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Should writers register a domain name?

Domain names used to be a luxury only affordable to large business. Emerging writers would never need one when traditional print publishers were the only game in town. Back closer to the beginning of the Internet, you might only see the big names, the million-dollar-money-making writers, with their own domain name and maybe a one-page promotional website furnished them by their print publisher as part of their overall marketing campaign.

But those days are long past.

Register your name as a domain name for memorable marketing

Generic top-level domains (referred to as gTLDs, are associated with a class of domains such as .com for commercial, or .net or .org which were originally intended for Internet service providers or non-profit organisations respectively) no longer cost upwards of $75.00 or are out of reach.

These domain names can now be had from free as part of a hosting package to about $12.00-$29.99 à la carte at a mid-priced and stable registration provider. If you like living on the edge and don’t mind transferring every year to snag a deal, you can even find these for a couple of dollars with some of those pop-up service providers based out of the Caymen Islands that may or may not still be around come renewal time.

The point is, a domain name is affordable.  And you should have one.  It’s your address on the Internet.

symbol - online publishingIn the new reality of publishing where writers use technology to their advantage, there’s an upsurge in indie published writers. And the competition is stiff while everyone is vying for a piece of the market share. Sure, the risks are bigger, you have to do your own marketing and it may take time to get the sales flowing, but you also don’t need to share the profits with a big publisher and the potential pay-out can be sizeable.

In order to get noticed, every indie pub writer wants to be taken seriously. It’s essential to building a trust relationship between the target market and the brand – your name.

As a writer, your name is everything. It’s not only your brand, but your calling card and claim to fame. As a new writer, a great way to add to the legitimacy of your brand is to get your name as a domain name. If you last name is unusual, you might still be able to snag it yourself, but if your last name is common or is a dictionary word, this far into the game you won’t be able to get your last name alone as a .com. But that’s okay. Your first and last name in combination is more unique, so the chances of finding it still available as a .com are much higher. Set your sights in that direction.

A short, quirky domain name is fun, but those domain names don’t announce who you are or help make your name memorable. You want people to find you. You want them to remember how to reach your website or your blog in a few seconds before they lose interest and move on to something else. Your first and last name in combination can help you accomplish this.

Something else to think about…

If your first name and last name is also the first and last name of anyone else and none of you have registered it as a domain name, you want to pick it up first. That means, every other firstnamelastname.com will have to settle for only second best like firstnamelastnamecanada.com or firstnamelastnameauthor.com or something equally clumsy. Out of those, which website is someone more likely to remember? Make sure it’s yours!

Connect your domain name to social mediaEven if you’re only starting out and don’t think you’ll have a need for a full-blown website for a couple of years yet, you can use your domain name to direct visitors to one of your social media feeds through URL forwarding. You can still use Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr to keep your growing audience updated on your journey to publication. They’ll already be invested at the point you publish your ebook or launch your website and it can help drive sales faster.

Be in control of what people see when they search for you

If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, remember, so have your friends. Chances are, one of them may have posted some of those super-embarrassing photos of you from a party or family event or from that one time where you decided to dress up as Dr. Frank N. Furter in stacked heels at Halloween six years ago and tagged it with your name. When anyone searches for your first and last name, wouldn’t you rather have your domain name come up on top in the search results? Unless your chosen genre is writing Rocky Horror fanfic where this could work to your advantage, of course.

For everyone else, you probably want to remain in control of what search engines are serving up in connection with your name. A domain name created from your first and last name will help push those embarrassing things you’d rather forget out of the way. Over time, you can have those take down so they’re exempt from search engine results (and you really should). But until you locate all the sources, your domain name will at least take over the top search results to obscure them from obvious view.

What if the .com version of my name as a domain name is already taken?

symbol - google-resize.com domain names have been the staple for commercial use, but they’re not the only option.  There are other good domain name extensions you can take advantage of if the .com version of your name is taken.  For writers, .me is a great option and says what it means – this is you.  Awesomesauce.  Beyond .com and .me, other good domain name options for writers are .online or .media or a plain vanilla generic .xyz.  There is an upswing in location-specific registries, so you may be able to find your name available with a city TLD like .Berlin, .London, .Sydney, .Miami, .Vegas, or .Tokyo.  (See more info at nTLDstats)  Will any of these affect the SEO on your website?  John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google says no.

