Custom Author Bylines for Non-Users in WordPress

At Hit Subscribe, we’re facing a bit of a problem.
Here’s some background. We have a team of authors who write for our growing number of clients. A few of our authors are specialists, and they pair well with clients who want their blog to focus on niche topics. But for clients who just want to pull in people doing Google searches on more generic technical topics…well, three, four, even five authors might regularly write for those clients. And both our number of authors and number of clients will likely hit double digits in 2018, making the possible author-client combinations pretty large.
So what’s the problem?
Well, our clients invite Erik as a user on their WordPress sites so we can swoop in and do all the prep work for their posts. But these clients aren’t going to want to invite five more users to their professional blog. So when we post for one of our authors, Erik’s automatically listed as the author of the post. That’s not only confusing for our clients’ readers; it’s also not really fair to our authors.

So Just Change the Author Name in WordPress!

Now, you’d think there’d be an easy way around this. Maybe you can just temporarily change your name in WordPress somehow. Or maybe you can edit the “author” field. Maybe…I mean, there’s got to be something simple, right?
In WordPress, to post as someone other than who you’re logged in as is just not possible —not unless you go messing with the clients’ WordPress files (which we’re not looking to be in the business of doing, seeing as this would also sign us up as WordPress tech support when something breaks).
So that’s dumb.
While we can’t change the fact that Erik will automatically be listed as the author, we need to do something. In this post, I’ll record today’s main endeavor: finding a nice WordPress plugin we can gently ask our clients to install in the hopes of making it clearer who the true author is.

First Try: Byline

So, a quick Google search got me to a plugin called “Byline.” Here’s what really caught my attention: it says, “This plugin would be useful for publishing situations where the majority of your content is from contributors who you don’t necessarily want to have access to your back-end. It still conveys the appearance that the authors are members of the site.”
Sounds good, right? And it’s got good reviews (although the highlighted review—”Good One”—made me chuckle. Very helpful, dude). But there are a few warning signs:

  • It was created five years ago and hasn’t been updated in two years
  • Its FAQ is just “contact me”
  • There are no examples or screenshots

So with all this in mind, I installed it with hope and rainbows in my heart. And, naturally, annoyance ensued.
I can’t get the author of the post to show up in our Hit Subscribe blog posts. (Side note—I have been souring more and more every day on this WordPress theme.) So after fighting my theme for longer than I care to admit, I decided to try it out on DaedTech.
First, I set up an author. I picked one of our cats because everyone knows the internet and cats are like peanut butter and jelly—they’re made for each other.
There’s a section on your left navigation where you can control the author info. You can add an image if you go into the nav on the righthand box and click “edit” like you would if it were a post draft.
Butters the cat's info in Byline
Then, I composed a brilliant and thoughtful post. There’s a box on the side that says “Byline,” where you can add an author almost like you would a tag. And here’s the post:
Butters Byline post
If you click on “Butters the Cat,” you get a 404 though. That’s trouble. I tried it out on an old DaedTech post, just to see if preview mode was the problem. It was not.
Conclusion: Nice interface, but the author link won’t work.

Try Two: Custom Author Byline

With Byline all uninstalled, we move on to Custom Author Byline. It says, “If the author of your blog entry is different than your logged in user and you don’t want to have to create a separate user account, just add the name as you’d like it to appear to the Custom Author Byline panel below the post/page editor.” Cool cool.
It’s old. And the reviews aren’t great, although they ARE hilarious, so there’s that. Some of my personal favorites are, “This is fake plugin,” and “Who are using this? I want to see the faces of who are using this plugin. I mean, what are their face shape, are they similar with normal ones?”
So picturing the face shape of the app builders for good luck, I installed Custom Author Byline.
This is the absolute simplest thing you could install. If you scroll past the post draft, it simply replaces the author name and asks for a link.
Custom author byline interfaceSo we’ll need all our authors to (1) have a site and (2) have a bio page we could link to, since we’re clearly not going to add author bio pages onto all our clients’ sites.
The preview looks exactly the same as with Byline, but when I click on the author name (I linked to a picture of Butters), I got Erik’s About page. The same thing happened when I made Butters an author on an old post and updated it: there was just a link to Erik.
Conclusion: A very no-frills, simple way to change the author byline, but again, the link doesn’t work.

Try Three: Custom About Author

Custom About Author says, “This plugin acknowledges authors for their post by displaying a brief biography about them at the end of their post…This plugin is perfect if you have multiple guest bloggers on your website and they do not each have a user account.” Groovetastic.
Except it’s not. Here’s what shows up, no matter what I do or how I tweak the box contents:
Custom About Author Results
So. No doubt I could figure this out if I devoted however many hours necessary, but it’s New Year’s Eve, and I am already way deeper into this (and not nearly deep enough into the beer I have sitting here) than I wanted to be on a supposed day off.
I’m dangerously close to calling this a failed experiment.

Try 4: Molongui Authorship

Weary and discouraged, I found a plugin called Molongui Authorship. It has waaaaaay more features than I need, but I see there’s a nice author box possible, like the one I hoped Custom About Author would give me. And it works for non-users.
I went to set up a new guest author and immediately loved what I saw.

Look at all those links you can add! And a custom image! No need for Gravatar. I am feeling renewed. Beware though. To save the author, you have to hit “Publish,” and then it proudly announces “Post Published.” I had to run over to the blog to make sure I wasn’t accidentally doing a weird cat-lady takeover of DaedTech.
But I went to publish an old DaedTech post with Butters as the author, and I got only “Butters the Cat” listed as the author—no bio, and no hyperlink attached to the name that would get you to all this great information I can add.
I need to figure out how to get the author box in there. That’s the ticket.
After about a half-hour deep in the documentation, I finally got this:

Yes! The good thing is that it’s up there. The bad thing is, well, it looks like that. Also, I don’t know what’s up with “website.” But I’m going to worry about that later. First, in order for this to fly, everything needs to be much smaller. I’m also hoping to have it show up at the bottom, not the top.
After some settings tweaking, here’s this!

Now, I’d prefer it if some things look a little different. The example shows the box to be much more rectangular, with the image on the left, but I think it’s rendering this way because DaedTech’s margins for blog posts are so large. Either way, it works and it looks good!
I should be excited, but really, I’m more just glad that I’ve staved off defeat.
Conclusion: Not exactly plug-and-play, but after working with the settings, Molongui Authorship is not only the best one—it’s the only one that worked. Plus, you get a delightful author box.

Thanks for Your Company on This Journey

Getting credit for non-users in WordPress isn’t easy. This was a road fraught with frustration. If you ever find yourself with the need to give a byline to a non-user, I hope this can save you just a bit of that frustration.