In my previous post, I touched on the reasons I think an unpublished author would benefit from having a website. You should, at the least, have a completed manuscript before you bother obtaining webspace. You can't sell what you don't have, and agents and editors won't look at incomplete manuscripts. (They like to know you're capable of finishing a book first.)
Got Money? No?
There are free options out there, if you take the time to look. If you're unpublished, but serious about your writing career, you might consider starting a blog, at the very least, to generate some interest. Blogger and MySpace are two options, and they're free. Blogs don't have ads (currently) unless you want them to, and if you choose to add them, they are marketed to the sort of blog you write. (I don't recommend plastering your blog with ads, though.) Don't bother with a big host that offers free webspace, such as Geocities or Angelfire. The ads they tack onto your site are unprofessional, and often annoying to visitors. At the very least, if you do intend to have a web presence someday, you should reserve your domain name (AuthorName.com), making certain first that the pen name you choose (or your own name) isn't closely related to another author's, or a person with whom you don't want to be confused. (Try not to choose a name that's also been taken by the star of some X-rated film, for instance!) Google it if you're not sure.
Is This Your Parking Space?
Which brings me to my next point. Reserve your domain name now, before someone else snaps up SusieQWriter.com, and you are left with finding some other way to help web surfers get to you. Most of us, when we're looking for a writer, just type in AuthorName.com to get to his or her site. Failing that, we'll Google you, but isn't it easier to tell people when they ask, "Sure, I have a website - it's SusieQWriter.com!" Much better than trying to write down a lengthy, convoluted web address for them when they ask. (And the very fact that your web address is your author name is one more way to make sure you are remembered.) Parking a domain name does cost money, but it's not that expensive. Well worth the money spent, especially if, down the line (God, you hope so), you become the next J.K. Rowling.
You can always "point" your Author Name web address to that other, convoluted address, too, which helps if you find a free (and ad-free) server to host your website, but they only offer that convoluted address. This allows anyone who wants to find you to type in SusieQWriter.com, and that takes you to the website with the long address. It's cheaper, too.
Some Web Hosts
If you do decide to host with a site such as Geocities.com, spend a little extra and get the ad-free site, for reasons mentioned above. If you're a member of a writing organization, you can get free webspace from DuelingModems.com, however, they are currently moving to a new server, and their signup process is currently unavailable. Looks like they have some kinks to work out. I do know a published writer who is happy with that host. They offer a convoluted address, so I recommend pointing your personalized domain name to that site. Other domain hosts include DomainDirect.com, GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, and OurInternet.us, to name a few.
An Important Caution About Domains
DO THIS! When reserving a domain name, MAKE SURE YOU ENABLE THE PRIVACY SETTING! Anyone who uses the Net and is halfway savvy is capable of doing a "WHOIS" lookup to see who has registered the domain, which includes the Registrant, Administrative Contact, and Billing Contact name and address. That means they could conceivably wind up with your real name and address, if that's what you entered as a Registrant. Since you don't want people showing up at your house, be sure to enable your host's privacy settings. This creates a "WHOIS" that shows the contact information for the domain host, and not your own information. Check out my "WHOIS" for an example of how to enter the data to protect yourself. The only info you see is that of my host, Domain Direct. That's because I entered the Registrant information care of my domain host, and not my actual info.
Someday, I'll Be Famous!
If you get really, really popular someday, you might want to park all the possible permutations of your author name and web address (.com, .net, .info, .cc, and so forth) so that someone else can't make a website and pretend they're you. JK Rowling has reserved all known domain name extensions for her name, smart lady. And if you did a "WHOIS" on her, you'd only see the contact information for her agent. So she has her artistic integrity, AND her privacy, both protected.
Get On The Net
So, that's a basic rundown of the Who and How of getting a web presence. Next time I will address the basics of learning to make a website. Cheers!