Does that “Fictitious” Email Address in Your Book Already Belong to Somebody Else?

In November, we published Does that “Fictitious” Website in Your Novel Already Belong to Somebody Else?

A year ago, we published Does that “Fictitious” Business Name in Your Novel Already Belong to Somebody Else?

Today, I noticed two email addresses for fictitious people in a novel I was formatting. They were very basic email address, too, and from So, I was certain they were already being used by someone. I was hoping it was the author himself who owned the email addresses.

I sent a note to the author and, sure enough, he had not registered those email addresses. They belonged to other people…people he did not know.

What the big deal, you say? Well, imagine if the author had engaged his two characters in a sultry (ahem) email conversation in his novel. Now, let’s say one of the people who really owns one of those email addresses is a priest.

Let’s think of another example (this is fun!). Let’s imagine one of the author’s characters is describing a white collar crime he committed…and the author later finds out the character’s email address actually belongs to a banker.

Another example? Sure! Let’s imagine the female character in the novel is talking about liking younger men…and the author later find out the character’s email address actually belongs to an elementary school teacher.

Who would know, you ask? Well, if excerpts from that part of the novel appear online, and a school district is googling that teacher’s email address to see what’s she’s been up to on the Internet, that novel excerpt could cost her a job.

And, that novel could cost the author their entire life savings if they are sued for making it appear a real person was in their novel. Think it can’t happen? There is no shortage of lawyers willing to file lawsuits against authors and publishers for anything and everything because many people assume authors and publisher are all wealthy (ha ha).

So, before you use any type of identifying information in your novel (or even as an example in non-fiction), first check to ensure that nobody else owns or uses that email address (or website address, or business name). If it’s an email address or website URL, register them under your own name and maintain control of them forever so you won’t have legal problems when using them in the future.

The author I referenced above is registering new email addresses under his own name so he can replace all the ones appearing in his novel. That will be quite a chore…but a lot easier and cheaper than a lawsuit!

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of and is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”

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