they allow women unashamed indulgence in luxuries and in themselves), so Cheek should be novel-length narratives about the ‘gaining of female pleasure’ – through sex, but also through pampering, shopping, dressing up, travelling, having great times, enjoying all that young life has to offer.
The story should enable the reader to vicariously enjoy all of the above. The accent should be on good times, and the narrative should conform to the obstacle/conflict/resolution/ formula of mainstream contemporary fiction and/or successful soap opera. The style should be transparent, so no ‘clever-clever’ parodying styles where you can see the strings. The writing should not draw attention to itself. The books should be aspirational and fun but not ‘give the game away’, so avoiding clichés will be very important. For instance, we wouldn’t want designer labels name-dropped in every sentence as if it were ‘computer-software-generated chick lit’, but we would want ‘lifestyle glamour’: lovely apartments/hotels/sexy city breaks/exotic destinations/’soft adventure’ i.e. skinny dipping at moonlight etc.
A delightful, playful, curious sensuality should inform the characters’ behaviour rather than ‘down and dirty’ lust for the sake of it. The women shouldn’t behave explicitly outside of the sex scenes, and the blokes should be more intriguing, charming and mysterious than what one usually finds in real life.
There can of course be ‘down and dirty lust’ within the sex scenes, but it should come about as a result of high-tension seduction that builds to bursting point. This will inform the language and dialogue. The more Anglo-Saxon words and descriptions should be used sparingly outside of sex scenes and, while OK in dialogue to a certain extent (‘talking dirty’ is popular and there should be some of this in all Cheek books) it shouldn’t ever be offensive. The build-up to a sex scene, the tension, what clothes are worn (lots of details of fab clothes), the wining and dining etc. are as important as the act itself in Cheek, so there will be lots of opportunities to write sexy descriptions that are NOT focused on the minutiae of genital anatomy.
Sex scenes should be maximised for arousal potential. They should not be so brief as to be a let-down, but not pored over and over until one ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. No overblown erotic romance purple prose of the ‘waves and waves of throbbing sensation coursed through her helpless body’ variety. Snappy, punchy, saucy and cool is the way forward. In all cases, sex scenes should evolve naturally and shouldn’t seem gratuitous. There should be plenty of juicy description of the male body, of being worshipped, and fancied by hunky/desirable blokes.
Sex content should follow the parameters of ‘Cosmo’; i.e. variety of positions/oral/fun and games/dressing up/sex in unusual places etc. but again: language is everything. Anatomical descriptions should be absent for the most part, concentrating on the emotions rather than medical close-ups of squelching parts. ‘Tastefully done’ is the key.
Should be lively/fun/full of the conflicts and emotions of young women; the kind of girls you’d like to be friends with. Obviously there can be one or two ‘bad guys’ – bitchy interlopers who you (and the central characters) dislike and who are a threat to our heroine’s dreams coming true.
These are feel-good books, so no social problems, addictions, serious illnesses, crime-ridden environments, heavy emotional problems, death, rape, abortions, alcoholism etc. Cheek novels should be the equivalent of a girls’ night in or out, and the ending should be optimistic.
When it comes to sexual content, the taboos should be obvious: no incest, animals, watersports or heavy SM. Bondage (of the silk scarves variety) and power games (light spanking/teasing/dressing up as fantasy characters) fine, but accent on pleasure and discovery at all times. The sex in Cheek should not be ‘transgressive’ and the characters should not be involved in the ‘fetish scene’ or have the awareness of seasoned ‘swingers’. No suburban sordidness; such a thing is fine for BL/Nexus but not Cheek. Should not speak to the audience in a way that assumes familiarity of sexual politics or the ‘sexual underground’.
What to Send
What we want to see in the first instance is a paragraph explaining what the novel is about, a full synopsis of the story (about 1,000 words) and about 10,000 words (usually the first couple of chapters) of finished text. Send your submission to the address above. We do not accept proposals as emails.
Returning your Manuscript
The number of submissions we receive means, unfortunately, that we can no longer afford to be generous. If you would like your typescript returned in the event of rejection, please enclose a self-addressed envelope and enough postage to cover its despatch. If you are sending material from the US, please note that US stamps do not ‘work’ in Britain. We prefer to receive IRCs (International Reply Coupons). If your proposal is for a full-length novel, don’t forget the synopsis! To an editor, few things are worse than completed, unsolicited manuscripts arriving without synopses.