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An Author’s Website - It's Time to Get One! February 2016
This is the first of a three part series on websites. This article discusses domains. Which will be followed by How to pick the Perfect Hosting Company and Transferring your Domain.
If you’re writing a book and want to publish it someday, NOW is the time to start thinking of marketing. Having a website is a great way to start. If you're almost finished writing your manuscript, you need a rapid start marketing campaign, completing the below as quickly and professionally as you are able.
There are some things to consider before taking the plunge.
1. Do you want this website to be an umbrella for all your writing? Or are you going to have a website for each book? It makes a difference as to which domain (www.yourname.com) you buy. Keep in mind that maintaining a website, is time consuming, even if you’ve hired someone to do the work, you will have to contribute content. Having a website for each book is a good idea if you write under several pen names. Maybe you genre hop, and you don’t want your children’s books purchasersknowing you also write erotica.
2. A domain shouldn’t cost more than twenty dollars a year. Having multiples won’t break the bank. Many people like to purchase (www.yourdomain.com, net, or org) that way no one
can setup shop and pretend to be you with a similar domain.
3. Hosting - this is where your files, the ones that make up your website, live and how they become part of the web. Think of it like putting money in the bank. You can’t see it but you can still access it from everywhere. Some things to think about when it comes to choosing a hosting company are:
A. Read the agreement - make sure there is not a charge for ‘transferring out.’ What that means is if you decide to move your website to a different hosting service your old hosting service is going to charge you for doing it. This is against the policy on domain transfers, setup by ICANN, the governing body for domains.
B. Read the ‘terms of service.’ Some not on the up and up hosting companies put things like ‘power of attorney’ in there.
C. Examine multi-year registration - many companies will offer you a discount if you register for more than one year. Some
companies will take your money register your domain for the first year and pocket the rest. They will continue to register your domain each year, but at no savings. Then in hopes that you will leave before the number of years
is up, they provide poor service. This actually makes them money. Use this to verify how many years your domain is registered.
D. Whois fees - before you purchased your domain you searched to see if it was available. You used Whois to do that. When you register your domain, you provide information about you and your company to prove you are you and the domain is yours, this all has to remain public. So that Whois, can query it. Some companies, will charge you a fee to change your Whois info. And/or lock down your domain for sixty days. Both of these are against policy.
E. Private Whois - Many companies will upsell you a privacy screen on your Whois. Basically they put their info in ‘hiding’ yours. In the eyes of ICANN, whoever’s info is displayed in Whois, is rightful owner of that domain.Some companies will sell your data to anyone willing to pay for it, after they sell you the privacy service.
F. Slamming - After you register your domain, robots that roam the web looking for Whois information, will mine the Whois database, find your data and you will receive spam emails (Nubian Prince scams, etc.). One company will mine your data, then send you what looks like a renewal notice for your domain. Unsuspecting people will pay the money, not realizing they are initiating a domain transfer, slammed! Suddenly your domain and email will stop as the communications with your old host are severed. You can block the bots from mining your data with this free service.
G. Register-Lock - Because of slamming any company should have AUTH/EPP locks on your domain so that it can’t be slammed. At some point you may want to transfer your domain to another hosting company. One that’s cheaper, offers different options, better customer service. To transfer your domain, contact the current company and get a special code, AUTH/EPP.Now you give the new company, the AUTH?EPP code granting them permission to transfer your domain. Watch out for companies that won’t allow you to have the code - because you will never be able to move to a different hosting company. “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!" The best way to avoid this is read the terms of service. If it does happen to you there is nothing you can do. You could try contacting ICANN, but if it was in the small print…
H. If you want to purchase the domains similar to yours (www.mydomain.com, net, biz) to make sure no one else has them, be aware of domain parking. Bad companies will use these not fully functioning domains to make money. Its called domain parking. If you’ve ever mistyped a domain and ended up on one of those annoying search page only sites with a million popups - that domain is parked and for every time someone lands on it, Bad Company is making money off your domain. If you want to park your domain, find a company that will pay you, there are several that do this.
4. Decide, up front if possible, on everything you want your website to do. Prioritize your list. Try to make it scaleable and expandable to allow for major changes in the years to come.
5. Surf - check out other author’s websites. Make note of what you like, it’s OK to ‘borrow’ ideas. You will be providing your own content.
