How To Manage A Multi-Author Blog

August 1, 2013

Have you ever considered building a blog with multiple authors?

How would you manage them?

What kinds of plugins would you use? Is it even worth it?

In this blog post, I'm going to be sharing my experience with turning Become A Blogger into a multi-author blog.

Why Multiple Authors

MultiAuthorBlogHaving a multi-author blog has many benefits if it's done well. Consider a site like Social Media Examiner, which was founded by Michael Stelzner.

Since it started back in 2008, it has grown to be the largest online Social Media Magazine in the world.

How did this happen? Well, it was partly because it has some of the best content submitted by over 90 writers. There's now new content there on a daily basis.

Now – imagine trying to do that all yourself. It's not impossible, but it would take a whole lot that the average person, myself included, is not able to do.

You see – QUALITY content is king, and the more you are able to create that kind of experience, the bigger your blog can get.

By leveraging the efforts of others around one common goal, amazing things can happen.

Ok, now lets get into the steps for managing your multi-author blog.

Constructing Your Editorial Guidelines

One of the reasons why multi-author blogs fail is because of the lack of consistency of quality from one post to the next. The best way to avoid this is by having very detailed editorial guidelines.

EditorialGuidelines

In these guidelines, you should answer the following questions:

  • What type of content are you looking for (how to articles, list posts, etc).
  • How do you want your articles formatted?
  • How long should the articles be?
  • How should they deal with images (where to find, copyright, etc)?
  • How should the articles be submitted?
  • Anything else that goes along with what you are trying to accomplish.

By doing this, you will increase the chances of having content that suits your blog and that has a relatively consistent quality.

Of course, there will be differences between the voices of the individual authors, but the general flow will be similar.

Finding Great Writers

WriteForBabThis is extremely important. Just because someone wants to write for your blog doesn't mean that they should be writing for your blog. You want to make sure that they are good writers and that they meet your standards.

For Become A Blogger, we created a Writers Application Form for anyone to apply. However, we check them out thoroughly to make sure that their content is in line with the goals we have for this blog. If they are, then we're happy to have them join our team. If not, then… well… you know …

Promoting Those Writers

When deciding to start a multi author blog, you’ve decided to build something that’s not about you (well, not you alone). You’ve decided to share the wealth.

If you have people creating quality content for your blog (and remember that quality content is King), it’s only fair for you to find ways to give them exposure.

The best way of doing this is by taking advantage of the author bio box at the bottom of their posts (see the bottom of this post for an example). There are many themes that have a setting that allows you to display the author bio box at the bottom of each post.

In that box, they can have a short bio, a link to their blog and their social media profiles. For some themes you might need a little help, and I’ll talk about that in the Plugins section below.

There are other things you can do to help promote them more, like featuring them in different sections of your site like on your about page and in specific, relevant posts (like this one).

Here are the writers who have contributed content for August. Go ahead and follow them. They are cool people 🙂

The Article Approval/Submission Process

Submit_ArticleBefore having your writers submit their articles, it’s a good idea to have them submit the title for approval. You (and/or your editorial manager) know what content is on your blog and you know what the other writers are working on.

You don’t want multiple writers writing similar articles and you want the articles to be about topics that are congruent with your message. Once the titles have been approved, they can begin writing.

For the submission process, you can create accounts for the writers and have them submit the article like they would do for creating a post for their own WordPress site.

However, you want to make sure that they can access ONLY the features that they need to submit the articles using the Advanced Access Manager plugin below. This will make it so that they can't publish the post. They can only save it.

Plugins To Make Life Easy

When coming into this process, I knew that I should be able to find WordPress plugins that would make this process easier. Well – I found and tested out MANY plugins for managing various parts of the process. Here are the ones I settled on:

Edit Flow

Edit_FlowThis plugin is the most important because it manages most of the process.

It allows writers to submit content, and then for the editors to go in and fully interact with the writers by giving comments/feedback, asking for more info and basically communicate with then.

What's awesome is that you can manage all aspects of the process all from within the WordPress dashboard.

It also allows you to setup an editorial calendar, and do a number of other things that I don’t use. It’s powerful and very convenient.

Advanced Access Manager

Advanced_Access_ManagerWhen you create a user account in WordPress, the user has access to more features than they need. I’m not one for giving out access to my blog unless I have to.

This plugin allows me to specify, in detail, what each user should have access to.

For the writers, all they need to be able to do is add posts and edit their profile (bio, etc). I use this plugin to block every other feature.

