The domain name is the main part of a website's address - the bit that comes after the www. So the domain name for this page is wordpooldesign.co.uk and the one for our children's book review site is wordpool.co.uk.
The Internet is not quite as an anarchic as it looks - it depends on a well organised system for allocating domain names. You can find out more about it by visiting the InterNIC website which covers the international names and Nominet UK which, as the name suggests, covers the British ones. Both sites have whois searches so you can check if your choice is still available.
Once you have found a domain name which has not been allocated, you can register it in your name with the appropriate authority via a company offering a registration service. Don't register directly through Nominet as that's very expensive.
There are plenty of registration companies on the web offering low cost domain registration Before you use one, make sure the company will let you change the domain name servers or move the domain elsewhere if you wish - some companies offer very cheap registration but make moving difficult and expensive. If you are going to use us to host your site, we can register the domain on your behalf if you like
When you register a domain, you have to provide your contact information which is put on a publicly accessible database, similar to the phone book. If this worries you, your publisher or agent may agree to let you use their address instead.
You register your name for a fixed period, usually two years, after which you are given the option to renew it for a further fee. No one else can use that name while it's registered to you although there is nothing to stop them using something very similar. That's why some people choose to register the names that are very like their own as well as the one they plan to use. You may wish to do this if your name is easily misspelt - you can point more than one domain at the same site.
The endings of the domain names indicate a little about the site. The most common UK ending is .co.uk but you may prefer .org.uk if you are a charitable organisation or the recently arrived .me.uk. Some people prefer .com as they feel it gives their site a more international feel, but others feel it makes it look too American. .com domains cost more than .co.uk ones so it's only worth choosing one if it offers you a real advantage.
If you want to register your name as your domain name, you may find it has already been taken. This may be because some entrepreneur has already registered it with the idea of selling it on to you at a profit, but it is far more likely that there is a butcher in Wapping with the same name. Try different variations of your name - hyphenating it, running the names together or just using the surname. Alternatively, try adding the word 'books' to make yournamebooks.co.uk or use another word like 'author' or 'illustrator' in the same way. If you still can't register it, you'll have to think of something else - maybe the name of your best known book or character.
If you don't want a site yet but think you may want one in the future, it's worth registering your domain name now before anyone else takes it. This makes sure it is available when you need it and gives you the option of using it as your e-mail address in the meantime.