Not long ago, a writer emailed me to ask how to pick a good domain name for her author website. “Unfortunately,” she wrote, “my name is already taken and is actually hard to spell anyway.” She wanted advice.
Good question! The question inspired me to look around at what some successful book authors were using for their website domain names.
What is a Domain Name?
To start, a domain name is the URL: www.ThisIsMySite.com; it goes in the browser address, and it’s what Google, Bing, etc. uses to send someone specifically to your site. (Currently, you don’t always need to include the www. part; it works without it in most cases.)
Also, note that the name of your site can be presented on the site in a slightly different form. My domain name is GreatLakesLit.com. But the site name appears in my visual header as Great Lakes Literary. You can set that in the website dashboard.)
Where Do I Get Ownership of a URL?
You do this at a Domain Name Registrar.
To secure a domain name, you might go someplace like GoDaddy . . . but there are other good registrars that can secure a domain name for you just as well. I mostly use NameCheap.com (it has very high customer satisfaction ratings).
The website itself can (and some of us feel it should) live somewhere else than where you register the name. Registration is just getting ownership of the URL you want to use.
(The site then will be created wherever you put the files on a server or “hosting” account.)
What Domain Name Should I Choose?
I tend to recommend looking first at getting a domain based on your name in some form, especially if you’ll have multiple books. (If you just do one book, you could pick the title of your book as your domain name. But what if you write a second book? Will you create multiple websites?)
For an author, a decent choice is:
So I’d be PhilipMartin.com.
But it’s often already taken, especially if you have a common name (as I do).
So you might consider www.Philip-Martin.com.
In some ways. I like that better, as it separates the name into two parts, which may be easier to read than a merged name.
(By the way, the capitalization is something you can use if you wish. It’s often helpful to someone trying to remember and type it. But the browsers ignore it. PhilipMartin.com is the same as philipmartin.com.)
The next thing to remember is that in general, shorter is better, and .com is better than other options.
But what if your name is not short. Or maybe it’s hard to spell. (I live in Milwaukee, and there are, for example, Polish names like Dziewanowska or Grydryszek that aren’t easy to spell for a non-Pole.) Even in the case of my first name, some folks try to type it with two “L”s instead of one. And in the case of this site you’re on, I chose GreatLakesLit . . . so you don’t have to spell out Literary.
Of course, if your name is taken, you can go for a .net version (or .biz or .info, etc.) The goal then is to beat out the person who has your .com site in the Google ranking, so you appear before them. Or hope that someone looking for you has the presence of mind to use “Philip Martin author” as their search. If someone searches for you including the term “author” or the name of your book or the town you live in, Google/Bing/etc, will probably show your site as a top choice in search results, even if it has a .net suffix. It’s not a huge problem.
As I wondered about strategies for author-website domain names, I looked around on the web, and I found this post:
Which shows some of the alternate approaches used by prominent authors. They include:
http://www.whoisamy.com (Who Is Amy? It’s the site for Amy Krouse Rosenthal)
http://www.murakamibooks.co.uk (Haruki Murakami)
http://www.jkrowling.com (J.K. Rowling)
http://www.eljamesauthor.com (E.L. James)
You can see there are a lot of approaches, even by successful authors. Some use their name, some use initials, some use “books” or “author” in the domain name.
Here’s the secret: the exact form of the domain name isn’t as crucial as you might think.
It turns out that most traffic will be generated from people already online, who will just click on a link. They don’t really care what the exact site’s URL is named, whether it’s jkrowling.com or HogwartiousMaximus.org.
(And . . . it’s not ideal, but if you really need to, you can later move your site to a new domain, and can grab and import old content from your old site into your new site. Then, you can do what’s called a redirect of the old site. Someone clicking on the old site address gets forwarded to your new site; this can preserve the traffic, Google ranking, etc.)
So pick a URL that’s as simple and easy to spell as you can.
If you’re a good, interesting writer that people want to find . . . they can and will.
Focus on what’s important: doing a clean, well-organized website with useful content.
Philip Martin is an author, editor, and award-winning indie-book publisher with many years of experience in the book trade. Director of Great Lakes Literary (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), he creates and hosts WordPress-powered websites for book authors, along with providing editorial and marketing services to make book projects better.