16 Essential WordPress Plugins for Authors

by Joe Bunting | 52 comments

If you're trying to build your author platform, you want your site both to look good and be highly functional. Plugins are tools that do both, and they are one of the biggest reasons to upgrade from a free WordPress site to a self-hosted WordPress site.

In this post, I'm going to briefly describe sixteen plugins I use personally. My hope is that this list helps you create a strong author platform that brings you thousands of readers. That's not too much to hope for, right?

wordpress plugins

Photo by Sookie

I Love Plugins

Some peo­ple go shop­ping for clothes. I go shop­ping for plugins.

Each plu­gin on this list was care­fully cho­sen for a spe­cific rea­son. This list has taken dozens of hours to accu­mu­late, and I’m quite proud of it. My hope is to save you all that time and energy.

How to Install:

To install these plugins, go to your WordPress dashboard. Under the plugins menu, click Add New. Then, simply search for the plugin name and install it from that screen.

Backup to Dropbox

Accidents hap­pen, and at some point you might acci­den­tally lose some or all of your blog con­tent. To keep that from hap­pen­ing, this plu­gin auto­mat­i­cally down­loads your entire site to Dropbox.

Compfight

People love pic­tures. They break up text, provide something nice to look at, and act as a kind of cover for each blog post.

That's why, in every post, I make sure to use a photo from the Creative Commons (giv­ing attri­bu­tion of course). Compfight is a really cool tool that allows you to quickly and easily find pro­fes­sional look­ing pho­tos straight from Flickr’s Creative Commons.

I don’t use it much any­more (for rea­sons I’ll explain later), but for the begin­ner, this is a lifesaver.

Contact Form 7

This con­tact form allows you to cre­ate a con­tact page with­out giv­ing away your email address, saving you from those nasty Spam Robots. A must have.

DISQUS Comment System

I rec­om­mend this over WordPress’ com­ment sys­tem for three reasons:

  • It allows your users to com­ment faster. They don’t need to input their name, email address, and web­site url every time they want to comment.
  • Your users will com­ment more. Since it’s faster, your users will have more time to com­ment rather than re-entering all their information.
  • It fos­ters com­mu­nity. DISQUS enables you to reply to an indi­vid­ual right under their com­ment, rather than the com­ment get­ting tagged onto the end. If your read­ers can talk to each other and form rela­tion­ships, you deepen their engage­ment with the site.
Note: Lately I've been noticing issues for Internet Explorer users trying to comment with DISQUS. Until the problem is corrected, I suggest using another browser. I use Chrome—very fast.

Fontific

This plu­gin is really cool. It allows you to eas­ily use Google Web Fonts (which look really cool) with­out edit­ing the stylesheet (if you don’t know what that is, you don’t really want to).

How to make it work:

After you install, go to the Fonts menu under Appearance in your Dashboard. Then, in the blank space, enter the sec­tion you want to change: for titles, H1; for sub­ti­tles; H2 and H3; and for body text, p—and choose the font you want.

Google Custom Search

Google Custom Search is faster and sim­pler than the WordPress stan­dard search bar. You can test The Write Practice's search at the bottom of the sidebar.

Jetpack by WordPress

Jetpack allows you to quickly see how many peo­ple are read­ing your blog. While it has a lot more bells and whis­tles than that (such as spell check­ing), I use it most for analytics.

nRe­late Related Content

This plu­gin cre­ates pretty thumb­nail pic­tures at the bot­tom of each post with links to other, related posts. It’s a great way to make sure peo­ple see your entire site, not just the lat­est content. Another good option is LinkWithin.

Redirection

So let’s say you write a post, and after you pub­lish it, you real­ize you mis­spelled the title. You go back and fix the spelling error, but the prob­lem is that the post’s url is still mis­spelled. You could fix the url, but unfor­tu­nately, six peo­ple just tweeted your post and the New York times found it and linked to you. Thus, if you correct the misspelling in the url, they’ll be taken to an address that no longer exists. Lame!

How do you change the url with­out send­ing read­ers to a post that doesn’t exist?

The answer, of course, is Redirection.

Redirection allows you to send any traf­fic from a url that does not exist on your site to url that does exist. Or you could just always spell your titles correctly.