6. Hiring it out - if you are going this route, ask people for recommendations, and vet your choices. If you don’t like the work of the person recommended, look further. Three questions to ask:
A. How much will domain and hosting cost?
B. Umbrella site or individual sites, for each book?
C. Recommendations from previous customers.
7. Do it yourself - If you are tech savvy and like a challenge it can be fun to do your own site. This can save money but you will spend a lot of time up front designing and building it. After its built, you will want to make changes. Updating the launch party, due date your books will arrive, etc. Once again, this will take away from your writing.
8. You could also try a hybrid system. You hire someone to get the bare bones site up and running, and then you fill in all the bells and whistles.
Hopefully this helped clear away the confusion on author websites domains, and didn’t make your head explode. Stay tuned next month for advice on how to get the perfect hosting company.
How to select the Perfect Hosting Company
Welcome to part two of my three part series. Part one can be read here.
Experts say that if you are writing a book now is the time to put a website together. Building a fan base before the novel is finished may translate into sales after completion!
A hosting company holds your website files making them accessible to the browsers you use to connect to the internet. Think of it like a bank. You deposit your money (files), and they earn interest (access the web).
There are two options free and paid/commercial.
*Reliability and speed -
Reliability - If the site is not available for your fans, then it isn’t doing its job. Reliability is about guaranteeing how often your website it useable for your viewers. Look for a minimum uptime of 99.5% or higher. Lithium Hosting lists the following on their home page: “you can be confident your site will always be secure and available 99 .7%” The host should have some kind of refund if the uptime falls below that number, or the site is down for X-amount of minutes/hours.
Speed - If it takes a long time to upload files (move the files from your computer to the hosting company), or for pages to load, you are not getting your monies worth. Spend some time accessing the site, see how fast their pages load.
*Domain Extensions -
The name of all websites end with a .com or .net or other extension. Some refer to the website’s country of origin, others to what the owner wants to convey about their website (like .rock or .biz.). Several of the free hosts force you to have an extension of their choosing. Example: .co.nf or .eu.pn or .biz.ly
Popup windows and banners are frequent types of advertisements. Many free hosts will put ads on your site, to keep their costs low. Some companies don’t force you to place ads on your site. However, if no one pays for the infrastructure/equipment/electricity, how does it stay open?
*Technical Support -
This separates the cheap hosts from the more expensive. If your site is down and its three am on Wednesday July 4 - you don’t want to hear a recording telling you that tech support hours are M-F 8a-5pm Eastern time, excluding holidays. What you want to see is: 24/7 proudly listed under their support page.
*Limitation of file types and sizes -
The files that make up your website can be large. Some hosting sites may restrict the size of files. This can keep costs down, with less storage available.
A size restriction example: 200kb for a maximum file size. I have an empty file on my site, whose size equals: 154kb.
*File type restrictions -
Additionally there are hosting services that don’t allow the use of certain file types. For example they may only allow HTML, and jpg files. Do you think you want to offer downloads of your stories? You’ll need a service that allows PDF documents for that.
File Transfer Protocol - The way to move files from your computer to the hosting company is with this method. Programs such as FileZilla or Transmit are FTP programs. Some hosts have Website building software, that exclude the need for FTP. Wix.com, one of the sites using building software, claim that your content (the files that make up your website) is owned by them, and will not allow you to transfer it from their site.
*Environmentally Friendly -
Are you worried about your CO2 foot print? A study by Science Studies found that on average a web server produces more than 630kg of CO2 (that’s a lot!). It also consumes 1,000 KWh of energy annually. A green host theoretically produces zero CO2.
*Site Backups -
From time to time, things happen. You’re covered if your host performs regular backups. By building the site on your local machine, you also create a backup. If you didn’t build it locally, doing an FTP to your computer creates a backup. If you want to change anything you have the files.
Here are some questions to ask about backups:
- Does your web host provide full backups regularly?
- Can you do a site backup via the control panel?
- Can you easily, using Cron Jobs, setup auto backup?
- Can you restore your backup files by yourself (so you don’t have to wait for the support staff to do it for you during disaster times)?
A perfect hosting company is one that works for you. Remember to read the small print, look for reviews, and query the hosting company for referrals. Don’t be shy! Contact their customers and ask questions. You get what you pay for. Use a free hosting service for a short-term pocket-sized static site. If you plan on having a dynamic site that will grow and change over time, then a paid host can supply you with more options. Look for the final article in the series: Transferring Your Domain.