Tag Archives: blog

Ten WordPress Plugins for Author Websites

A Guest Post by Annik Valkanberg

Authors need readers. Readers need authors. Why is it so difficult for them to get together?

From the author’s perspective, it’s tough to be seen through all of the smoke and distractions. We have to compete with video games, movies, instant gratification websites, and sometimes even naughty websites. How can we be found in a sea of meh?

One thing we can do is to make sure our author websites have some form of stickiness and interactivity. Like the Fictorians, if there’s something new and interesting, or if there’s some cool little method to interact with others, the readers will keep drifting back to see the latest post or to interact with the authors and visitors.

Here are ten useful WordPress plugins that help the reader to connect with an author.


Contact means a method to either get in touch with the site authors or to get a bit of feedback when users post. I use both of these plugins in all of the websites I build.

Contact Form 7
A contact form in general is a grand thing to have on an author website. It allows people to contact us, and it can lead to convention invitations, anthology requests, and even signed book sales. Contact Form 7 is one of the better contact plugins available. It is regularly updated and is easy to configure and customize. This free plugin supports a CAPTCHA system to dissuede spammers and Akismet spam filtering.

Comments are a wonderful thing to receive on your blog, with CommentLuv for WordPress you can give something back to your community straight away by including a titled link for their last blog post or tweet on the end of their comment.

The plugin fetches the feed found at commenters site URL while they type their comment. It extracts the last blog post title with link and displays it below the comment form. When they submit their comment, the last blog post link gets added on the end of their comment for all to see! This gives your web visitors more reason to leave a comment on your site.

This free plugin also creates cross-links that can help your Google/SEO ranking.


WP Super Cache
Nothing screams “go away” like a slow website. The free WP Super Cache plugin takes snapshots of your website and feeds those to the visitors. This way, the server does not have to run everything over and over on each page view, significantly lowering the time it takes to forward the data. It does this by generating standard HTML files that are served directly by the web server without processing comparatively heavy PHP scripts.

Typography Sophistication

Typography is something that gets lost in the rush to get a website up. Planting a flag in a field of flags might help the ego, but one must figure out ways to differentiate. Playing with the typography is an easy way to look unique.

Google Web Fonts for WordPress
Google Fonts Pro is an $11 WordPress plugin that allows you to instantly access over 200 of Google’s Web Fonts. Installation is a snap, and it gives you full control over the font and typography used on your site. Instead of sticking with Times New Roman, Verdana, or even Comic Sans, you can make the typography part of your image.


This set of plugins is the first to get installed, configured and activated. Once your site is hacked and starts handing out malware and viruses, you can guarantee people will never return. Keeping these installed and updated will remove your website from the thousands of low-hanging fruits.

BulletProof Security
The plugin is designed to be a fast, simple and one-click security plugin that creates, copies, renames, moves or writes to the provided BulletProof Security .htaccess master files. It protects both your Root website folder and wp-admin folder with .htaccess website security protection, as well as providing additional website security protection.

It is a bit more sophisticated, and really locking down your website will take some tweaking, but it is worth it in the long run. My website receives an average of eight hacking attempts per hour, all automated. The main system is free, but there are extra perks for the $59.95 Pro version, which includes self-configuration, self-healing, and self-repairing. When it is self-aware, expect the price to go up.

Limit Login Attempts
This simple and free plugin limits the number of login attempts possible both through normal login as well as using auth cookies. It blocks an Internet address from making further attempts after a specified limit on retries is reached, making a brute-force attack difficult or impossible.

From their website:
Wordfence starts by checking if your site is already infected. We do a deep server-side scan of your source code comparing it to the Official WordPress repository for core, themes and plugins. Then Wordfence secures your site and makes it up to 50 times faster.

Wordfence Security is 100% free and open source. We also offer a Premium API key that gives you Premium Support, Country Blocking, Scheduled Scans, Password Auditing and we even check if your website IP address is being used to Spamvertize. The premium version is a monthly fee, never over $4 a month.

Email List Building

This is another area that authors tend to skip. Building an email list is vital to your author brand, but it’s the one piece most authors don’t think is important. You want a way to politely market to folks who have already expressed an interest in your work.

WP Opt-in
WP OptIn is a WordPress plugin that allows your commenters to subscribe to your email newsletter or autoresponder simply by checking a box automatically placed in your comment forms. The plugin integrates with Aweber, ConstantContact, or MailChimp to subscribe commenters without an extra subscription step. This is an easy way to build a newsletter email list.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is boring for the average bear, but getting on the first page is important for folks who are looking for you, particularly if you have a nondescript name.

Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others to better index your blog. With an accurate sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content.

Yoast SEO
The free version of Yoast SEO is all you need to get excellent results with search engine optimization with keywords. When you author a new post a new section appears below the text window. After you select a keyword or a key phrase, the system will give you instant feedback as to how search engines will reguard the post before you even hit the publish button. It gives suggestions such as adding in outbound links or images, and it allows you to customize the text that appears on search engines.

