Often, writer’s don’t think much about things like web security, GDPR, and other things most businesses must, and do think about. There are two issues with that. The first is that if we are going to treat writing as a business, we have to think about these things and factor them into our business. The second is that your website is a vital part of your author platform.
What do we mean by your author platform? It means the assets you can control and that you own. You own your website or websites, your email list, and your followers along with the books, blogs, and other materials you have written and hold the copyright to. You do not control (or really own) your Amazon Author Central, your Goodreads profile, your BookBub profile or followers, or anything on social media or a third-party site. You could lose your Amazon account tomorrow. It’s not likely, but it has happened to authors and could happen again.
So let’s look at domain name registration, hosting, and the other things that go with having your own website.
Domain Name Registration
Please, authors, for the love of all that is holy, don’t get a generic free WordPress site or one of the ones from Weebly or BlogSpot. You need to own your domain name, and the free ones you get from these sites are not personalized and not ones that you own. By the time you pay to personalize the, you could have purchased a real domain name.
Register your domain for as long as possible. Most of the time, you can buy domain names through the person or company who handles your hosting. More on that in a moment. Most domains will not cost you more than $15 per year to register, and for most, a WordPress install is pretty easy to do. We’ll talk more about website builders and design in a sec, and probably in deeper detail in a later post. The key is that you need to search for your domain name, and purchase it.
That can be your name, or related to what you do. I have troylambertwrites.com and several subdomains of that site, including writingasabusiness.troylambertwrites.com. One of those two places is where you are reading this content right now. Include these in your hosting package for one simple reason: then you only have one place to go when you need to renew things or change them.
There are all kinds of hosts out there, from JustHost to GoDaddy to a bunch of other small ones. What is the big deal about which one you use? It makes a huge difference in reliability, customer service, cost, maintenance, and a variety of other factors. I use a smaller one, called Hosting for Writers. Here are the reasons (and why they matter). A side note: before I had them, I had JustHost and what was known as BlueHost, then taken over by JustHost anyway. There were disadvantages to those big providers that I don’t have with Hosting for Writers.
- Reliability: My sites are rarely down, and if they are, I know a real person is working on getting them back up as soon as possible.
- Customer service: No online chatbots or endless waits. I email a person, and that person works to fix my issue, often above and beyond what would be considered normal.
- Speed: This is big. You are a small writer in a big pond of business sites for large providers. Need more space on a server or greater speed? You are going to pay, and probably pay big.
- Costs: That is where cost comes in. With a small host, you know what you are paying for and what you get. There are no hidden charges or fees that suddenly appear or come up. If you go beyond certain traffic numbers or space on the server, you will be offered more, but it will be a much less pushy and certainly not automatic occurrence.
- Other features: Look, most hosts charge for extra features and services, and that can add up fast. Often these are a part of packages, a big part of which you don’t need. With Hosting for Writers, what you see is what you get, and that is a lot, including security upgrades and help, plugins, and even access to themes.
If you are going to have a website you have to host it somewhere. It might as well be somewhere you know and trust. It is important to understand another aspect of hosting that really affects cost, and as you get more traffic, one you really need to consider.
That is the type of hosting. There are two, shared and dedicated. Most authors do not have enough traffic to need a dedicated host, but once you do, it is good to know you have the option. Shared hosting means you share a server with other sites. If they are exceptionally busy, they can affect your site speed. Shared hosting is the cheapest and simplest of all hosting plans. Dedicated hosting is when you have a server all to yourself. This is great for large sites, but is expensive. It is just good to know you have the option from your host when you need it, and that they have the space to accommodate you without you having to pay an arm and a leg for it.
This is number one, and something many writers never think about until their site is hacked. Which happens often. In fact, it just happened to a friend of mine a few months ago who blogged about it here. There are some good tips in that article, but one thing she mentions right away. Her site, a shared one, was shut down by her host without warning, and she was told to fix the security issues with her site herself.
The host directed her to a security company they partner with to fix the problem, which they offered to do at a rate of $140 a month–way too much money. There are better ways to go about this, and eventually this friend figured them out, but not without a lot of time and frustration.
There are security plugins that will help, and things you can do to protect yourself. If you have the right host, they will recommend them for you. I remember when my site was hacked a few years ago now. I had a backup, a great host, and my site was up and running very quickly–with a real person’s help, and I really did not lose that much at all.
Since then, with firewalls and other security in place, I have not been hacked in quite a while. Knock on wood. If it does happen, I know I have a host who is also a web developer and security freak herself, on my side.
GDPR and Other Stuff
Do you sell anything at all on your site? Allow comments/ Collect user information for almost any reason at all? Then you need to be GDPR compliant the same as you are with MailChimp or whoever your newsletter software company is. The right host will help. The wrong host won’t. The right host will warn you of possible violations and make sure you are in compliance. Don’t neglect this–fines from the EU can be steep.
Your host probably has a whole bunch of sites, so they have buying power you do not. That means they can get plugins, themes, and other items much cheaper than you can, and pass those savings on to you. A smaller host will do just that–it is in their best interest that you succeed. A larger host in many cases will charge you for every little add-on. while It’s understandable that they need to make money, it is also important for you to save money where you can.
Writers typically do not make a lot of money, and your site may take a while to even pay for itself, and the money you have invested in creating and securing it. If, like hosting for writers, your host can offer you things at a cut rate or in some cases even free, take advantage of them.
In short, the right host will be more than just a host. They will also be your tech support, and your help when you need it. They will offer services, recommendations, and service that will make you want to stay for years. I’ve just signed on with Hosting for Writers for the next five years. Why? I see no need to change when you have a good thing going, and it saves me a ton of money to commit.
There are a lot of hosting and domain name choices out there, along with other services like web design, security, and more. Going with a company that offers as many of the solutions as possible in one place, and that involves real people rather than chatbots and impersonal service, is likely a better choice for your writing website.
Feel free to comment your experiences below, and reach out if you have questions to info-at_troylambertwrites.com.
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.
Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.