Faye Arcand, My Twisted Writer Brain…

What Do You Want Your Beta-Readers to Look For?

Now that we all know what a beta-reader actually is, it’s imperative to prepare them prior to reading your unpublished book. This will help all to be on the same page and hopefully avoid confusion.

A beta-reader is there to casually read and ultimately critique your work. They are not there to edit or make changes. Hopefully, you used an alpha reader as well to work out any writing or craft issues.

I’ve prepared a letter and sample questions that you may want to share with your beta-readers.

I find that the questions help ground the readers and give them a sense of purpose in the exercise of beta-reading.

If you simply hand over a manuscript with no instructions or questions then the reader has no focus. If asked what they liked about the book they won’t be able to give specifics which is what you want.

The questions are just a guide so feel free to make them your own.

Dear Beta-Reader,

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, copy, or forward the story to others and at the end, return all materials to me.

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. 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’s where you come in. As a beta reader you’re an integral part of the process in helping me produce a polished, professional, and enjoyable product.

Please answer the following questions as thoroughly as possible. Don’t worry about hurting my feelings–if you don’t like something please let me know.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. Were there any places in the novel where you felt the plot timing, names, descriptions were incorrect? Things that gave you pause–like hmm that doesn’t sound right or hey didn’t you say ABC on page 10 now it’s DEF? Note anything that is jarring or makes you stop and question the narrative, characters, or plot.
  4. 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?disbelief?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. Were you ever confused as to what was going on in the story? Please explain.
  8. What did you think of the structure, chapter sequences, or organization of the book? Were the chapters too long? Did you like the chapter headings?
  9. 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?
  10. Would you recommend this book to your friend or family member? Why or why not?
  11. Any additional thoughts or comments? Likes or dislikes? Remember nothing is too minor.

Make sure you thank your readers.

I hope this helps you and your readers so that everyone is on the same page and the beta-read experience is a useful and rewarding one for all involved.

6 thoughts on “What Do You Want Your Beta-Readers to Look For?”

  1. I hope to get far enough with my novel that I’ll eventually need a beta reader. These are very helpful guidelines, Faye!

    1. Well, you ended up leaving a comment. lol. Hello and nice to meet you Kamloopsian. Are you from Kamloops? I’m only 4 hours from there. I hope you come back to leave some thoughts.

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