If you are planning to write and publish books, or if you’re engaged in any kind of activity that would make an online presence useful, one thing you should do right now is get your name as a domain. It doesn’t matter if you’re not quite ready to start a website yet: you don’t need to do anything with the domain. The important thing is to make sure it’s yours.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name and a website are two different things. The website is the content: all the articles, the images, and other files that make up the site. The domain name is just the address—the right to have, say, “amazon.com” or “thefictiondesk.com” point users to your website.
The best domain names reflect a company’s brand. That’s what people will be looking for. If somebody is interested in BMW cars, they’ll type “BMW” into Google, or just try “www.bmw.com” in their browser (this url guesswork is known as “type-in traffic”). As an author, your brand will be the name you write under, so if your name is Joe McAuthor, your ideal domain name is almost certainly going to be “joemcauthor.com”.
Why Get It Now?
Every domain name is unique. There can’t be two websites called “Amazon.com” on the Internet. As a general rule, unless there’s been a strong breach of copyright, the first person to register a domain is the only person who’ll be able to use it (unless they choose to sell it, or “drop” it, in which case it goes back onto the market). This means that, if somebody else registers your name as a domain before you do, you’ll never be able to use it. You may be able to get the “.net” equivalent, or the “.co.uk” if you’re British, or one of the many other types of domain, but the .com is the most potent.
So let’s say that a Texas realtor called Joe McAuthor decides to buy joemcauthor.com, to build a website for sharing property information with his clients. This means that he may well have a stronger web presence than you will for your name—and he’ll certainly get all of the type-in traffic.
If you get your name now, and secure it, then whenever you’re ready to launch your website, you’ll be in a strong position to start building your presence as the principal whatever-your-name-is on the net.
What about Pseudonyms?
I tend to be wary about messing about with pseudonyms unless you’re already making arrangements with a publisher (or have decided to self-publish). While getting your own name as a domain is essentially a no-brainer, I wouldn’t start spending money on buying up pseudonyms unless you’re relatively certain that you’re going to use them. Then again, it depends on your budget, and you may prefer the policy of “it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”.
That same rule can apply to book titles. In general, it’s probably better to include information about your books within your author’s site (for example, “joemcauthor.com/the-adventures-of-joe/” rather than “theadventuresofjoe.com”), but there are uses for book title domains too. You could set them to forward readers to your main site, or use them for special promotional projects that you’d like to keep separate. So if you’ve got a title that you’re fairly sure you’re going to use, it can be worth snapping this up too.
How to Buy a Domain Name
Domain registration is more like renting than buying: when you pay your money, it isn’t for the permanent use of the name. Instead, you can choose how many years you’d like to register it for. It’s best to select “auto-renew” when you first purchase it, so that when that time runs out, your domain will re-register (you’ll have to pay again), and you won’t lose it. (If domains expire, they’re released back into general sale, and anybody can buy them.)
The good news is that domain names are relatively inexpensive. While a basic web hosting package might set you back £7/$10 or so each month, registering a domain name is only going to cost about that much per year.
Domain names are registered with companies called registrars. These are the companies that perform the registration for you, and maintain your details. GoDaddy is perhaps the best known registrar, and provide a good solid service (although their buying process contains a lot of up-sell). There are plenty of others out there, though: I’ve heard good things about Moniker, for example. Do your research, compare prices, talk to friends, and choose the company that seems right for you.
Once you’ve Registered the Domain
Keep all of the confirmation emails from the registrar, as these contain important information. Once you’ve got the domain name, you can either start working on your new website, create a temporary, basic website with just a couple of pages of information, or just leave it until you’re ready. The important thing is that you’ve got that domain name secured, and it’s yours for whenever you need it!