A lot of great questions and comments have been stacking up over the last few days. I will get to as many of them as possible in the next week or so. For today, I want to talk about some of the basic issues, because I can see from recent questions that some of my loyal readers need some explanations.
The first basic concept I want to cover is the concept of domains. For some of you, this will be utterly elementary, but let’s get everyone up to speed.
I believe it’s critical for any writer to own a domain name that is as close as possible to the name they write under. What’s a “domain?” Look at the top of your browser. This blog lives at www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com/blog. My domain is “AdvancedFictionWriting.com”. That is the domain for my web site on “how to write fiction.”
By the way, I also have another domain at “Ingermanson.com” which is the web site about my fiction writing. My first two initials are “R.S.” so I used to have a domain at “RSIngermanson.com” but after many radio interviews in which I had to repeat that middle initial (because “S” and “F” sound alike on the radio), I realized that I needed to simplify it as much as possible.
You may ask, “Why not use RandyIngermanson.com or RandallIngermanson.com?” That’s a good question. In fact, I do own those domains. I have things set up so if you try either of those, your browser takes you to Ingermanson.com. I can do this because there are very few Ingermansons in the world, and I am the only Randy. But most people would want to register a first-name/last-name combination, such as “CamyTang.com” or “BrandilynCollins.com” or “ReneGutteridge.com”.
As I said above, I strongly believe that every writer should own a domain that is identical or close to the name they write under. If your real name is “Samuel Clemens” but your pen name is “Mark Twain”, then you should own “MarkTwain.com”. This isn’t always possible. As some of you have noted, sometimes another author has the same name or nearly the same name as you do. I have an author friend who has the same name as a porn star, and unfortunately, Miss Porno grabbed the domain name first. So grab your domain now, if you can!
How do you do that and how much does it cost? You can buy domain names at many “domain registration” web sites, such as GoDaddy. When you “register a domain,” you are paying a small fee (usually less than $10 per year) for the exclusive rights to a given domain for a fixed period of time. Registering a domain is very easy and costs very little, so you should do this, even if you don’t plan to put up a web site right away. It’s best to own your name!
That raises another question, which Joanna asked:
Hi Randy, thanks for all the helpful information (and the quirky humour). And thanks for putting your blog through FeedBlitz because if I don’t get an email notification I don’t remember to check the website. I’m curious about FeedBlitz and other options where blog readers can sign up for notification. I’m also curious about privacy. I haven’t set up a blog yet (still identifying who I’m writing to and why) so I don’t know how much personal information one has to give out. Could you talk a bit about that, and the same for registering web addresses? I’m a happy Canadian, but if I register a .ca name I have to let my name, phone number and address be listed in the host’s “WhoIs” section for all to see. This is changing in a few months, and I’m waiting for that. Do .com addresses have the same issue? I want to set up both. Call me paranoid, but if I’m blogging and anyone in the world can read it, odds are there might be someone out there I might rather not hear from. (And if you do call me paranoid, it’s thanks to your e-zine a few years ago when you pointed out that it’s too late to protect one’s privacy once it’s become necessary.)
Randy sez: When you register your domain, you can also pay another small fee to have it registered “privately”. GoDaddy charges less than $10 per year for this service, and I do this with all my domains.
The reason is simple: When you register a domain, you have to give contact information so that you can be reached. Anyone can get that contact information, which includes your address, email, and phone number. If you value your privacy (and you should–see the article I wrote on this about a year and a half ago on my e-zine) you should guard this information–especially your home address. There are too many weirdos in this world. You don’t want them to knock on your door at 2 AM to invite themselves in for coffee. (Hannibal Lecter might invite himself in for liver and fava beans and a nice Chianti.)
When you pay for “private registration,” you are paying somebody else (a “proxy”) to provide that address, email, and phone number. If somebody needs to reach you, they contact that “proxy” who will then forward the message to you. This is very much safer, and I recommend paying the extra money.
Bottom line: Register your own name as your domain, and do it as soon as possible. Pay for the private registration option. This should not cost you more than $20 per year.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about the next step in the web site development process, which is “hosting a site.” See ya then!