According to John and my insider registrar info, these new gTLDs are handled exactly the same way as a .com or a .net by search engines. There’s no advantage or disadvantage to your using one, so don’t shy away.

Right now, despite a growing list of other occupation gTLDs, *there are no writer-specific registries. As a group, while writers are becoming more visible on the Internet, due to the nature of the job, being the guy in the background toiling away at the keyboard not really talking to anyone during composition, this is a relatively new development. The thousands of other occupations with much greater popularity and visibility are still ahead of ours and have registries queuing up to represent and grab their chunk of Internet real estate from. While we’re not popular enough yet as a group, don’t despair – the Internet is a constantly changing landscape and that situation could change any time.

Any other ideas for a domain name?

Beyond registering your first and last name, another way to go is registering the name of your epub books as domain names.  .com would do for these, of course, but there’s actually one cool option sitting on the horizon in this direction. The .book extension is in the pre-registration phase as of this date, and while not yet available for general registration, it’s going to become another option for writers in a relatively short time.

There’s some hot debate in the domain world about this one. Places like Amazon and Google are working to bully their way into being the only registrar for you to get one of these through. The human race loves books which means the word “book” isn’t likely to fall out of fashion, so you can see why some of those big names want to keep control of this one. Once the dust settles, not all registrars will be selling it, so you’ll want to keep your eye on the industry news for when general registrations open.

As the first writer industry domain name extension we’ll be able to take advantage of, you’ll want to jump on it as soon as you can to ensure you can control your own book titles. Better you grab them before some domain squatter locks them up and tries to sell them to you on the domain after-market at an inflated rate.

I found several registration providers that have .book on pre-registration you can check out:

Name.com
WebNames
United Domains
101Domain
I Want My Name
RightWay
Web Solutions
Europe Registry
InstraCorp
Combell

That’s not every provider, I’ve left out the really small ones, but most of the larger ones are there for your comparison. If I learn of any more services to get a .book domain name through, I’ll add an update for you. Out of this list, my personal recommendation is name.com – their interface is super easy to use, especially if you’re a newb to domain registration. If you’re already a pro, then check your regular registrar for pre-registrations on .book.

Have an opinion?

Have a strong opinion about writers needing more industry-specific domain extensions and interested in throwing in your two cents? Add your feedback and read comments at the ICANN New gTLD Program and make some noise on behalf of the writing community. Let it be known why we need occupation-specific domain extensions for our online commercial affairs.

Until any industry-specific domain extensions become available to the writing community, in the interim, take some time to investigate whether your name as a .com or a good alternate domain extension is available. Even if you don’t plan to use the domain name for a couple of years, at least that will prevent anyone else from registering it and it’ll be yours to use when you’re ready. Just remember to be responsible for that property and renew the registration every year. It’s like the registration on your vehicle and needs yearly renewal. As long as you continue to renew it, you are assigned rights to your domain name through the registration term and no one else can have it.

domain name ICANN


[*Further update: As of May 23, 2018, the .BOOK domain extension is still on ‘pre-order’ with a TBR release date. It seems the war for its monopoly is raging in the background, so until the dust settles? We’ll have to wait. I’ll continue to keep an eye out.]

[*Update:  As of Dec 22, 2017, I still haven’t heard any back channel whispers through my domain industry sources about any writer-specific gTLDs becoming available. ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) doesn’t appear to have these on the list of still-pending applications waiting for approval through to the end of 2017. They may have no intention of creating a .writer, .journalist, novelist, .novel or .author registry at all. If I learn more, I’ll add an update to this post for you.]

[*N.B.: As of Aug 1, 2017, the .BOOK domain extension is still officially on ‘pre-order’ with a release date of TBR – that means, ‘Nope, no idea, we don’t know yet’. Continuing to keep an eye on this one through my back channel contacts for you.]

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