Creating Author Websites By Mary Jaksch It happened to a gifted writer. In fact, Donna Tartt is so talented, she got the Pulitzer Prize for her latest novel. And yet she made a huge mistake online. I’m writing this to make sure you don’t make the same mistake. Here’s what happened… Just before getting on a plane from Bangkok to Auckland, I hurriedly downloaded a handful of suspense novels at random onto my Kindle. During the flight, I kicked back and started to read one of books called The Goldfinch. I didn’t expect much. But by the second paragraph, I sat bolt upright. ‘Wow!’ I thought, ‘This woman can WRITE!’ Later, I told a friend that I’d found an electrifying author. ‘Who’s the writer?’ she asked. ‘It’s a woman called Donna Tartt. Wait—I’ll google her name.’ It was only then that I saw that Donna had received the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch! I’m not surprised. It’s one of the most fascinating novels I’ve read in the last ten years. But even though she’s talented, Donna lacks Internet smarts. You see, I like going to authors’ websites to read about what they’re doing. So I searched Google for her author platform. Nothing there… Next, I searched for her name domain, DonnaTartt.com. And I found it. But—it didn’t belong to her. Someone else had bought her name domain and is now auctioning it off. The price is growing by about a thousand dollars a week. Donna Tartt made the mistake of not securing her own name domain, her online identity! I was so concerned, I quickly grabbed one of her other name domains, donnatartt.net. I’m going to give it to her. For free. I don’t want anyone else to grab this name domain and maybe put some vile content onto it. And, because the site carries Donna’s name, people will think she endorses the website content. But unfortunately, the main domain she would want to own, donnatartt.com, is already gone. Just imagine, if that happened to you… Have you secured your own name domain yet? You may not expect to get the Pulitzer Prize, but there’s no knowing where your writer’s journey will take you. So many of our A-List Blogging Masterclass students have ended up as authorities in their field! Suffice it to say, if you dream of online success, you must grab your own name domain early on so that nobody else can get their hands on it. It’s not expensive to buy a domain—if you’re not a celebrity, that is. It only costs about $12 per year. I bet Donna now wishes she had bought her name domain, donnatartt.com, years ago. You can see from Donna’s example that owning your name domain is crucial. It’s like buying a plot of land (but at a fraction of the price…). Nobody else can build upon it; you are the only one who is free to develop it. Let me give you a brief refresher on domain names and hosting. Quick 101 on Domains and Hosting When you buy a domain from a reputable company like NameCheap, you have acquired your own Internet address and nobody else can use—or abuse—it. But without hosting, there will be nothing to see at this Web address. In order to build an author platform at this URL, you need hosting. Web hosts are companies that have servers (huge computers) that store all the files and data for your blog or website. When someone decides to visit your blog, their computer will “talk” to the hosting server, which then “serves up” the website to the visitor’s web browser. In other words, if the URL of your website is its address, the hosting server is the house which is actually located at that address. The smartest way to get your name domain The most cost-effective way to get a domain is to grab it for free when you purchase hosting. There are some hosting companies who give you a free domain in return for hosting. Just make sure you use a reputable hosting company like Bluehost. They offer hosting for only $3.95 a month. But be careful… There are some bad, bad hosting companies out there. A few students of mine bought hosting at a company that had this slogan: “With … Host as your hosting company, you can rest assured that your website is in good hands.” ‘In good hands?’ Yeah, right! Their server had near-daily outages, and their support service was abysmal. I had to fight for my students to get a refund. Finally, I was able to get them moved across to a secure hosting company. But let’s leave aside any bad experiences. If you get your domain for free from a good hosting company like Bluehost, you can start to develop your author platform, even if it only has a homepage to start with. (If you want to learn how to create a website or blog with minimal time and effort, check out my Kickstart Your Blog course.) Why having an author platform is crucial for your future Back to the story of Donna Tartt… If she had secured her name domain early in her career, nobody else could have taken her online identity. Now, whoever ends up with her name domain can write whatever they like in her name—even if it’s objectionable. Unfortunately, many writers don’t understand the bitter consequence of not grabbing their name domain early on. But what should you do with it, once you have it? I would say: create your author platform. You see, when I find an interesting author, the first thing I do is go to their website. Because I want to know who they are, what else they’ve written, and what they’re working on at the moment. And I’m not the only one to look for author platforms. Whether you’re a non-fiction or fiction writer, you need an author platform. Get your name domain now. Don’t wait until it’s too late. And once you own your name domain, it’s time to create an author platform. (Coming soon: more about how to create an attractive author platform.) Questions? Thoughts? Please share in the comments.