I received a panic email from a client this morning telling me that her web site had disappeared. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the auto-renewal at her hosting company and they deleted her web site data.
I would argue that an author or book web site is the key component of a non-fiction writer’s author platform. Of course, potential readers can find you on the online retail sites where your book is listed or on your social media pages. The problem is those places are owned by other entities.
Social media networks in particular are notorious for the changing the rules that determine who sees your posts. With an author/book website you have absolute control. It’s the place where you can build an email list and create community with fans and potential readers without fear of someone else determining the relevance of what you have to say.
How do you ensure your author website stays live? Let’s start with the basics.
If you’re not a techie, your eyes may glaze over when you hear words like domain name, hosting, DNS servers, and other acronym heavy phrases. In that case, choosing to outsource the creation and management of your author web site could be the best way to go.
Whether you outsource the management of your author website or self-manage it, you still need to understand what the moving pieces are and how to ensure that you’re not held hostage. You may love your outsourcing company but what happens if they go out of business, or you find a better provider and want to switch vendors?
Owning a blog or website involves two separate pieces, your domain registrar and your hosting service.
The domain is the address people use to access your site such as www.expertauthor411.com. Just like the street address of the house you live in points to a particular location in your town and neighborhood, the domain address points to the specific location your web site lives on the web.
In order to get that address, you purchase it from a domain registrar. I use GoDaddy for my web sites and I pay an annual fee to keep the web address active.
Having a domain name gets you an empty lot in cyber space. Now you have to build a web home on that lot.
That’s where website hosting comes in. A web hosting company provides storage space for the files and data associated with your domain name. Hostmonster.com provides this service for Expert Author 411. You pay them a fee to store the content you will create whether that’s a sales page for your book, a blog, or other content.
Now you’re ready to tell the domain name registrar to point your website domain to the web servers of your hosting company. Once that happens, you can start to add content.
Many domain registrant companies offer website hosting in addition to domain registration. This gives you a one-stop shop for both pieces however, it also creates a single point of failure if something goes wrong. Depending on your comfort level, you may choose as I do, to use two separate companies.
There are five important items you must keep track of
1). Your domain name registrant, their web address, and contact information for their customer service department.
I’ve had several clients who had no idea from whom they purchased their website’s domain name. If you fall into that category, you may be able to determine the answer by doing a WHOIS look-up. Visit www.whois.net and type in your domain name. A report will be returned that looks like this:
Domain Name: ABCCompany.com
Registrar: Great DOMAINS, LLC
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 123
Whois Server: whois.greatdomains.com
Referral URL: http://www.greatdomains.com
Name Server: NS71.greatCONTROL.COM
Name Server: NS72.greatCONTROL.COM
Updated Date: 30-may-2013
Creation Date: 30-may-2013
Expiration Date: 30-may-2018
>>> Last update of whois database: Tue, 30 Aug 2016 21:01:58 GMT <<<
The report tells you that the registrar is Great Domains, LLC and gives their web address. Now you can search the greatdomains.com web site and contact their customer service department. Unfortunately, it’s not always that straightforward. Some domain registrant companies are affiliates of a larger organization and the whois record will have that company’s name instead. If that’s the case you will have to do more digging but start with the company listed in the report.
As an added bonus, if your web site is active, the Name Server in the report will identify your web hosting company.
2). At the Domain Registrant account: The email address and password of the admin role assigned to your domain name.
This one is a little tricky. You’ll need an email account that’s not associated with your author website.
How are you currently receiving email? Many people have free email accounts on Gmail or one of the other free email services. If you have an Outlook account or corporate email address, you can use one of those. Your home internet provider telephone or cable company includes an email address as part of the service you purchase from them.
You want to keep track of this email and keep it updated at the domain registrant. If you use your cable company provided email and decide a year from now to change cable companies, you will lose access to your domain name unless you take action in advance.
3). The name, web address, and customer service contact info for your Hosting Service.
You or your web person will interact with the web hosting company if there are problems with the content on your web site. Most of the time, if someone types in your web address and gets a page not found message or if the page looks garbled, the problem is somewhere on the hosting side. It’s usually not the hosting company itself, but something you’ve done incorrectly. I’ve had very good luck with tech support at my hosting company, Hostmonster. They’ve helped me diagnose problems even though I caused them myself.
4). The email address, user ID and password assigned to your admin role at the hosting company.
The hosting company will assign you an admin account, user ID, and password that will be used to manage your web site installation. The admin account will be needed for a variety of reasons including creating email accounts associated with your author website. Such as Linda@mybookwebsite.com
5). The log in name, email, and password that provides access to the web site content.
There are many different tools available to design an author website. I recommend using WordPress with a premium theme because I believe it provides a very cost effective solution with lots of flexibility and control. WordPress sites are accessed using a dashboard and require an admin user ID and password. The best domain registrants and hosting companies will allow you to set up auto-renew accounts either monthly or annually. That way, you don’t have to worry about remembering to make a payment every year. Both my domain registrant and hosting company send out multiple reminders when expiration dates are approaching. Don’t ignore these messages or you run the risk of having your web site disappear! That’s also why it’s important to ensure that they both have a current email address and a current credit card number. Otherwise, you may not see the reminders.
I recommend keeping all of the above information in a business control book, either softcopy or hardcopy. With it, you have all of the information required to ensure that your author web site stays up and accessible to potential readers. Do have any war stories or recommendations for our readers? Please share in the comments