I received a manuscript this week for a previously published book that contained several text messages sent and received between the fictional characters. I then noticed that a passage in the book listed the phone numbers for the characters.
My first thought was that the author included his own phone numbers as a creative way to get readers to contact him directly. I Googled the numbers. I was wrong. They are real phone numbers belonging to:
- A state office in Pennsylvania
- An Automax dealership
- A woman the author does not know
- A man the author does not know
The author admitted that he just made up the numbers. And, of course, he didn’t Google them before putting them in his novel.
I have seen the same scenario play out with fiction authors who make up email addresses for their characters. In many of those cases, they’re pretty generic (i.e. first-last-name @ gmail or some other large ISP) and, as you can probably imagine, they already belong to somebody else.
Now, let’s put on our humor hats. Imagine an author of an erotic novel doing something like that? What if the phone number actually belonged to a church? Yeah, I know that’s a stretch but it can give you an idea of what might transpire if an author isn’t careful. What if the author uses someone else’s cell phone number, and readers start texting that person, running up their cell phone bill? Not only can the author’s actions make life difficult for someone, but the author could also set himself up for a lawsuit…or more than one.
I recommend never putting a phone number of any type in a book. If you’re going to give your character an email address, obtain the email address yourself first. That way, you KNOW it doesn’t belong to someone else, and YOU will receive any emails your readers send in. And, per my second paragraph above, that can actually be a pretty good marketing tactic! INVITE your readers to contact your main character directly! Fans LOVE stuff like that. 😉
Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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This is why the 555 prefix was created.
What was the old way/procedure filmmakers used to put phone numbers in their films?
Point that author to this YouTube video:
It explains 555-numbers.
Wow, what are the odds?? Great article and thank you for those tips!
Good information. Thanks.
exactly my thoughts. all movies and tv shows use a 555 exchange for phones. and they block out license plates and similar info.
writers are just people. but unfortunately most people are stupid and do not think at all.
Aren’t (area code) 555-xxxx numbers safe to use for fiction because there are no actual numbers with the 555 prefix? Or is that old school now that cell phones have soaked up most of the possible phone numbers?