Monday, May 3, 2010

Buying Your Own Domain Name

This is part of Kate's Guide to Author Websites.

If you plan to have a professional author website, you will need your own domain name. Although may look better and be easier to remember than, the real reason you need to own your own domain name is to be able to print it in books and know that as long as you pay your bill it will belong to you no matter how many times you update or move the website itself. Here is a cautionary tale of why this is so important.

Now the facts:
  • Registering a domain name just takes a few minutes from any of a zillion online services (google to see what I mean). You can almost always buy it from your host or developer as well.
  • Expect to pay around $10 a year.  There is usually a discount for buying more than one year up front.
  • Be absolutely certain that YOU own the domain. Sometimes web development firms or hosting sites will register a domain name on your behalf, but you only get to use it as long as you are their customer (and they stay in business). The whole point of getting your own domain is to be able to take it with you.
  • For an author site, you should naturally use your name as it appears on your books, preferably followed by .com or the most prevalent commercial suffix for your geographic region:, If that isn't available, add the word "books" to the end of your name:
  • If you check with a registration service and discover your name is available, I recommend you purchase it immediately. Likewise, don't discuss your specific domain name ideas in public forums. There are some unscrupulous people out there who, upon learning someone is interested in a specific domain name, will buy it up and then offer to sell it back to you at an outrageous price.
  • If you checked your name a while back and it was in use, try checking again. There used to be companies that would buy every name in the phone book. Thankfully, most of these companies seem to have gone out of business and zillions of names are back on the general market.
  • Once you have purchased a domain name, you will have to "point it" to your website.  This is process is usually called DNS setup.  This can happen in a lot of ways, but if you use the same company to both register and host your site, it will usually do this for you.  Generally, if you sign up with a different host, they will give you one or two name servers.  You then provide the name servers to the domain registrar.  It might sound a little complicated right now, but in practice is really simple.
  • If you are buying a domain name by itself, I recommend using  Their prices are competitive and they have very good 24x7 phone support.  The main downside is that they try to upsell you to death.
  • Although often included automatically, it is worth paying a bit extra for private domain registration.  Anyone can look up who owns a domain name, and this information includes an address.  As an author, you probably don't want your address visible to overzealous fans.  Domain registration privacy service hides it.  This also protects you from a lot of spam.

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