These are what I consider to be the minimum one can use to have an efficient and visible blog. Maybe it’s time to give your blog a critical eye and bring it up snuff for 2016.

Networking: Friends with Benefits

In October during Marketing and Promotion month, we had a great post on networking by Kim May. There’s a lot of great advice here on how networking can help you reach and connect with your readers.

This month, I’d like to focus on how to network with industry professionals.

Few of us are lucky enough to have people in the entertainment industry – and yes, writing and publishing are part of the entertainment industry – as part of our circle of family and friends growing up, but it is possible.  Ironically, one of my friends-who-is-also-a-published-author started out as the roommate of another friend I met through my toy collecting hobby.  Looking back, I laugh at some of our earlier meetings when neither of us had any idea of the other’s interest in writing.

But let’s assume you don’t have a contact like that.  I didn’t for many years.  How do you meet people who are working where you would like to be someday?

You can read blogs, join newsgroups, “like” Facebook pages, and/or follow Twitter feeds.  The best part about these venues is that even if you live in an isolated rural area, and can’t afford to travel, as long as you have Internet access, you’ve got all you need.

First, reading blogs etc will give you a feel for what it’s like to work as a professional writer / in the entertainment industry.  You may find it’s not for you.  Or, when you reach that point yourself, you will have some idea of what to expect.  I’m eternally grateful for the advice from a writer, who is now also a friend, who put on her blog the importance of turning around correspondence for publishers as quickly as possible.  They’re people too, they’re on deadlines too, and keeping them waiting and wondering if they are going to hear from you or not is an undesirable situation.   As someone who used to submit things on the day they were due–and never before–I realized that holding on to my finished submission until the due date wasn’t doing me any favours.  And I would never have realized that without this advice.  It’s invaluable, and it’s free.

Comment when you have something useful to say.  Over time, people will recognize your name and, if applicable, your avatar.  Remember, though, that reputations can be bad as well as good – keep the drama off someone else’s site, or you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Conventions, seminars, launch parties and book signings are great in-person venues if you’re lucky enough to be able to travel or live near a city.  Authors and editors will give panels, readings, room parties, and book signings.  Attending panels and readings gives you conversation starters when you go to the parties and signings:  introduce yourself by name, then ask a question, comment on something, or give constructive feedback.  Don’t hog the person’s time – they’ll be meeting a lot of other people at the event.  At subsequent events, you can then re-introduce yourself (“we met at Ad Astra this past April”, “I came to your book signing last year in Toronto.”)  Faces become familiar very quickly.  And I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention Superstars Writing Seminars, where I received great advice from professional writers and also met a number of fellow newcomers just starting out in the field.  Look how far we’ve all come!

I’m very fortunate to have a friend who is a New York Times bestselling author–the person who first recommended Superstars to me, despite not being part of it herself.  It was her assurance that Superstars was worth the money and time that got me here today.  I’m not going to drop her name here, because the purpose of this post is not me showing off how special I am because of who I know.  I mention it to illustrate that unfortunately, the following paragraph contains advice that still needs to be shared:

Don’t expect professional authors to become your new best friends.  They’re busy people, on lots of deadlines.  They have private lives they aren’t going to share with people they’ve just met.  They are not going to drop everything to reply to you immediately, and they don’t owe you anything.  Be courteous, be respectful, be appreciative, and be professional.  These writers are active online and at conventions to connect with their audience and, if they are generous and have time, to share some insight on their profession.  You will not become friends with everyone you say hello to, and you will not stay friends (or even acquaintances) if your sole purpose of communicating is to “get stuff,” whether that “stuff” be attention, information, free swag, or “awesome inside sources”.   Treat industry professionals as people, not as means to your goals.

When you are at conventions, do attend public events (book signings, autograph sessions, panels, public room parties and launch parties).  Do not try to crash private functions (ie author-only parties), follow people into the restroom to strike up conversations, or loiter outside people’s hotel suites waiting to pounce on them.  As on the Internet, being loud, drunk, promiscuous, smelly, obnoxiously persistent or rude gives you the wrong reputation very quickly.  And remember that alcohol makes all sorts of things seem like A Good Idea At The Time.

As someone who rarely drinks alcohol in public I strongly recommend a glass of pop, soda or juice carried around a room party or nursed at a convention bar if you are a non-drinker or if you have reached your drinking limit.  People will think it is a drink (thereby saving yourself the need to constantly turn down offers of drinks) and you will both appear sociable and remain in control of how you are presenting yourself.  (I also note that if you are a non-drinker, after seven or eight Dr Peppers you will feel like bugs are crawling all over you, so go easy on the caffeine-as-alcohol-substitute.  Lessons from Ad Astra 2013–bad decisions made so you don’t have to!)

The best thing about networking is that it builds its own momentum.  Once you know one person, they will introduce you to other people.  Soon you’ll find yourself in contact with all kinds of people who are working in, or working towards, your chosen profession.