Stumbleupon & Digg Thumbnail Maker

I use this plu­gin as a workaround to a very annoy­ing prob­lem. Sometimes, when some­one “Likes” your post on Facebook, it doesn’t show your post’s pic­ture, which is very annoy­ing because peo­ple are much more likely to click on a link with a pretty pic­ture next to it than one without.

I could explain why Facebook doesn’t show a pic­ture, but it would be very nerdy and com­pli­cated. The important thing is this plugin tells Facebook which pic­ture to pick.

How to make it work:

After you install it, you’ll see a lit­tle box under­neath your post edi­tor. You’ll want to copy and paste the url from the pic­ture you’re using into this box.

To get the picture's url, click on the pic­ture, then click on the lit­tle thumb­nail of a moun­tain in the top-left cor­ner, and copy the link url (you may have to get it from the Advanced win­dow). Then, just paste it into the Stumbleupon & Digg Thumbnail box and you’re pic­ture will show up on Facebook.

Tentblogger Add RSS Footer

When I pub­lished my eBook, 14 Prompts, I wanted to make sure my cur­rent sub­scribers got a copy. This plu­gin allows you to add text and html to the bot­tom of your RSS feed where your sub­scribers (and only your sub­scribers) can see it.

Tweet, Like, Google +1, and Share

This plu­gin enables your read­ers to eas­ily share your posts with their friends on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Social shar­ing will prob­a­bly be the biggest source of traf­fic for your blog. On The Write Practice, more than 50% of our traf­fic comes from social net­works like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. Sharing is cru­cial to build­ing your platform.

There are dozens of social shar­ing plu­g­ins, and I’ve tried nearly all of them. However, what I like about this one is that it loads quickly and looks fairly pretty. Previously, I used AddThis, which has the sleek, min­i­mal­ist design I like, but took sev­eral sec­onds to load. As I’ve said, load times are essen­tial to keep­ing read­ers on your site, and so I needed to find an alter­na­tive. Tweet, Like, Google +1, and Share filled the whole nicely.

Tweet Old Post

This is one of my favorites.

Once you've written a lot of content, it's difficult to keep people going back to your archives and reading your old posts. Tweet Old Post automatically tweets your old posts (it makes so much sense, doesn't it) by intervals you can customize yourself. It increases your traffic and brings eyes to your old content without you having to do a thing. Pretty handy if you ask me!

WordPress.com Popular Posts

This sim­ple plu­gin that allows you to add a pop­u­lar post wid­get to your side­bar, letting your readers know which posts they should be paying special attention to.

WP Typography

If you’d like to jus­tify your mar­gins like a book, you need a sim­ple way to hyphen­ate long words. WP Typography auto­mat­i­cally hyphen­ates words that spill over the mar­gins and leave gaps. It also changes reg­u­lar quotes to “smart quotes,” makes your amper­sands (&) pret­tier, and has a few other cool features.

WP Smush.it

Another tool in my quest for a faster blog is WP Smush.it, a plu­gin cre­ated by Yahoo. Smush.it removes unnec­es­sary data from your pic­ture files. Basically, it makes your pic­tures—and thus your site—load faster, which I think is awesome.

Self-Hosting Information

Remember, to these plugins, you have to have a self-hosted wordpress blog. For the last four years, I've been using DreamHost, an easy, inexpensive hosting provider based in Los Angeles. If you want to start an account with DreamHost, use the code “WRITEPRACTICE” to get 10% off hosting.

What are some of your favorite plugins for authors?

Note: Like many of you read­ing this, I’m a poor, strug­gling writer try­ing to make a liv­ing cre­at­ing art while con­cur­rently fright­ened by the ques­tion of how I’m going to pay for my children’s edu­ca­tion, since mine was so ridicu­lously expen­sive and I earn so lit­tle from it. Unlike most of you, though, this writ­ing thing is my full time job. Thus, a few of these links are affil­i­ate links, mean­ing I get a lit­tle money when you pur­chase some of the prod­ucts I’ve men­tioned. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I only rec­om­mend prod­ucts I actu­ally use and believe will improve your writ­ing expe­ri­ence and chances of get­ting pub­lished. Thus, if you want to help your­self out and sup­port a poor, strug­gling writer, don’t be afraid to buy some of this stuff. By the way, the FTC asked me to tell you this (go gov­ern­ment!), but I’m kind of glad they did. This was a nice chat. Okay that’s all. Bye.
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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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52 Comments