Good Writer Checkify

Good_Writer_CheckifyAs I already mentioned, we have extensive editorial guidelines for our writers to follow. This plugin allows you to have a checklist right below the post editor to remind writers about important points. Here’s a screenshot of the checklist I have for Become A Blogger.

Fancier Author Box

By default, WordPress allows users to add a few details about themselves. However, it’s very limited. As I already mentioned, I want my authors to be well promoted, which includes links to their Social Media Profiles and recent posts.

This plugin allows them to add all those details to their Become A Blogger profile to be featured at the bottom of their posts and it will look something like this:

FancierAuthorBox

Email Marketing For Multi-Author Blogs

I’ve said it many times before, your email list is your most important asset when it comes to your online business. If you are building a multi-author blog, one of your main responsibilities is to get as many people to consume the content as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by using RSS to Email.

RSS to Email

This is a very simple way to have your blog post sent directly to your subscribers via email. I’ve chosen to have it send out a crafted excerpt for each post with a link back to the full blog post.
A very easy way of doing this is by using the Blog Broadcast feature in Aweber, which is the autoresponder service I recommend.

I also got my tech person to design an email template that 1) matched the design of the blog and 2) encourages sharing as shown in the following picture.

EmailTemplate

Provide a valuable resource

Of course, if you really want people to subscribe your list, it’s best to provide them with a FREE valuable resource, which can be an eBook, PDF report, eCourse, video course or anything else that your audience would really love.

For me, I chose to give away my Blogging Business Simplified course, which is a course that was previously only available to premium plus members as a part of a $497 package, which is no longer available. You can get access to it FOR FREE by signing up right here if you haven't already done so:

[optin]

Your Job As The Blog Owner

Alright, so you have your editorial guidelines, writers, they are producing quality content according to those guidelines and your blog is setup to manage everything. Now you can just sit back and relax, right? Absolutely not.

Your job is to work on building traffic so that your writers get the exposure they are looking for and your audience gets the value they are looking for. This is not an easy, overnight process. It takes consistent effort. Here are a few of the things I'm doing and will be doing in the future:

Making sure EVERYTHING is shareable

By EVERYTHING I mean my blog posts (using sharing plugins like Digg Digg) AND emails (this was custom coded into the template). I use clicktotweet to generate easy tweetable links and I create large, informative images for the top of each post to attract pinners to pin them on Pinterest.

I also decided (with much encouragement from Michael Stelzner) to install the Disqus commenting plugin. This not only allows users to comment using their social media accounts, but they can also share than comment on their social networks automagically, driving traffic back to the blog.

Be a sharer

social media (3)For this new direction, I plan on being more active on social media. This will be a major part of my strategy moving forward.

Here's a nice strategy I came up with. For every article, we come up with a minimum of 3 things to share during the day.

This can be a link to a relevant article somewhere else, a quote/tip from the article with a link back, or anything else that's relevant to the content for that day.

This will be posted on my social media networks, and I will also ask related questions on the Facebook page to engage you there.

Also, make sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+ to see how I will be implementing this.

 Be Interviewed on Podcasts

This is something I'm starting to do regularly. I turn down interview requests regularly because it has not been a priority. However, with this new direction, I will be focusing more on being interviewed. I'm also actively going out there to seek out interviews. If you'd like to interview me on your podcast, check out my interview page.

I will be doing lots more in terms of getting the word out there, so stay tuned because I like to share everything!

In Summary

It takes A LOT to manage a multi-author blog. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs. If you are able to really get it off the ground, it really helps you to build something that is bigger than yourself.

I'm excited about this new journey, and I hope that by sharing this with you, you are able to explore the multi-author model even further at some point along your blogging journey, or maybe even now. Lets change this world one blog at a time and lets do it BIG!

Today's Question: Do you see having a multi-author blog in your future?

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34 Comments

  • ahmedronaldo says:

    So, the time came for this blog to be a multi author blog.

    I’m glad to be one of the first writers here on this blog.

    Waiting to see how other Become A Blogger Community members react with this change.

  • Bobbi Emel says:

    This is a really informative, helpful guide, Leslie! Thanks so much for putting it together. Looking forward to seeing how your blog evolves.

  • Chip Dizard says:

    Congrats on the launch Leslie. Amani and I look forward to posting articles for your blog really soon.

  • Allan Dubon says:

    I love that I learn so much from this page. I am honored to be one of the writers, but I am even more excited by what I will be learning from all of the other writers! This was such an awesome article. Thanks for all you do.

