Writing and Publishing

Beta Reader Questions That Writers Should Ask

beta reader questions

When working with beta readers, it’s important to set expectations with them or the feedback you get may not be helpful. To guide this effort, ask the same beta reader questions of each person.

Three Key Beta Reader Questions

1. What parts did you like? Your first question will let you know what parts not to change. This is key.

2. What parts confused you? Identifying confusing parts is also important. If even one beta-reader is confused, many more readers will be confused later.

3. What parts bored you? The third question is also insightful. Boring parts will cause readers to stop reading. You might never get them back. Be sure to fix all the boring sections. This may require rewriting, replacing, or deleting them.

If your beta readers answer these three questions, they’ll give you a lot of valuable information.

Beta Reader Strategies

There’s one other item about beta readers.

Some writers send their work to several beta readers at once, while others send it out sequentially, applying feedback from the first reader before sending it to the second one.

The first approach is faster. The second approach will help you craft a better book.

(Check out “7 Things to Look for in a Beta Reader.”)

Discern Beta Reader Feedback

In all this, the important thing is to get feedback. Then discern what feedback to follow and what to disregard. Don’t do everything your beta readers suggest but only what makes sense to you.

Writing and Publishing

What Type of Book Will Yours Be?

My books are overflowing my shelves

A couple of years ago, I wrote about “Six Types of Books in My Library.” In summary, this is how I view my books on my bookshelves:

  1. Books Worth Keeping: I enjoyed them once, and I’ll read them again.
  2. Reference Materials: Books with the information I want to keep.
  3. Books I Plan to Read: I really do intend to read them—someday.
  4. One Reading Was Enough: I enjoyed these books, but once was sufficient.
  5. Books I Started But Never Finished: Despite initial promise, I gave up on them.
  6. Books That Seemed Like a Good Idea: I’ll never get around to reading them.

Running out of space and wanting to downsize, I gave away all my books in the last three categories. Some of those books will be read, many will be thrown away, and the rest will be dismissed—again. At some point, my books in category 3 will likely go, too.

With self-publishing options so prevalent today, anyone can publish a book. The question is, what category will these books end up in? Too many will fall into category 5 and 6. Some may not even rate that high. That’s because too many writers are impatient with the writing and publishing process, cutting short the honing of their work.

[bctt tweet=”Too many writers are impatient with the writing and publishing process, cutting short the honing of their work.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

While we can’t guarantee that the books we write will end up in the “worth keeping” category, we can increase the likelihood through:

  • Careful writing and rewriting
  • Listening to feedback from critique partners and beta-readers
  • Hiring a copy-editor
  • Paying for professional cover design and interior layout

May your next book be one that people actually read and then keep to read again.

Writing and Publishing

Seven Things to Look For in a Beta Reader

Have a beta reader give you feedback on your book

Selecting the Right Beta Reader is Key to Receiving Helpful Feedback

We’ve talked about the importance of having a beta reader to give feedback on our books. I hope you’re as sold on the idea as I am.

The next step is finding beta readers—not just anyone but the right ones. If we pick a beta reader who isn’t a good match, they could do more harm than good, both for our book and for our career.

[bctt tweet=”If we pick a beta reader who isn’t a good match, they could do more harm than good, both for our book and for our career. ” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

The ideal beta reader should:

1. Be a Regular Reader

If they aren’t a regular reader, how can they provide usable feedback? While they don’t need to be voracious, they do need to read. Ask them how many books they’ve read in the past six months. Their answers will be enlightening.

2. Speak the Truth (in Love)

Beta readers who don’t want to hurt our feelings will tell us our book is perfect; they offer no value. Beta readers must commit to giving honest feedback but in a constructive way.

3. Respect Our Writing Voice

If a beta reader wants to change our writing voice, they will only generate irritation for us and frustration for them and us. They must resist the urge to reword what we write.

4. Know the Genre

Do they read and like our genre? If the answer is “no,” then they aren’t the right beta reader for our project.

5. Like Our Premise

Beta readers need to have a positive predisposition for our topic or story at the onset. If a non-fiction book has a thesis they disagree with or a fiction book with a storyline that irritates them, they will likely struggle through the entire project.

6. Be Committed

Will the beta reader finish the project? How long will they take? Too many people agree to be a beta reader but never follow through. See item seven.

7. Have a Beta Reader Experience

Everyone at one time has no experience, so our book may be his or her first one. However, the more experience they have, the better the chance the results will be good.

For more info, check out the post about setting expectations with beta readers.

Writing and Publishing

Why Our Books Need Beta Readers

beta readers

The more people who provide feedback on our books the better. Of course, to be of benefit, this needs to happen before publication, when there is time to make changes. Although review by various types of editors (each pass focusing on different elements) is essential, basic feedback is first needed to work out the kinks, spot embarrassing errors, and correct deficiencies before handing it over to professionals. The more work we do before editors do theirs, the more they can do to improve it.

[bctt tweet=”Beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

Once we do all we can ourselves, beta readers can give us critical feedback to make our book better before we move to the next step.

Beta readers can catch:

  • Typos: We all make them, but we don’t always catch them.
  • Spelling errors: Of course we always spell check our work; however, what about when we use the wrong word but spell it correctly?
  • Repetition: We write over time and can easily repeat an idea. When we move sections around, sometimes they end up in the book twice.
  • Logic blunders: Another set of eyes can take a fresh look at our logic.
  • Continuity oversights: To make sense, things need to occur in a certain sequence; sometimes we’re too close to notice when our words are out of order.
  • Bad writing habits: Every writer has a least one bad habit or less-than-ideal tendency, but it usually takes someone else to point them out.

While one beta reader won’t spot all these items, they will help us hone our work. Then we can tap a second person for another pass.

Beta readers help us become better writers and produce better work.

Next week: What to look for in a beta reader.

Writing and Publishing

Where Do We Find Beta Readers?

We wrap up this series of posts about beta readers by answering the essential question of where to find a beta reader.

  • Relatives: Our family is often a great place to start. While not every family member would make a great beta reader, there are likely some relatives who would enjoy it and provide helpful feedback. Family members, however, may not be as critical as needed, since they want to encourage us and don’t want to hurt our feelings. Even so, relatives are a great source to give our work its first read.
  • Friends: Next in line are friends. Just as with family, friends may also not be as critical as needed, but they can provide an array of feedback from different perspectives.
  • Writers: Other writers and authors may be open to be a beta reader, especially if they are closely connected with us or if they want to swap beta reading work.
  • Readers: Some of our most engaged followers, such as blog readers or mail list subscribers, may jump at the chance to be a beta reader for us.
  • Online: A Google search for “finding beta readers” gives five million results. The first match is a beta reader group on Goodreads, which has 3,600 members and will surely provide some good beta readers if we’re willing to invest the time to find them.

I’ve used the first three items and am open to the fourth while finding a beta reader on Goodreads is the most intriguing idea.

What other ideas do you have? Who have you used as a beta reader?