One piece of advice I often hear, both as a speaker and an author, is the importance of registering your name as a dot com name. And I believe that is good advice. My father always told me that if you are going to start a business include your name in your business name as your name is one of the few things in life that truly belongs to you. And if he were still here today I’m sure he would agree that you should register your name as a dot com name too. But what if you go to register your name and it’s already been taken? Don’t worry, there are other options out there. One just has to do a little creative thinking.
My name, Gayle Martin, has already had the dot com taken by another Gayle Martin. To the best of my knowledge, she is not an author, so I have plenty of other options available to me. I could add other words and register gaylemartinauthor.com, or thegaylemartin.com, or even therealgaylemartin.com.
My solution was to go with gaylemartin.net. Some experts may disagree with me, but I personally find dot net to be a perfectly acceptable alternative to dot com as dot net names appear to be gaining popularity. In fact, if the dot net version of any domain name you are registering is available you’d be wise to take it too. I have heard accounts of competitors taking dot net names and, intentional or not, creating all kinds of confusion on the Internet. I've also registered gaylemartinbooks.com, so I now have a dot com name that is unique and discritive of who I am and what I do. Those of us who are authors should consider registering the word books with our names, even if we already have registered our names as dot com or dot net names.
One you have a dot com or dot net name I would highly recommend building a website with that name. There are a lot of good web hosting companies out there, and some of the bigger ones, like Go Daddy or Network Solutions, have site wizards. They are a lifesaver for folks like me that don't know a whole lot of html, and don't have the time, or the budget, (or the inclination), to invest in and learn software like Front Page. These site wizards include easy-to-use templates that will help you create very professional looking webpage for a fraction of the cost of using a professional web design service.
As much as we hate to admit it, there are some authors out there who just don't have the budget for a hosting service and are using free hosting sites as an alternative. And while some of these free hosting companies provide a good service for little or no money, you can run into a URL problem. More than likely, you will end up with a URL that looks something like www.freehostingservice.com/yourname/whatever. But there is an easy, and inexpensive solution. You can register a domain name at Go Daddy for a very reasonable cost. Then, once you register your name, all you need to do is point it to your free web site. Be sure to click on the 'masking' box. That way, when someone uses www.yourname.com, the only URL showing on their browser is the aforementioned www.yourname.com. Pretty cool, huh?
If possible, try to avoid a domain name with numbers, particularly the numbers "2," or the words "two," "too," or "to;" the number "4" or the words "four," "for," or "fore;" the number "8," or the words, "eight" or "ate;" or the number "10," or the words "ten" or "tin." As you can see, these numbers also represent words with different variations, and they can create a great deal of confusion.
And speaking of numbers, you also want to avoid using names with Roman numerals. I once had a domain name with a Roman numeral, and lost track of how many times I heard the words, "Roman numeral???" when giving someone my website address.
Along with a dot com or dot net version of your name, you may want to consider getting dot com or dot net versions of your book(s) titles. Since book titles can't be copyrighted it's far better for you to own the domain name for your title instead of another author who, coincidental or not, has the same title for their book. Don't worry about having too many domain names. You can assign or point multiple domain names to the same website.
If you are writing a series of books consider a domain that identifies your series. I alse use the domain name LukeandJennyBooks, with both dot com and dot net, as this name represents the lead characters in my series. This domain name also disinguishes me from other people named Luke and Jenny who may or may not have a website out there.
I also use other lessor used extensions, such as dot org or dot info. These extensions and variations are used to point to websites where you can order my books. Many on-line book sellers, such as Amazon, will have very long URLs for your book’s page. And the longer the URL, the more difficult it is to set up a link. It’s much easier to point yourname.org to your Amazon page, and then use yourname.org to set the Amazon link on your website.
Remember that your domain name(s) is a key part of your brand. Choose it wisely.