Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to get your own professional web nest!

Each day, more and more writers turn to social media to enhance their writing career/hobby. Whether by connecting with other writer friends, awesome Twitter #QueryChat sessions (hi to yesterday's boys and girls, was awesome! *wave*) or to promote their novels, social networking AND THE ENTIRE INTERWEB has become an important part of a writer's writing journey.

One of the topic that is discussed recurrently across blogs and tweets is what a writer's e-mail/website/blog address should look like. This question was brought up during yesterday's #QueryChat session, probably for the umpteenth time.

Though I have yet heard an agent say a dedicated .com address is an absolute must, most say it can only help enhance your image and show you are serious about this writing business. Some might not even think about it because they think it is too expensive or too complicated to get.

I'm not here to debate the pros and cons of getting one. All you need to know is that it costs 10$/year to have your own domain. Having a blog is free. If you want to use that domain to make yourself some professional e-mail addresses (like firstname@firstnamelastname.com) you will need a hosting provider, which offer services starting at 1.50$/month for simple e-mail hosting, or 5$/month for hosting your entire website. There are cheaper alternatives, but in this case, I advise caution: especially in this business, you get what you pay for. Your e-mails will go through your host's servers, so unless they are reputable or trustworthy, I would think hard about entrusting my business mail to some Malaysian hosting provider. Just sayin'.

This post will address how to get your own .com interweb nest for:
-those wanting a blog with their own address
-those wanting a website with their own address
-those wanting an e-mail address with their own domain
-a combination or all of the above

Step 1. Buying the domain
Those in the business of selling domains are called registrars. Every single registrars in the World are regulated the ICANN, which stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

There are plenty of registrars to choose from. The popular ones are Name Cheap, Network Solutions, Moniker and Fabulous. All these have a proven track record. I've personally been doing business for over ten years with Name Cheap, but whatever rocks your boat is fine. GoDaddy isn't technically a registrar since their main business model is hosting, but they are ICANN-accredited and do offer domain registration as well.

If you are blogging already (probably through Blogger, which is the platform of choice for most writers these days. Have a look at an old blog entry where I cover the blogging services that are available) or plan to start blogging somewhere down the line, Google (which owns Blogger and about 90% of the rest of the virtual world) also offers domain registration for 10$/year. The major advantage is that if you open a Blogger account and you buy the domain through Blogger, all the configuration will be made automatically for you! Your blog will be automatically setup to use your new domain address.

In essence, the easiest, quickest, simplest and cheapest way to get your blog and domain setup all at the same time is this:
A) Head to www.blogger.com and open a new account. If you are already blogging, sign in to your account.
B) Head to Settings => Publishing and click on BUY ONE NOW as shown by the big, fat, red arrow
http://www.franciscossette.com/ownemail1.jpg


B) Choose the domain extension you want and which domain you'd like to have (I suggest you stick to .com or .net). Pressing on CHECK AVAILABILITY does not enter you in a purchasing contract. It's simply to check whether the domain is available. If not, it will give some (ridiculous) alternate suggestions. Hit the back button, start again until you find one you like.
http://www.franciscossette.com/ownemail2.jpg

C) Once you find the domain MeantForYou, the screen will look like this:
http://www.franciscossette.com/ownemail3.jpg

D) Fill out the form. I suggest you check Keep my registration information unlisted, a service also known as WHOISGUARD. By law, ICANN is required to make the registration information of every single domain available to the whole wide world. Anyone can head to whois.com (who is. Get it?) and get the full address and phone number of the person who registered said domain. Unless you are running a business and want to appear transparent to your future clients, there's no need to let the world know where you live. I too, enjoy my privacy even a little bit.
http://www.franciscossette.com/ownemail4.jpg

The process will take less than ten minutes from start to finish. You'll be able to pay via GoogleCheckout securely. Google will then make the necessary modifications so that your blog now becomes accessible via your new domain!

10$/year, that's it. In my opinion, a small cost to have your own professional address.

Step 2. You want an e-mail address as well?
One thing you have to understand when buying a domain is that you are buying a roadsign, not a house. You cannot think of a domain like you do the address of your house. A .com address is a billboard, an empty vessel that is meant to POINT to your house until you configure it to do so.

Your house, to use the same analogy, is your hosting provider. Somewhere in the world, a machine called a server is operating within a server farm (a room filled with many servers connected to a very fast internet connection) and your hosting provider will own that server. When you pay a hosting provider, you are paying to rent either a part of the server (called shared hosting), or the whole machine entirely (called dedicated hosting, which is a lot more expensive since providers like GoDaddy can have up to thousands of clients on a single machine). Shared hosting will do the job for 99% of you. A dedicated server is useful for small to big businesses or web developers (like me) that want total control over the hardware AND software.

Netfirms and GoDaddy are some of the most affordable and reputable hosting companies. Plus, their prices are hard to beat. Starting at about 5$/month, you get plenty of space and bandwidth to house your own website. This also allows you to create as many e-mail addresses as you may possibly need. You can then receive mail through a professional address such as firstname@firstnamelastname.com (mine is fc@franciscossette.com for example), which beats plzrepme@hotbabeinmaplesyrup99.com.

Since Blogger is ALREADY hosting your blog for free and you ALREADY paid 10$ for the domain (the roadsign), you might only need an e-mail address capabilities instead of the ability to host an entire website. Webserve offers E-mail hosting for 1.50$/month services internationally. Such a service will allow you to create e-mail addresses using your newly acquired domain at a cheaper cost if you don't need the website hosting.

Step 3. You want an e-mail address, a blog AND a website?
If you want to make your own website (or pay someone to do it for you) on top of having a blog, you'll need a complete hosting service. I mentioned Netfirms and GoDaddy above; they are good choices for the basic needs of a writer.

You should know that many writers use Blogger to serve as both their blog and their website. You can make a blog post for each of your site's sections (such as bio, contact, etc.) then create a simple menu with a direct link to these posts. It'll do the job if you're not interested in investing time and/or money into a more elaborated project.

The advantages of having a website AND a blog are:
✔ Ability to store files (such as backups of your manuscript) on a remote, secured location
✔ More space and features to share images, videos, and music
✔ Complete design control and ability to implement special features (such as forums)

If neither of these sound appealing to you, then you don't need to waste money on a hosting provider.


Step 4. RĂ©sumons ensemble

10$/year will grant you a customized, personalized domain name (synonym of www address) people can use to access your blog. Google (owner of Blogger) will host that blog for free.

If you'd like to use that domain as an e-mail address as well, you will need a hosting service provider. Webserve offers such a service for 1.50$/month (I am neither affiliated or working for them. I found them in my research while I was writing this post).

If you'd like e-mail capabilities as well as space to host a website, you will need full hosting services. Netfirms and GoDaddy are both excellent choices, and it starts at 5$/month for their basic package (which will suffice for 99% of you).

Here's a little table I made up for the more visually inclined folks out there.

http://www.franciscossette.com/ownemail5.jpg

So, for about 28$/year, you'll get a professional e-mail and blog address. For 42$ more (70$/year total) you can host blog, e-mail addresses AND a website. Which option you choose will depend entirely on your needs and where you are at in your writing career.

I hope you found this post helpful. Don't hesitate to ask questions in the comment section if anything is not clear.

Thanks for stopping by!

No comments: