What's in a Domain Name: Naming Your Author Website

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

“What domain name should I choose for my author website?” I get this question from authors all the time. So here are some guidelines and tips. You need to decide on your domain name before you launch your author website, and you should probably decide before you develop your website because it could impact the design if it becomes the title, or name, of your site.

No Need to Make a Name When You Already Have One

Ideally, your domain name should be yourname.com. If you have multiple books, this should be a no-brainer. Obviously, you wouldn’t get a domain name for just one of your books if you have an author website with multiple books. What if you already have a website using the domain name of one of your books? Now might be the time to consolidate under one website using your name. Your name is generally more searchable and by putting all of your books on one site, you allow readers looking for one book in particular to naturally discover your other works.

If you are a first time author with one book, it should still be yourname.com. First of all, your author site is about you. It’s your home base and should be used for branding yourself. So it should be your name. Second, what happens when you write your second book? Another domain name and another website? Of course not. And what happens if you branch out and start doing other activities, like consulting or editing, etc? Since that is your business, the site should be in your name. All under one umbrella. That’s tough to do if your domain name is the name of one of your books.

I have encountered authors over the years that started building a new site for every book or series. This splits your book marketing efforts, money, and time. Not to mention, it increases your updating headaches exponentially.

A note here about publishers…they will often push for a site that’s about the book, because that’s what they care about. But you have to think about your career, long term, and what’s best for you as the author and also the publisher.

There are some circumstances where you might use a book title or series. If it’s completely stand alone and the title or series is the brand, and it’s not about you, then you might want to do that. An obvious example would be the Harry Potter series.

Domain Name Availability

What if your name is taken? In many cases it will be. Mine, johnburke.com, was already taken when I first checked in 1996! But there are other options. You can use johnburkeauthor.com, johnburkebooks.com, or john-burke.com. In some cases, if all your preferred options are taken, you could consider johnburke.net, or even johnburke.org. But think of “.com” as Main Street — it’s the preferred location.

Buying a Domain Name

You should buy your domain name yourself with your email address and credit card. You should always know the username and password of your domain name account and where it’s registered (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Register.com, etc.). You should be listed as what’s referred to as the “Registrant,” meaning you own it. If someone registers it for you, make sure they follow these guidelines, and that you have the username and password to the account. Demand it. It should not be registered in the web developers account with other domain names because then you will not have access to it. It’s very important that you have control of your domain name. Many authors don’t have this information. We’ve had too many experiences where the person or company who registered an author’s domain name vanishes with the login, or the parting was not amicable and the person becomes difficult. You want to avoid these scenarios.

If your website developer registers your domain name for you, make sure you know what happens if you want to move your website hosting elsewhere. What happens to your domain name registration? Can you leave it there and still have access? Or do you have to transfer it out? Transferring is a hassle, so this is another reason to register your domain name at an independent registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions, not through your web hosting company or website developer.

Domain names usually expire, or come up for renewal, every couple of years so keep an eye out for emails reminding you to renew it. This is another reason why you want your domain name registered in your name and email address, so you will get the renewal notifications. I have had big name, bestselling author’s websites go down because the original developer got the renewal message, ignored it, and let the domain name registration expire.

Some of the bigger domain name registrars also offer email addresses using your domain name, for example, you@yourdomainname.com. It’s an additional charge, but a relatively small one. If this is something you want, check into the registrar’s offerings before you use them. You can also use Gmail’s G Suite to do this. The advantage of doing it with your registrar or G Suite is that it’s permanent—no matter where you host your author website, now or in the future, your email, and domain name, is set where it is and you don’t have to move it.

So give some thought to your domain name—it’s part of your branding and overall book marketing.


How to Build an Author Platform

John Burke

John Burke spent about fifteen years working in publishing and bookstores. He is the Co-Founder of Pub Site, the easy-to-use website builder for books and authors, and COO of FSB Associates, the premier online book marketing firm.