Short List of Questions for Beta Readers
by Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications
Beta readers are your first-line editors after you have self-edited your work to the best of your ability, which means they get your “final” draft. The ideal beta reader is someone who likes the genre of your book and has read a lot of that genre. They do not have to be writers or good at spelling or grammar, although that would be nice. It is more important that they be your target reader and unafraid to tell you the truth about your writing, which means you have to be brave and not defensive. Your beta readers (and the editor you hire after fixing your manuscript again) are there to focus on helping your STORY read better, and are not attacking YOU personally. Be open to what they say, but don’t think you have to do everything they suggest.
For beta readers who are not writers or do not have the time to dissect your work, below is a short sample list of questions you should print out for them to have on hand as they read. You don’t want to overwhelm them or make them feel they have homework. You may want to give them only the first few chapters, to see if you need to re-edit the whole document to fix certain pervasive problems before giving out the whole thing.
Beta Readers, please look for:
Do the first few paragraphs or does the first chapter make you want to read more?
Mark any misspellings or incorrect grammar you notice
Are there certain words or phrases that are repeated too often?
Mark any awkward sounding sentences or any dialog that doesn’t sound realistic.
Mark and comment on anything that is confusing or needs further explanation.
Mark and comment on any sections that drag. Are they boring, too wordy, too detailed, not related to the story, distracting to the main story?
Note any inconsistency you notice in settings or characters, including if language and dress do not match the era and culture of the time and place in history.
Do you think the main characters are well-rounded? Is someone all bad, or too good to be true?
What comments in general do you have about the story, the characters, the writing? Any overall suggestions on how can it be better?