If you have, or are planning, an author website, you’re crafting an online drop-in location that’s going to stay put for quite a while, and won’t change very often (let’s say, no more than once a month). Many authors have a website that’s part of a publisher’s effort and therefore can’t be changed at all by the author. Many more hire a webmaster or webmaven (that’s the female gendered form, in case you need it), and changes mean spending money.
A blog is much more flexible. In some ways it’s like a website, because all the material stays in place and gets archived by month, and it’s searchable by topic. (A great asset for librarians and teachers, by the way. And if you’re writing young adult — YA — mysteries, you want to make life easy for librarians and teachers. And parents. And readers.) Also, it doesn’t require a webmaster; you can set it up yourself in half an hour on WordPress (like this one) or Blogger (where mine is: http://bethkanell.blogspot.com); and with the setup come marvelous “buttons” under each of your pieces of writing (“posts”) that let you instantly promote those pieces, with almost no effort, on Facebook, Twitter, and more.
Working from the opposite direction, if you’ve been drawn to the ease of Facebook and Twitter, but sometimes itch to write more than a three-sentence paragraph, a blog gives you room to do exactly that.
HOWEVER: I’ve been looking around for what the other YA mystery writers are doing, and it turns out a lot of them aren’t blogging. Lois Duncan has a “message board” on her website (http://loisduncan.arquettes.com). M. T. Anderson simply adds his speeches and articles to his website (http://mt-anderson.com). Lauren Myracle sticks with her website and Facebook. CJ Lyons has an active blog, but it’s more about writing and getting published (http://www.norulesjustwrite.com/blog). And I have to confess that I place material on my mysteries review blog (http://kingdombks.blogspot.com) more often than I do on my writing blog.
Kim Harrington (The Dead and Buried) uses her blog for book announcements, cover reveals, and such (http://kimharrington.blogspot.com). I like the thoughtful material on Kate Burak’s blog (Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things: http://www.kathrynburak.com/blog-2/), although she isn’t posting often this year. Blue Balliett (middle-grade mysteries, like Chasing Vermeer), likewise (http://blueballiettbooks.blogspot.com).
The bottom line seems to be, writers blog when they enjoy longer conversations than Twitter or Facebook can provide — and want those conversations to stay accessible.
There are a lot of other reasons, though, to consider a blog as part of the social media package for a YA book. I found a helpful discussion of them here: http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/blogging-really-necessary — of which the short version is, blogging keeps your writing muscles in shape (it’s short but it’s connected to your main writing projects); blogs let you expand your thinking and lead, if you like, a discussion of an area that matters to you; and maybe most important of all, a blog is a place to build both trust and community.
How can a blog be of direct help to a work-in-progress or promoting your published book? (1) You can air short bits of your text and get immediate feedback and interest. (2) Readers will encourage you to keep writing. (3) You can work out twists by asking readers to comment on them. (4) You can create pockets of added information and details that you don’t want to use in your mystery, but know readers will ask about or appreciate a resource for (like riding techniques, or the history of gold mines, or recipes, or anti-bullying strategies). (5) You can interact with “your public” on your own terms — from the privacy of your writing desk. (6) You can link your work with other mysteries that you feel connected to, by talking about those books on your blog. (7) You can take part in hosting guest posts and having other authors-with-blogs offer you space for guest posting yourself (often called a “blog tour”).
And — maybe my favorite advantage — a blog lets you talk about “all the things you care about” without necessarily organizing them into character + plot. A great example is the blog provided by John Green (Paper Towns; The Fault in Our Stars) on what might appear to be a website, but is actually a dated stream of posts … in other words, an author blog: http://johngreenbooks.com.
So, my best suggestion: Look around at the blogs by other YA mystery writers, see what they’re achieving or how much fun they look like (or not). And decide that way on whether you want to invest in this form of social media.
Some mystery authors are moving to newsletters, instead of blogs. Louise Penny is one who’s done this. So, next time, let’s talk about author newsletters, and why you might want to put starting one onto your next to-do list, or your New Year’s resolutions.