What's in a name? by Jack Dorsey on Flickr

Photo by Jack Dorsey on Flickr

One of the questions I’m frequently asked by my author clients is what domain name they should use for their new website: the book title or the author’s name.

Like so many of my answers, the answer is that it depends.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your author domain name:

  • Ideally, you planned ahead & your domain name was one of the considerations when choosing the title of your book, especially if it’s nonfiction.  If you choose a nonfiction title with a particularly tricky word to spell, it’s going to be difficult not only for people to type out your domain name in all the places it’s going to be used, but to search for it too, so you might get lots of errors.  So keep things simple, and descriptive, especially as your domain name is one of the biggest things taken into account in search results.
  • Check your competition.  If there’s a very popular website out there with a similar domain name to what you have in mind, you’re going to have a hard time.  Not just because of their website, but because of their social media profile links and all other places they’ll pop up in search results.  Don’t create an insurmountable search obstacle before you even get started — come up with something more unique to set yourself apart and give you a chance to shine on the first page of search results.
  • Consider that you don’t need to own just one domain name, but should likely own multiple.  Domains are cheap these days.  So purchase all the ones that are (or might be) relevant for you.  Get both your name and the book title, get the book title with the word “book” at the end, etc…  That way don’t have to worry about someone else creating a website you might not like using a domain name associated with your book, and you’ll also have options when it comes to choosing which domain name will be your default.  Ideally you purchased your domain names early enough in the process of thinking about a web presence that they’re all ready-to-go when it comes time to build your site. Then, once your site is in place, your domain administrator can add a “permanent forward” on all the other domain names to the one used for the website so that they all take people to the website.
  • If you’re a new author I suggest thinking about how you plan to market your book. If it’s fiction, and you’ll be marketing the title/concept and not yourself as an expert or a speaker whose primary resource is a book, I would choose the book title as the domain name. If you wrote a non-fiction book and you’ll be marketing yourself as much, if not more than the book as a speaker & authority (so that people will be looking for you by name) I would do it the other way around and make your main domain name your full name.
  • If you’re writing a series, or multiple books on a particular topic, then consider a domain name that describes your focus or the series — for example, if you write books on small business law, your primary domain name might be “SmallBusinessLawBooks.com” or if your series features a PI protagonist named Bug Looksie it might be “BugLooksieSeries.com”.  You should also purchase the domain names for your book titles in this case, but it’s a good idea to plan for the future when you’re getting started.

And what to do if your perfect domain name isn’t available?

  • Get creative.  I don’t suggest adding a dash (“-“) to words as it’s frequently forgotten, but you can add the word “book” or “books” or “author” to the end of a domain name and that frequently opens up new options AND benefits your searchability since you’ll be competing against someone with a similar domain name, but not about a book.
  • Try to purchase it from the owner.  Domain registrars often having a domain purchase negotiation service that allows you to set a price you’re willing to pay for a domain name, and they will approach the owner to negotiate a sale.  It can be anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, and they’ll estimate the cost of a domain for you ahead of time.  If it’s not too much money, and having the perfect domain name is critical to your online success, it’s likely worth it.