issues with my name and how common it is. Well, doing all this website work has made me revisit this issue, and now I get to share that with all of you.
You see, there are a bunch of Todd Newtons around. I believe I'm the only Author one, but there are Famous ones, Dentist ones, Racecar driving ones, Criminal ones, Dead ones, and even Digital Media Entrepreneur ones. It's really this last one (and a bit of the first one) that I get to talk about again today.
Frankly, I've been on the Internet a long time. Since somewhere in 1993-1994, to be as close to exact as I can come. I've had myriad email accounts, signing up with Hotmail when it was new and not-yet-owned by Microsoft (which ruined it, IMO). I cut my teeth learning HTML in free homepage accounts with various providers (anyone ever heard of Angelfire and Geocities and Tripod?). I was both a lethario and a scourge of chat rooms I frequented, gaining all kinds of bad reputation, some of which people were still talking about on Myspace nearly a decade later (wish I could find the link, but it's dead). And all that just in the early years.
Even with all my activity, until now I have never had "my own website" meaning a site on my own domain. I've seen other people do it, and I've known how to do it for a very long time. I mean, I did go to college for this stuff, plus I've worked for various technology companies throughout my career where DNS, web development, and domain hosting were all important. I've just never needed my own website. Then, for a while, I relied on Myspace and Facebook and this blog to be my online presences.
About a month ago, however, I decided I wanted my own website. A place where people, readers or otherwise, could find me and my writing. A blog does work for this, but a blog is just one tool among various options. It doesn't offer enough flexibility for what I need to do, but I'd never get rid of it. I see authors who only have blogs, rather than a "full" website with information on their books, relying on Goodreads or Amazon to essentially host that portion for them by proxy, and it signals to me that these authors don't want to interact with me. They want to broadcast, which is fine, but I think the Internet facilitates much more than the posting of opinions and information.
Thus began my adventure to build my own website, which will officially launch Monday the 15th.
There are two parts to owning a website. First, you must register a domain name, then you must host content somewhere that domain name points to. Companies like GoDaddy make it simple, as they offer both services bundled together, but there are a ton of registrars and hosting companies out there. The Internet is a big place. All that to say that you need to choose a domain first, then you can decide where it gets hosted.
Naturally, I wanted www.toddnewton.com. It makes the most sense, is the easiest to say and the easiest to type. Unfortunately, when I went to do a WHOIS search, I found it was already owned by Entrepreneur Todd. Worse than that, he wasn't even doing anything with it. You see, with domains, you can just have them point to other domains (like if you go to google.net it will automagically re-route you to google.com). This is a relatively cheap and easy solution for companies who have a lot of names, products, etc. because they just point everything to one hosted site. Entrepreneur Todd wasn't even doing that. He just owns the domain and if you try to browse to it you get a big nothing.
So I offered to buy it from him. Sadly, the guy didn't respond, which makes me wonder how he conducts any type of online business. Undeterred, I decided to try something else.
The problem is that there are so many other damn Todd Newtons, and one of them is famous. I assumed that any of the "good" domains with my name in them were probably already taken. Not to mention the fact that when you make a domain name longer, people become more reluctant to type it in (or, frankly, remember it). I was actually pretty shocked when I opened Moses Siregar III's The Black God's War to find his website was www.ScienceFictionFantasyBooks.net.
Not only is this a mouthful, totally nonspecific, and a .net besides, but he also owns the domain that matches his name and (currently) isn't doing anything with it. Perhaps that's a work in progress. It just sort of irks me since, unlike me, his name is quite distinct and rather than use that to his advantage he chose a long, bland domain name that would better-serve a review site or news aggregator. Maybe it's an SEO thing.
Then again, you don't want to get too specific. Registering your author website on yourbooktitle.com will start to become a pain in the ass once you have a second, third, fourth book out. You've confined your identity to that first book which, in many cases, isn't indicative of the quality of your body of work.
Anyway, all that to say that toddnewtononline.com was already taken. I considered other domains, some of which were already taken like the ill-fated tdnewton.com (ill-fated since I dropped that authornym some time ago). Other options, like toddnewtonwrites.com, again just make it longer and harder to say, type, and remember. After a few days of searching and weighing options, I discovered that todd-newton.com was available.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that using hyphens is not always advisable, since quite a few spam/scam/knock-off sites have them in the domain name. This is how they get similar domains to what they're mimicking. Then again, it's also how some movie titles have their own sites (they just add -movie.com to a phrase that might be common enough that someone owns it).
I settled on todd-newton.com, registered it, and signed up for a hosting account. Life has been pretty intense with layout building, browser testing, and content generation ever since. There are a LOT of easy ways to build your website, and I didn't use any of them. What can I say? I wanted it to be my website, not just a website with my name on it. And I wasn't satisfied just having a blog with a "branded" domain name.
I want to interact with my readers. I want them to come to the website curious about the worlds I've created and be able to read up on them, look at the map again, check out the glossary of terms, play some trivia, maybe shoot me an email or tell me they've done up some artwork of one of my characters. I can't do that without a place for the content to be hosted, and I can't do that without my own domain. And, as it happens, I can't do that without a hyphen.
Some other time I will post about my design and content struggles so you can see how much fun I really had building this website. Till then, good luck if you're entering the website world. Check back for the official announcement of my new site on Monday.
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