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Building a Good Author Web Site:

Your Own URL

by David Dvorkin

Go to Introduction and Table of Contents

You've noticed, I hope, that the URL of this page begins with http://www.dvorkin.com. It wasn't always that way.

Years ago, when I first created my own Web site, the URL began with http://www.csd.net/~dvorkin. That's made up of my Internet provider's URL, followed by a ~ and my user name. That's the usual format for home pages, and it's still very common. There was nothing inherently wrong with it. I was able to have some HTML pages on a server at my Internet provider, and I could give people the above URL, and they'd see my pages. However, at that time, my Web site was more or less at the hobby stage. I was teaching myself HTML and playing around with having a Web site of my very own.

As time passed, though, my site became a more serious tool for publicizing my writing and my wife's businesses, and then later her own writing. It was changing from a purely personal site to a business one. At the same time, the Web itself was becoming a major factor in business. And the Web sites of businesses, both large and small, increasingly had URLs of the form www.businessname.com. The same was increasingly true of the sites of people selling their own products, just as I was in effect doing. (Actually, I'm advertising them, and booksellers are doing the selling. Quibble, quibble.) It became ever clearer to me that, for my site to be seen as an extension of my wife's and my businesses, it needed a businesslike URL, not a hobby-like one.

My last name is Dvorkin, so I registered the domain name www.dvorkin.com and arranged with my Internet provider to host it. It's a simple process, and no one should hesitate to do it. Is it really worth the tiny amount of bother and small extra expense involved? I can't prove with numbers that it is, but my subjective impression is that the URL gives my Web site far more credibility than the old URL did.

Search Engines

If someone searches for my name on Google, or for my wife's name, the very first result that shows up is our main, or home, page, www.dvorkin.com. Now, that's serious, businesslike credibility for you.

Choosing Your URL

Assuming you do want your own URL, what URL should you choose?

Your Name Is You

Ideally, I think, you should use your own name. Now, that's easy for someone like me to do. Dvorkin isn't that common a name, at least outside the Slavic world, and when I registered my domain, I found that not only was www.dvorkin.com fortunately still available, so were www.dvorkin.net and www.dvorkin.org. (The latter two have both been nabbed since then, but I got www.dvorkin.com first!) But what if your name is John Smith? You might have to settle for something like www.johnsmiththeauthor.com. But that's not a good choice because it's too easily misspelled. How about www.smithwritesbooks.com? Cumbersome, but it is memorable, and not likely to be mistyped. And much better than http://www.localispname.com/~jsmith. (At the moment, www.smithwritesbooks.com is available, so grab it, John!) If you do have a common name, use your imagination.

Com If You Can

Get the .com version of the domain you want - e.g., www.dvorkin.com. The .com addresses still have a lot more cachet for any kind of business than either .net or .org ones do, let alone the various new endings being added to the system. In retrospect, I wish I had snapped up www.dvorkin.net and www.dvorkin.org too, while I was at it. The fact that those now belong to other people is a constant opportunity for confusion. Don't hesitate to get all three versions of your domain (.com, .net, .org), if all are available. (Forget the other, new endings.) Your Internet provider can arrange for all three of them to point to the same files, probably for a small extra charge. That way, people will end up at your Web site even if they type in .org or .net at the end by mistake.

Not Very Novel

I've noticed that a lot of first-time authors set up Web sites with a URL based on the title of their first novel, or sometimes a proposed series of novels. Perhaps they've been inspired by movie studios, which create a Web site for a new movie with a URL based on the movie title - something like http://www.johnnysjungleadventure-themovie.com. That may make sense for a movie: The studio wants a URL that's easily remembered by anyone who knows the title of the movie and wants to find out more about it, and the Web site doesn't need to hang around once the movie is gone from the theaters. Nor is such a site selling anything else from the same studio. It exists to market that movie, and it will soon be forgotten.

You don't want your site to be forgotten. You also don't want your site to be tied to a book which, sadly, almost certainly won't stay on the shelves for very long. You want your site to advertise you and all of your writing, not just the current project.

You could create another Web site, with a title-based URL, for the second novel. And the same for the third, and so on. But think of the logistics!

Think also of the lack of crossover. You can have links from one site to another, of course, just as easily as you can have links from one page to another within a site. But if you create many such inter-site links, you're really creating a single site spread over many different URLs. You haven't gained anything except more bother and maintenance - and probably extra monthly fees from your Internet provider (a fee for each separate URL).

And then there's the other stuff on your site. As the years go by, I can assure you that there will be other stuff. You'll be writing about more than just your novels. Where does everything else go, if you have a collection of separate URLs, each one devoted to a single novel or series of novels?

So think ahead. Register a good domain name that advertises you, and treat it as an umbrella for publicizing everything you want the world to know about you.

Don't Be Cute

Or obscure. Or egotistical. Not in your domain name, anyway.

Your writing is a serious business to you. So your Web site should also be a serious business to you. Therefore the URL should be serious and businesslike.

www.johnnyswordadventure-thewebsite.com may make you smile, but it won't draw viewers. It has committed the sin of cuteness.

www.mysticalwordsjourney.com is obscure (not to mention annoying). What kind of site is it? Would the kind of people you want to have read your site and then, one hopes, buy your books be likely to read a site with that URL, or would they shake their heads in puzzlement (and possibly annoyance) and click their way elsewhere?

www.godimagreatwriter.com . . . God, what a jerk that guy must be!

He Who Hesitates

Loses his chance at the domain name of his dreams.

You can register a domain name right now, even if you don't have a Web site ready to use it, or even if you don't have an account with an Internet provider at all. You can register the domain name now and then get an Internet provider and set up a Web site later. So if reading this has made you think of the perfect domain name for you, go to the domain registrar of your choice and register that domain right now - assuming it's still available, of course.

In the simple, old days, when I registered my domain name, there was only one place where you could do that. Now there's a plethora of them. Ask around, ask your Internet provider for advice, Google the registrars you're interested in to see if other people have had problems with them. In short, approach the registering of your new domain name as if it were a serious business decision, because that's exactly what it is.


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