Why: I've been told by a website technician that the main purpose of having a website is to provide an effective way to grow an e-mail list of potential customers. The target audience comes to you when they sign up for your newsletter, for example, so you can let them know about your events/products/services of interest to them. These lists garner the greatest marketing success because the person is already interested. Obviously, there are other purposes for having a website. For authors, this means thinking about business/marketing when you'd rather be writing.
Timing: My goal is to get my author website up within the next month. Why worry about having an author website when my book(s) won't come out come until a year or so from now? Rankings. Exposure. Longevity plus activity equates to higher placement in search engines. We want to optimize all efforts made. So, since I'm going to build one eventually... why not now?
Consider: What can you offer now? Anyone can put up their author bio and what they are currently working on. List any awards you've earned or share a writing sample. These can be switched out later for actual images of your book cover. A way to contact you is a must. Do you have a blog or social media site you can link to? These will send traffic your way. All these things and more can be put on a website before your actual book comes out.
Prep Work Now: Get ideas from other websites. Find the kind of template you like. What inspires you? I've begun this process and it can be mind-boggling. One suggestion would be to compare two sites at a time and eliminate one by figuring out what you like better about the other. Jot that thing down. Do the colors strike you? The simplicity? Interaction? Make a short list of things you like best... and see if it lists the site host (maybe in fine print at the bottom). Another thing to do now would be to have someone take a few photos of you if you don't already have a professionally-appropriate profile picture. Figure out your domain name options and your website title. Let your plans simmer and settle.
I'll be posting more about my own experiences with this and I'd love to hear about yours. You can also leave your website address in the comment box for us to check out. Finally, I'll link one good article I found about the basics.
The New-to-me Blog of the week is Mel's Shelves at www.melsshelves.blogspot.com. I found book reviews and blog tour contest buttons. A nice reader site. Want me to check out your blog? Leave the address in a comment.