How to Select the Right Domain Name for Your Writing Site
I recommend you get a domain name right away — they’re cheap, and they make you look professional. There are two trains of thought about domain names. The first says to pick something clear and descriptive, like business.com — that’s clearly a site to go for if you want business information, right? The second school of thought is to pick something jazzy and hip that can become a brand name, like meebo.com (an online instant messaging service) or Amazon.com (a bookstore).
For writers, the brand is you — that’s what people are going to search for on the web. So unless your name is incredibly common (or it’s not common but you share it with a porn star) I’d suggest using your own name, as in janedoe.com. If your name is somewhat common, you might have to get a .org or .net address — these are slightly less desirable than a .com address, but they’re fine. Make sure the person who owns the .com version isn’t another writer, though! If your name is long, you might want to abbreviate it: use your first initial or first and middle initial. Likewise, if your last name is short like mine, use your first initial so you can get a 4- or 5-letter domain name — they’re easy to type, easy to remember, and easy to spell!
If you have a common name, you might add “writes” or something similar to distinguish yourself from everyone else — johndoewrites.com isn’t a bad domain name, or writerjanedoe.com or sfwriterjohndoe.com. As a last resort, choose something distinctive and completely yours — if you’re a fantasy writer, you might choose something like narnia.com (if you’re CS Lewis); if you’re a tech journalist you might choose macreviewer.com (if you review software for Macs).
Stay away from anything cutesy or obscure — zzyzzfryx.com might be fun, but unless your audience is going to have some idea what it means, it’s a good idea to avoid that kind of domain name — imagine the frustration of a potential reader mistyping your domain name for the third time! (That doesn’t mean you can’t be creative with your site’s title — just give it an easy-to-type-and-remember domain name.) Also, avoid domain names other than .com, .net, and .org — people simply aren’t as familiar with domains like .us, .ws. .biz, or .info, and will probably enter yourname.us.com instead of yourname.us. The exception is if you’re a TV writer, the Tuvalu domain name .tv is a creative way to set yourself apart.
Update: An important exception to all of this is if you’re a freelance writer looking to position yourself as a freelance writing firm. While your name may well be a great choice for a domain name, if you’re going to do business under a firm’s name, that should be your domain name, too. For example, if you write as “Really Really Good Writing, Inc.” you should register “reallyreallygoodwriting.com” as well as your own name.
Always try to get your own name, though. Last week, tech writer and media producer Shel Israel discovered just how important it is to register your name, when a parody of him was put up at ShelIsrael.com. If your business has a strong brand, people will go looking for it, but there will always be people who remember only your name. You can, of course, redirect one domain name to the other, so no matter what people enter into their browser’s address bar, they’ll end up where you want them.