I have an unsolveable problem and I'm posting about it in the hope that knowing what happened to me might help other authors avoid this kind of thing. Let me start off by saying that I'm not currently writing or having published any books under my own name. My last one was published in 2002 in hardcover and 2003 in pb. But after spending a few years away from this business entirely, I decided to come back and to see what's happening, and I'm glad I did. On the internet especially, things have exploded in exciting ways, Crimespace being an excellent example of that. A couple of weeks ago an old acquaintance emailed that she'd been trying to figure out what had happened to me and she found a website, avadianneday.com. She recognized that the photo on the site was not me, though my books are there and one old interview. I used to have a rather extensive website with that domain name (Ava is my first name and I used it on my standalone), but I asked the person who designed and maintained it for me to take it down after the book seemed to have run its course. I can't remember if I asked him to be notified when the domain name needed to be renewed, but I assume I did. And then promptly forgot about it.

So anyway I went to the bogus website myself, and there's nothing malicious to it, but there's a Contact Me link that certainly doesn 't link to me. I asked a friend who is more cybersavvy than I what I should do, and she got some research done on my behalf, for which I thank her and the researcher very much. As a result I now have a name and physical address in NYC for the website owner but the email address is Russian. And the domain expires in August 2007. Meanwhile my first domain name, dianneday.com, which at one time had been grabbed by a porn site (don't ask -- I no longer remember the exact details of all that happened but it was unpleasant), is available again.

I do not any longer plan to be publishing under my own name, but still I'm wondering if maybe I should buy the right to dianneday.com and keep renewing it until I die, just so nobody else can get it. What would you do if you were me?

The big moral here for us authors is, purchase your own domain name and renew it yourself, don't leave it to the person who creates and maintains your website. With all the good will in the world something could go wrong. Take care of your own name, your own self. And PLEASE if anyone does go to that avadianneday.com site, know that it is NOT done by me or by anyone known to me.

-- Dianne Day

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Dianne, GoDaddy.com has domains for $8.95 per year or less. Hosting starts at $3 and change per month. Good luck!
Absolutely get the domain name and keep it. Even if you're no longer publishing, there are all sorts of reasons to keep your books and name out there. You just never know.
Hi Dianne I remember when this first happened to your first domain and that it really freaked you out, with good reason. I'd say go for your own domain name and pay for and monitor it yourself. Some things are just better done by you than someone working on your behalf. I hope you've been well it's good to hear from you.

Sylvia aka Sly in Anchorage
What a scary story, Dianne. Thanks for giving us all a heads up about maintaining our domain names.

I've been invited to give a talk at a nearby library about mystery writing. While I know the audience is interested in the process of creating compelling stories, I'm tempted to also tell them about the practical/business side of being a writer in the 21st century. That certainly includes securing, before publication, your domain name.

I also suggest that you renew your own domain name. It's quite possible that a new publisher will want to reissue your books at some point or even release them as e-books. There's life in those books yet!

Good Luck!
Evelyn David
"It's quite possible that a new publisher will want to reissue your books at some point or even release them as e-books. There's life in those books yet!"

I was going to say the same thing, Dianne.
Dianne,

Thanks for the heads-up. I think "identity theft" probably comes in many flavors now.
I think it's not a bad idea to "Google" oneself every so often to see what stands in for
your name.

Cheers.
I am sorry this happened to you, but thank you for sharing it with the group. I think you should renew your name even if you don't plan to use it again. Grabbing expired domain names and charging a small fortune to return them to their rightful owners is a booming business in Russia, China and the Far East these days. A tech support guy at my ISP told me one of their clients just got held up for $10,000 to get his name site back after his webmaster neglected to renew it on time. This was just one week after it had expired.

The reason they want author name domains is simple; they know authors have fan bases who can be counted on to visit the web site regularly. In the case of porn meisters, they know the vast majority of the accidental visitors will be horrified and click off instantly, but they are hoping there will be that one or two who are stupid enough to input their credit cards.

1and1.com charges very little for domain name registration, as low as $5.99 a year. I have my name secured, both as a dot-com and a dot-net. Don't know if I'll ever use them, but at least no one else will be able to use them either. I recommend every author, aspiring or pubished, do the same. And Karen, I love the idea of giving domains as baby gifts. That is totally cool, as my kids would say!
"My" domain michaelcarr.com is held by the family of some guy with the same name who was a minor model/actor/writer and apparently died tragically several years ago. It is up now as it was when he died with a short, moving tribute from his family. I can't see that I'll ever get that domain and it seems insensitive to ask, but it's still a little frustrating.
You could always try yourname-author.com or using your middle name/initial or something like that. You might also send an email to the owners of michaelcarr.com after you have your own domain and just ask if they would be willing to add something like the following:

"If you are looking for the website of Author Michael Carr go here." with the web link to your site.

That way they preserve the memory of their son and maybe you get a little extra traffic.
I want to thank everybody who has posted responses. I thought you might like to know that I've just registered dianneday.com with GoDaddy for two years and chose the certified website option. I'm not sure what I'll post in the space, if anything, but I agree the peace of mind is worth roughly $25 total for two years. And I really like the fact that renewal through GoDaddy is automatic.

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