  • Gary Korisko says:

    An excellent resource, Leslie. Thanks! Can’t wait to see the Become A Blogger evolution. And obviously, I’m very happy to be a contributing writer! Looking forward to… well, everything that’s happening here. Congratulations.

  • Tony says:

    Hi Leslie,
    Great post I know that I could learn a lot from you, putting a blog in this area will take a lot of work. But in the long run it will pay-off, it just finding the right writers.
    I know after to go back to this post, it’s a lot of details that you are provding.
    I always do enjoy your throughts and ideas, in previous articles and the ones that you be sending out in future, so Lesile thanks again. Keep up with the good work!!!
    Have a nice day.
    Tony

  • Carey Green says:

    WOW! Very helpful post Lesli! I’m sure if I were the one doing the multi-author thing I’d have run into all these issues, but I didn’t realize there were so many! Sounds like you and Noemi are on top of it! I look forward to contributing and to interacting more here on the community.

    • Yep, there are so many things to keep in mind if you do it right and take it seriously. I’m blessed to have Noemi. Couldn’t do it without her. And grateful to have you guys as writers!

  • Ben Chilcote says:

    Leslie, I DO see a multi-author blog in my future, in fact, you just wrote my user manual for the next 6 months! One reason I never committed to creating regular content on my blog is because I was afraid I couldn’t commit to posting on a regular basis. Now that I’ve decided to create a multi-author blog, I feel SO MUCH freedom to contribute the content that I am uniquely qualified to contribute – leaving other topics to other “specialists”. And I can grow my blog like I always wanted to but didn’t have the personal resources to expend. Thank you!! – Ben

    • That’s awesome Ben. Glad to be able to type out your user manual for you. That’s actually part of the goal with my switch here. To be the user manual for all things blogging. Now, I do want to point out that doing the multi-user model is actually MORE work than a single author blog, if you are going to do it right. But it can definitely be WAYYY worth it.

    • Ben Chilcote says:

      Yes – I’m expecting it IS more work which is why I plan to transition to it in baby steps. Right now I’m gearing up for a phase 1 re-launch. Multi-author blog is phase 2. I’ll keep you posted

    • Definitely keep me posted. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

  • Mitch says:

    Just goes to show, more than one way to get it done. I don’t agree that this strategy is a good fit most niche’s just the smaller and more limited ones. Most larger ones require a lot more content. Can you imagine one of the mega sites like CNN, ESPN, Huffington Post, ETC posting 6 articles a week? In my niche I would be dead in the water at that pace; I have been doing multi-author for quite some time, going on 5 years.
    My Philosophy always has been keep it simple and reward those who help make it happen, and this is the big difference between something like SMM and my site and why my site has a much larger audience. Quality content is nice, but content is king and I think my numbers prove that. I have one editor and I use one google doc to basically run my whole site which does over 1,600 articles a month and is the top 1/2 of 1 percent of all sites as ranked by Google.
    I find great writers by having them answer 5 simple questions, I can learn enough about them and see enough about their writing form that and once again it has served me well.
    When I listened to Michael’s interview with you the one thing I kept coming back to was that he does way more stuff behind the scenes, overkill really, that would be time better spent producing things on the site that directly produce income, but in the end SMM as a blog/Website doesn’t produce income within itself, only from outside related events. If they chose to go another route they would seriously have to rethink it.
    In your niche this will work as well because “current” happens slowly or at least is manageable, in many of the much larger segments we just don’t have that luxury and our competition is just much much bigger.
    With all of that being said, I am sure you will rock it, just don’t let the form be more important than the substance as you are pretty close to the line..

    • One of the reasons I’m glad you’re a part of the BAB community is that you always have a different perspective. I love that. Yep, what you’re doing definitely works VERY WELL for you and there are more than one way to get things done. I LOVE that too.

      You’re right – our niche’s are WAYY different. I rather fewer articles, higher quality. I don’t know that 1,600 articles a month in this niche would do anything whatsoever.

      In terms of Social Media Examiner, Actually – it depends on how you look at it. They do ads, but not as much as you. That generates revenue. They also do an online event that’s completely via their blog audience. I would consider that producing income. It’s basically selling a product. And I happen to know that they did VERY well with that promotion last week. So it works for them.

      I’m unclear as to what you mean by “just don’t let the form be more important than the substance as you are pretty close to the line” though. Can you explain?

