I’m getting ready to send a manuscript to my beta readers. Here are the guidelines and questions I’m asking them to consider before and during the reading process.
Let’s face it, there’s no use having someone tell you how wonderful your work is because that doesn’t allow you to make it any better. You need to have the flaws pointed out so you can fix them.
So here goes.
Dear Beta Readers,
First and foremost I want to say a huge Thank You for taking the time to read my manuscript and answer my questions. I know how important and valuable your time is and I want you to know how much I appreciate your dedicated focus and confidentiality to this project. Please do not share or forward the story to others and at the end return all materials to me.
It’s imperative for the story to not only be believable and relatable, but it also needs to be well written and as error-free as possible.
That is where you come in.
You’ve been chosen as my second set of eyes because I trust your judgment and know that you’ll be brutally honest with me. Please know that you’re one of five readers providing feedback. Differing opinions and views help me to see things that I may have missed.
As a writer, it’s crucial the story I’m trying to relate makes it out of my imagination and onto the page. I know my characters, settings, and plot too well and that means when I read it I could be superimposing what I know should be there as opposed to what is written. I sure hope that makes sense because you as a beta reader are integral to the process of producing a polished product.
Here are some questions that I’d like you to consider and answer either along the way or when you’re done. Please keep a notebook nearby when you read or track your changes/comments as you go through the drafted manuscript. Please elaborate on your thoughts and be as specific and thorough as possible.
With your honest answers and thoughts, I will then be able to go back and make necessary changes, clean up, and/or corrections. Your opinion is valued and trusted and I couldn’t do it without you. And, remember—be honest—I can take it.
- When did the story grab you? What was it that hooked you into the story?
Would you have carried on after the first two chapters if you were reading this on your own? Were there any points when you found yourself drifting away? Were you bored? Was it too predictable?
- Did you like the characters? Why or why not? Which ones resonated with you? Did you understand the motivations of the characters? Were they believable? Did any seem unrealistic or over the top? Was the language/vernacular used by the characters appropriate? How was their dialogue? Did it feel stilted or forced? Did you think about or contemplate any of the actions, dialogue, and/or character situations related in the book when you weren’t reading or were away from the manuscript for any length of time? What part of the story? Which characters?
- Were there any places in the novel where the plot timing, names, descriptions were incorrect? Thing like stating the wrong hair color, the incorrect season, or plot holes that raise questions as to how something could have happened. Note anything that is jarring or makes you stop and question the narrative, characters, or plot. Also, note any grammatical and/or spelling errors that you come across.
- At any time did you have an emotional response to the story, the characters, actions, etc? When? What was the reaction (anger? sad? crying? laughter?)? What was your favorite part? Least favorite?
- What did you think of the ending? Is it what you expected? What were you expecting? Were you disappointed? Was there anything that you didn’t like or feel was left hanging that needs to be addressed? Was there any sense of satisfaction with the ending? Did the story stay with you afterward for any length of time? Were you sad to have the book end? Please elaborate.
- What did you think of the point of view (POV) from which the story was told? Was it believable? Appropriate? Did the point of view help you relate to the characters?
- Were you ever confused as to what was going on in the story? Please explain.
- What did you think of the structure, chapter sequences, or organization of the book? Were the chapters too long?
- Did you have to force yourself to finish reading the manuscript? Where did it lose you? What would you suggest to add, delete, or tweak?
- Is this a book you’d recommend to your friend or family member? Why or why not?
- Any additional thoughts or comments? Likes or dislikes? Remember nothing is too minor.
Thanks again for being my beta reader.
Please return the manuscript and notes to me within four weeks.