Being an author is a profession. Writing is a part of it, like bricklaying for a bricklayer. Having a profession makes you a professional. You need to look the part. You need your readers to know you’re not a wannabe.
You. Are. An. Author.
A website is a must. Not a webpage on someone else’s site. It needs to be your own domain. It means you have arrived. You’re a professional and you’re not taking prisoners. (Er, you get what I mean, don’t you?)
It says to the arriving reader, “You have found me. This is my place, mine alone. I share it with no other. This place is filled with all things me.”
I’ve tried expensive sites: GoDaddy, Yahoo. But WordPress makes it very easy and inexpensive to own your own domain, and they’ve got all kinds of lovely blocks and widgets you can use. If you don’t find the widget you want, it’s often in the help section. OR you can google “(widget style) wordpress” and someone will have a posting on it somewhere.
The key to making a good website is to make every bit of it clear, not clever. Simple is always better. Clever just clutters, and a cluttered website turns people away. I’m always improving mine.
You should spend a lot of time on your About page. Let people know why they like you. Make yourself very human and very accessible. I have a gallery page too.
I chose not to have my blog as my landing page, but that’s entirely up to you. I wanted to present my site not as a blog, but a full site.
Freebies are always a bonus, but they don’t have to have their own page like mine does.
What you really need to do, is go look at author websites. Look at others in your genre. Look at those you admire. Emulate (read steal) what you like. I look at Kathy Reichs and Dean Koontz, both of whom use WordPress. Also Brandon Sanderson, who doesn’t use WordPress.
White letters on a dark background, or colored letters on a similar colored background, are bad things. Hard on the eyes. People won’t stay long. So I’ve been told, but I see a lot of professional mystery and horror writers use it, so I might be changing.
And that’s the thing about websites. The public’s tastes change. You have to keep updating, so make sure it’s one you can figure out pretty easily.