    • Mitch says:

      Not sure what event you are talking about that they did well with, it isn’t a site I read, just not compelling and not something that I see as helpful in growing my business but they have an audience so I am sure they can sell stuff. The only time I looked over there was when you did the interview, I haven’t been back, just seemed like the same old recycled stories over and over.
      For me it is all about doing, not about planning and structuring and restructuring, planning and editing over and over, it is about content period, content is king and quality content is nice but not king at all, content is king which is why it is said often, it isn’t that people forgot a word. The time spent on all of that other stuff is time that could be spent on things that directly impact your audience, income, or whatever the goal is, Quality content is defined by the reader and by no one else; if no one reads it or finds it it doesn’t matter. So basically what I am seeing is a lot of importance placed on structure, not so much on the substance of the blog which is content.
      As you said and I agree, it doesn’t make sense for you or SMM to produce a ton of content, there just isn’t that much to talk about and it is a very limited audience in a somewhat narrow niche.

    • Mitch says:

      I just wanted to clarify that by narrow niche I just meant it is a lot more limited than things like news, sports, cooking, etc..there are only so many bloggers or people interested in Social media as a marketing tool and most of those people come and go. I think out of our original group less about 10 actually made it and are still doing it..and that is probably better than average. People in sports, news, cooking, fashion, things of that nature never really quit..of course the competition, like Michael addressed in his interview, is scaled as well..so not as big or as good of competition in the tighter niches

  • Lucy-Bieri says:

    Fantastic Leslie, Value giver as always.. I am working on my second blog, and know, I cannot be everywhere at the same time, others help is definitely a must. My first blog is just over a year old, I knew earlier I could not post content daily, but 3 times weekly and consistently. Though I love writing, but it was impossible to write daily.. Since moving on to my second blog, I knew I will need help. This post is useful to me, knowing how to manage multi-author blog is important..

    Best Regards

    Lucy

    • Glad to help Lucy. Managing multiple blogs can be a challenge – one that I’ve struggled with even though I have good help. Wishing you all the best with your new venture.

  • Guest says:

    Question: Would it be better to start out as an one author blog and then change into a mult-author blog or

  • Brandon Halliburton says:

    Question: Would it better to start out as a multi-author blog or should someone start as a single author blog then evolve into a multi-author blog?

    • It all just depends on the situation. If you start off with a multi-author and have no way to bring people there, it would be difficult to maintain unless you are paying writers. If you start off with a single author blog and are able to build the audience (like I did), you can then leverage that to make it into a multi-author. That way, the writers are getting something (exposure) for contributing content.

    • Brandon Halliburton says:

      Makes total sense. Thank you sir!

  • VanessaJeny says:

    Leslie, I am incredibly grateful to you for sharing all the information in this post. Muchas Gracias!! This post and podcast episode 116 with Michael Stelzner have been key resources in my learning. Thanks a million and congratulations on the success of turning Become a Blogger into a multi-author site.
    May I ask about promoting your writers: the boxes that highlight your authors above under the section ‘Promoting those Writers’, how did you do them? Is it part of your theme or a plug in? I noticed a similar box for yourself under the section ‘Be a sharer’. Is it the same thing? Are their other alternatives for listing & promoting your writers on a ‘Contributors’ profile page? Also you have a photo of your writer at the top of the post, is that a theme feature or a plug in too? Thanks again!

    • For the highlighting my authors under “promoting those Writers”, I actually got someone to build that for me into the code of my site. Not sure how they did it though.

      For the ones under Be A Sharer, those are twitter and Google plus widgets. You can get the twitter widgets here – https://twitter.com/settings/widgets, and the G+ widgets here https://developers.google.com/+/web/badge/

      I’m sure there are plugins that do Contributor pages, but I don’t know of any off the top of my head. Some premium themes have those functionalities built in.

      Hope that helps.

    • VanessaJeny says:

      Thank you for sharing once again Leslie, I always appreciate your generosity in your responses. I googled plugins for contributor pages and I was surprised to see so many options for plugins in the search results along with blog posts regarding plugins. Its a whole new world to investigate and cross reference recommendations to see which ones get the most nods.

    • Yep, there are all kinds of cool plugins out there for that. Glad you’re doing the research. It pays off 🙂

  • Aweda says:

    This post has been very helpful to me in my current time of strategizing. I’m about to start a multi-author blog and this write up couldn’t have come into my radar at the right time! Thanks for sharing this and keep up the good work !

    Ajibola Babatunde Aweda

  • Julie says:

    CAn you talk about copyright and content ownership? For a blog to which I post others’ submissions, do authors have to sign off on their articles and provide a release of information as if they were submitting to an academic journal? Curious about the liabilities of positing other people’s work as well in case something is incorrect and I don’t catch it.

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