How to choose your author domain name

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Taking time early on to decide your author domain name can save you problems in the future. But how do you decide what name to go for?

Your web address, or URL (uniform resource locator), is what people use to get to your site. It is an important part of your online identity, as it is often the first bit of you online that people will see, whether they’re following a link from another site or manually typing in the URL after discovering it at the back of your latest book.

Domain names are unique; no two are identical. It’s something I’d recommend you get right from the start. If you set up your site under one address, then decide to change it some way down the line, there are steps you’ll need to take to avoid losing the domain authority or search engine ranking that your original URL has built up over time.

This article will help you, as an author or writer, to choose your domain name and domain extension.

Acquire your domain name as soon as possible

Even if you aren’t yet ready to build your site, secure your domain name as soon as you can. This is to prevent someone else purchasing it, who may have the same name or another reason for wanting it.

Even if you’re unpublished, thinking ahead to when your work will be in the public arena is crucial. Don’t forget, just because you aren’t yet published, it’s important to start on your online presence.

Author domain name extension

Let’s get the techy bit out of the way first. The domain extension is the part after the dot, so .com, .net etc. This is a way of categorising websites, so .com usually denotes a company or commerce, .org are usually non-profit organisations, .me are more personal sites.

There is a wide variety of domain extensions available, but .com remains (for now) the most recognisable worldwide and is the one I’d recommend you aim for first. Although some sites get cute with their URLs by choosing an extension that is part of their name (eg., it’s difficult to spell these out, and they aren’t as easily guessable as

If you have a popular name and all varieties of .com are taken (,, etc), you may choose to go with an alternative extension, such as .net, etc.

Hyphen or no hyphen?

Most authors choose their name as their web address, which makes sense for a number of reasons, including SEO (search engine optimisation) and branding. However, even if you’ve made this decision, there is a big sub-decision to make: whether or not to include a hyphen (or two).

A great rule of thumb online is to keep it simple, and URLs are no exception.

Keep your domain name as short and as legible as possible. Click To Tweet

Why choose a simple URL?

Simple URLs:

  • are easy to read at-a-glance and easily remembered
  • reduce the risk of mistypes
  • reduce the risk of mishearing or misunderstanding (“…so that’s James hyphen Patrick hyphen Smith hyphen Jones? Is a hyphen the same as a dash? What was the first bit again?”)
  • keep character counts low, which is useful on social media (although you can use short URLs generated by sites like Bitly).

To this end, your default option if using your name is to run names or initials together, with no hyphens, and definitely no underscores (these look like spaces when a link is underlined in text). Eg.,

When to use hyphens

We’ve seen that your default option shouldn’t contain a hyphen. However, bear in mind:

  • new words being formed when your name runs together (especially rude ones!)
  • your name being hard to read if all the letters are run together

For example, although my name doesn’t look naughty when run together (at least in English), it’s a little difficult to read due to the double ‘e’: ‘debbieemmitt’. It is much easier to read ‘debbie-emmitt’. Therefore, I’m using the hyphenated version for my main website address, but have also purchased the non-hyphenated version of the domain name and redirected it to the primary domain.

This is for two reasons:

  • no-one else can own the .com versions of my name – either of them!
  • people don’t need to remember whether my URL contains a hyphen. Whichever version they type into their browser bar, they’ll still get to my site. Try it!

Bit of fun

Spot the unfortunate new word formed in these domain names (all real sites):

Take more care when choosing your domain name than these site owners did:,, Click To Tweet


You may not need me to say this, but here is it anyway: use the version of your name that you publish under, or that you want to be known by when you are published. If you’re known as PB Tentermast, don’t set up your site under ‘patricktentermast’. No-one will know your first name and it won’t match your offline identity.

The same works in reverse: don’t use your initials if you don’t publish under that format of your name. Keep your identities consistent across your social platform and your books.

Buy my book – Improve Your Author Website. Increase book sales, move up search results.

Pen names

If you write under a pen name, use that as your domain name. If you have several pen names, choose whether to have one domain per name, or one main domain under which you present all other names.

The option you choose will depend on several factors:

  • if the genres are similar or completely different
  • if you mind readers of one pen name knowing about your others
  • personal preference!

If you have a primary domain with a website that divides into sections for your different pen names, you’ll need to decide which name to use as the main one. It will also be worth your while acquiring the domain names for your other pen names.

This will prevent anyone else from owning them and means you have the domain safely tucked away should you decide to set up a separate site later.

You can then redirect those domain names to your main site, to help readers find you, no matter which name they know you by. However, this may confuse site visitors unless you present your pen names clearly on your homepage.

Other options for author domain names

Area of expertise

While the most common option for authors is to use their name, this isn’t the only way to go. If you’re a non-fiction writer and you want to market your subject more than your name, you could have your area of expertise as your domain name.

This has the advantage of containing keywords that people may already be searching on, so there is some SEO baked into it from the start. However, you may need to try a few combinations before you arrive at one that is available, unless you write in a niche that is several layers deep.

You may still want to also purchase your name. If you wait until you get well-known, it may no longer be available and you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t purchase it and redirect it to your primary domain.

Joel Friedlander covers using subject-oriented domain names in more depth. See his post ‘How to Choose a Domain Name for your Author Website‘, including a personal story to illustrate his points.

Book title

Some authors choose to set up a simple website for each book, or at least for each of their well-known books. Alternatively, acquire the domain name of your books and redirect them to your author site. This has some advantages including:

  • preventing other people owning them
  • possibly helping the search ranking of your book titles (as your titles as keywords will be linking to your site from other places)
  • helping people find you if they know your book title but not your name.

In summary

Consider first using your name as your author domain name and your primary website, then purchasing and redirecting any other key domain names for your brand. Avoid using hyphens unless necessary.

If using your name won’t work for your creations, choose something that contains keywords already searched on by your target audience.

Keep your domain name as short and as legible as possible. Whatever you choose as your domain name, publicise it widely!

What decisions did you have to make when setting up your domain name? Are you having trouble deciding what to go with? Let me know in the comments!

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