Essential Free WordPress Plugins for Authors
So, I'd like to follow up my post on WP Themes for authors with something on the best free WordPress plugins. So let's take a look, shall we? Unfortunately, these are limited to self-hosted WordPress installs. Sorry, free blog people! Don't worry though, your WordPress.com blog has enough functionality to start with if you're not willing to dig into a more complicated setup.
Again, all these plugins are available free from the WP Directory.
Of course I'm going to mention my own plugin... Buy This Book is a neat little tool for displaying your books in your sidebar with a slideout menu of different service links. It's also supported by yours truly, and I take suggestions for new functionality all the time. It's designed to make it easy for an author to add a basic display for selling their books, and it'll show up to three books per widget.
Okay, for all you authors who want to build up a mailing list, Newsletter is the in-depth way to go. It's got dozens of different options, but top of my list is the fact that it lets an author collect email addresses and customize different subscription options. It also has a number of options for displaying a subscription form, which is a must if you want more flexibility.
Jetpack is about the most useful all-rounder in the WP Directory. It's written by the WordPress team, and one of the main features in the free WordPress.com blogs, and now you can get all its tasty features on your own self-hosted site too!
Jetpack just has too many great additions to count, but my personal favorites are the easy-to-add contact form, the custom CSS module, the sharing options, the WP statistics, and the automatic mobile theme addition. For authors who'd like to offer an email subscription option without going through all the trouble of Newsletter, Jetpack also has a basic subscription widget.
It does require a WordPress account to make it go, but they're free, so what are you waiting for?
Okay, so I know a lot of authors just ain't that technically inclined, and anyone who's not technically inclined needs to watch out for their site security. The easiest option I know of is to install Better WP Security, and run through whatever recommendations you can with it. You may not be able to change your admin user ID - and frankly, I'm not sure you'd want to try if you don't know what you're doing - but the bare minimum of switching on a login counter lockout can make a big difference.
Trust me, there are not-nice people out there who'd just love to break into a site and leave malware all over it, so really consider this one.
So, this is another no-brainer. You need some SEO control, okay? This is just a given. WP SEO is my plugin of choice, seeing as it gives you a nice little SEO checklist for each post. If you're aiming to build up a lot of traffic through search engine traffic, you absolutely need this. Otherwise, just get it anyway, because it's good practice.
Are there any WordPress plugins I wouldn't recommend?
Well, that depends. I'm not going to say that there are plugins to avoid in particular, but it's worth noting a few basic guidelines:
Don't run too many plugins. How fast your site is generally depends on how good your host is, and how many plugins you run at once. If your site is slowing to a crawl, then you need to disable a few, or get better hosting. You can also get a caching plugin like WP Super Cache, which might speed things up a bit. But in general, don't go nuts with the plugins. Stick to the functionality you really need.
Beware of any plugins that are not in the WP Directory. If it's not listed in the Directory, then I generally won't use it. Anything not in there is usually split between two camps - the ones that can't be trusted, and the ones you have to pay for. (The same goes for themes.) The untrusted ones are... well, untrusted. They could have anything in them, like malware or whatever. The ones you have to pay for may not be worth the money, unless you're a bestseller, so tread carefully with those.
One exception to this are addons to popular free plugins, like the extra modules you can buy for Woocommerce. Those are generally good value and well written.
Got any other suggestions for plugins? Leave them in the comment here.