  1. Beth Zimmerman

    W3 Total Cache wouldn’t work for me for some reason. Installed it after reading this and it messed up my blog. I couldn’t get to my WP Dashboard at all. Had to call Tech Support for my domain hosting and have them fix it. I’m not upset. Just thought I’d give you a heads up in case anyone else has a problem.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hmmm… good to know. What did tech support say? I wonder if your hosting provider already has a caching program running…

    • Beth Zimmerman

      He didn’t really say anything about what caused it but he had to delete it completely (from the back end) to get my blog working again.

  2. Cole Bradburn

    Very helpful post, I’m installing some out now. Why did you switch off of compfight?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I didn’t finish explaining that, did I? I had a hard time making the picture work as the featured image. It’s not compatible with my stumbleupon workaround. And if the picture is not the featured image, it doesn’t show up on Facebook Like, which is important, I think.

    • Joe Bunting

      By the way, tell me what you think of them, Cole. I hope you find them to be helpful.

    • Joe Bunting

      You bet, Brandon.

  3. Molly Spring

    great post. these kinds of techy things overwhelm me, but this is simple and easy to understand. thanks!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hey Russell. I’m sure you can. It’s super easy. BUT if you have a wordpress.com account (and it looks like you do), they don’t allow it. My suggestion is to go with a self-hosted wordpress account. It’s a little more complicated, but very worth it. Here’s my post about why I self-host and how to do it fairly easily:

      https://thewritepractice.com/self-host-your-blog/

      And if you do decide to go through with self-hosting, here’s step #2:

      https://thewritepractice.com/how-to-quickly-install-wordpress-on-dreamhost/

    • Russell Working

      Joe, I totally missed your response to my comment. I should have checked back. I appreciate the suggestions and references.

      BTW, I have a crazy writer promotion video up on YouTube for my unpublished novel about a Russian mobster who appears in Chicago. Just thought I’d mention it: http://bit.ly/L2oXVj

    • Joe Bunting

      I liked the trailer and tweeted about it Russell. Interesting way to promote your book, having your characters talk about why you shouldn’t publish it. Very clever. 🙂

  4. Unisse Chua

    Thanks for sharing this! 🙂 I’ve been looking for a good sharing plugin for my travel blog and the redirection plugin is a lifesaver! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth Jamieson

    Don’t forget the free WordPress plugin AuthorSure. It means that any posts you write on your (WordPress) site will be attributed to you in the search engines and have your face show up next to it in the results. This is essential for branding as well as content ownership. http://www.authorsure.com

    Reply
  6. Giordano

    Absolutely awesome article!!

    Reply
  7. Yoginder

    You have suggested some of the best ones author plugins. I haven’t used any author plugin before,well now i think i must put it into my blog.

    I have recently written an article :

    3 Upcoming Movies of Johnny Depp to See in Future 2014-2015

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I’ll check it out, Derek. Thanks!

  8. Dominikos Pritis

    Realy cool article, i also use authorsure for google plus authorship integration but i wish there was an all in one plugin to meet my needs as an author

    Reply
  9. Maggie Akhurst

    Great post, thank you so much for sharing! When you’re just starting out, it can be really daunting scrolling through all those plugins, not knowing which ones will suit your needs. This list is fantastic, I installed almost every single recommendation! Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Orwin Cortes Omega

    Cool! Got additional plugins on the list for my blog. Very helpful post. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
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  12. kate sheren

    I am using many plugins which you have mentioned here. These all plugins are working best for my website.

    Reply
  13. Amber Moore

    I have used Tentblogger Add RSS Footer for one of my project. It makes it easy to add something to the end of each blog in your RSS feed.

    Reply
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  25. Arun

    Its look fine. I use the plugons to make my site load faster. Its much better than non plugins. Can easily add from plugin menus. A Good post containing essential plugins for a wordpress site.
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  26. Marry R. Olson

    Hello Joe, you can try Blog Designer.
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