You are an author. You have a book to sell. You have a website with which to promote your book. Wonderful. What’s the URL?

If you have read this and asked yourself, “What’s a URL?” then we need to back up a bit.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. You will know this better as a “website address” or that string of characters that starts with. Like a number on an apartment door, the URL serves as the address for your book’s online home. As the Internet has evolved, many companies have taken on their URLs as their brand. Many have become synonymous with a specific product or entity. When you think of buying books online, for example, you probably think of going to Amazon.com first. When you want to look up information on the Web, you “Google” it.

For any company wishing to establish a permanent online image, the necessity of owning the proper domain (that is, the address) is very important. For corporations like Kraft and GM, it is just another method of solidfying the brand image in the awareness of consumers. By the same token, it is important for an author to take ownership of his name as a URL, regardless of website availability.

Why, you ask? Why would an author with a site hosted by a domain rating free third-party space need a URL when one is available through them? Good question.

Oftentimes one will see an author on a budget set up digs on a free server, where all sites are given a special identity attached to their domain. Author John Smith, for one, may have a site on johnsmith.freewebspace.com. In payment for the free usage of space, John Smith will likely have to agree to place advertisement banners on the site, which turn pay for the webspace that John Smith gets for free. One can argue, however, that John’s website is not free, especially if he doesn’t necessarily agree with the banner content.

Having a URL and webspace like this, however, is not the same as having your own website. An author who establishes his name as a URL on a website is capable of an attractive design and point of sale free of distracting advertisements. Moreover, John Smith may not necessarily have to be held to certain Terms of Service as he might for a free website.

Getting back to John’s free site: if the free webspace site does not allow certain types of website content, and John’s book is in that category, he may lose the space altogether, and lose customers.

John may, though, encounter less problems, setting up his own site and URL. Having his own space to work with will give him more freedom in terms of content and promotion. With the fees he pays (and they do not necessarily have to cost a fortune), he eliminates the need for sponsored advertisement, and the URL of his name certifies himself as a brand. Should he decide to print business cards, bumper stickers, or other promotional items, he can use the cleaner www-dot-johnsmith-dot-com address rather than a long, complicated string he had previously used on a free site.

It is important to note, too, that even before you decide to set up shop on the Web that you have ownership of your name as a URL. If you feel your name is especially common, like John Smith, you want to be sure you have it before another John Smith takes it. Furthermore, there is always the likelihood a dubious operation may take control of the URL as either a “parking” site (a webpage full of ads) or for explicit content. There have been instances where certain romance authors forgot to renew their domains and lost them to such users.

When you secure your name as a domain, always keep track of expiration dates, so you don’t lose traffic, or your brand. Using a URL to further promote your book is an excellent way to imprint your name and book in readers’ minds.

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