What questions should authors ask their beta readers? What questions do they not need to ask?
In this article, we’ll discuss the 20 questions for beta readers that every author should be asking. These include questions about things like grammar and punctuation, story flow, characters, dialogue, and much more. As an author, it’s important to know what you want from your reader when giving them a copy of your book for review.
If you don’t feel like reading through the list, scroll on down to the bottom of the article and download my FREE Checklist with these questions. Just print it out and hand it to your beta readers!
20 Of The Best Questions For Beta Readers
1. Are the first ten pages compelling enough to keep you reading?
This question is important because it can help you determine whether or not your readers are engaged at the beginning of your story. If they’re not, then there’s a good chance that the rest of the book won’t keep their attention either.
FIX: Look at your first ten pages and see if anything needs to be tweaked. Are the characters likable? If the answer is no, ask the read what issues they had and try to make changes. Is the plot interesting? If not, brainstorm a few ideas to make it more captivating.
Make sure you read your opening pages aloud to help catch any awkward sentences or phrases that may be slowing down the pacing.
2. Do you find yourself skimming through pages?
If your beta reader is skimming through your pages, it’s a sign that there’s something wrong with the story. Maybe the plot isn’t interesting enough, the writing is choppy, or the characters are flat.
FIX: If your beta reader is skimming, take a step back and examine what may be causing this reaction. Are you introducing too many characters at once? Is the plot confusing? Are the sentences choppy and difficult to read?
Once you’ve determined what the issue is, make the necessary changes so that your readers will want to keep reading until the end.
3. Did you get a sense of whose narrative it is and when and where the story takes place right away?
If your reader answers ‘no’, to this question, ask them why. It’s important that your readers are able to connect with your characters and understand the story quickly so that they want to continue reading. There is little worse than reading 20 pages of a book and still not knowing what’s going on.
FIX: If your reader is having trouble understanding whose point of view the story is being told from, take a look at your chapter headings and make sure they’re clear. You may also want to use more dialogue throughout the book to help orient your readers to the story.
4. Do you know who the main characters are and what motivates them?
Your readers should be able to identify the protagonist of the story (and any other major characters) within a few chapters. They also need to understand why they’re doing whatever it is that they’re doing. A character without motivation or purpose isn’t compelling, which means people won’t want to read about them.
FIX: Take a look at your characters and make sure they’re well-defined. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask yourself the following questions: What is their goal? What are their quirks? What makes them unique? Why would someone root for them?
5. Are you confused at any point in the story?
This is an important question to ask because if your reader gets confused at any point in the book, it’s likely they’ll be bored. Make sure that there aren’t questions being asked throughout the story that go unanswered or things left unexplained.
FIX: If you have a lot of questions throughout your story, it’s likely that you haven’t provided enough clues for readers to piece things together. Look at each scene and make sure you’re providing enough information so that readers won’t be left scratching their heads.
You may also want to consider using a prologue or epilogue to clarify any confusing questions that may have arisen throughout the book.
6. How do you relate to the characters?
With this question, you want to figure out if your readers are able to identify with the characters in some way. If they’re not, then it’s likely that you haven’t done a great job of making them relatable.
FIX: Consider tweaking your character descriptions so that there is something about them that people can relate to or understand. Also, make sure you’ve given enough backstory so that readers can better understand their motivations and what makes them tick.
Good questions to ask:
- What does your character want?
- Why do they want it?
- How far will they go to achieve this goal?
- Who is the most important person in your protagonist’s life, why are they important, and how has this relationship shaped your protagonist?
- Who is the antagonist and what motivates them to be a bad guy (or gal)?
- What’s at stake if your protagonist fails in their goal?
- How will this affect the characters involved with the story as well as those around them?
7. Was the setting interesting to you, and did the descriptions feel real and vivid to you?
One of the most important things an author can do is create a believable setting. If your reader doesn’t feel like they’re in the story, then it’s likely they’ll be bored.
FIX: Take a look at your setting and make sure you’ve described it in enough detail. You may also want to consider adding more sensory details so that readers can get a better sense of what’s going on.
8. Did the story start to lag at any point? If your answer is yes, when and why?
If your reader answers this questions with a yes, then it’s likely that you’ve got some work to do. You don’t want your story spending too much time on one thing and not enough on another so ask yourself if the pacing is off.
FIX: Take a look at how long each scene lasts and make sure things are moving at a decent pace throughout the book. If you feel like a certain section is dragging, then consider cutting it down or adding more action.
Also, make sure you’re providing enough tension and conflict to keep readers engaged.
9. Is there anything you see as an opportunity to change something about the main character’s perspective or point-of-view?
(i.e., who is narrating; what year it is set in; how much information is given about secondary characters)?
10. What’s your feedback on the overall flow of the story?
11. Are there any parts in the middle that feel like they could use more tension or conflict?
12. What did you think of the dialogue (was it believable)?
Your dialogue should sound like how people actually talk so make sure your characters aren’t speaking in overly formal or stilted ways.
FIX: Make sure you’re not over-explaining things and that conversations are realistic (i.e., questions, interruptions, etc.) You may also want to consider having someone read through the dialogue out loud to get a better sense of how it sounds.
13. Did the plot make sense to you?
If your reader says no, then it’s likely that you’ve got some explaining to do. Plots can be tricky so ask yourself questions like:
- What is the conflict in my story and what are the stakes?
- What is the climax and how does it resolve the conflict?
- Do all of my plot points tie together neatly in the end?
FIX: Once you’ve answered these questions, consider revising your story so that it makes more sense. Also, pay attention to how everything ties together and make sure the flow is logical rather than just throwing characters into random situations.
14. Have you noticed any inconsistencies or discrepancies in the sequence of events, locations, character names, or other elements?
This is more common than you may think, so it’s important to have someone else read through your story for mistakes.
FIX: Go through and make sure all of the details in your story are correct. This includes things like character names, locations, dates, etc.
15. Did anything happen towards the end of the book that felt rushed or out of place?
It is easy for things to feel rushed towards the end of a book, so make sure you take the time to properly wrap up your story.
FIX: Make sure all of your plot points are tied together and that nothing feels out of place. If something does happen near the end that feels rushed, then consider expanding on it more.
16. What did you think of the ending? Is it satisfying?
17. Did you notice any consistent grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors? If yes please give examples?
Have your reader list any glaring errors and the page number where they’re found. This will allow you to go back and fix any mistakes before it’s too late.
18. Was there anything that surprised you?
This question just provides you with insight into your reader’s thought process.
19. Would you read another book by this author?
This is a question that all authors want to know, and it can be tricky to get an honest answer from readers. After all, no one wants to hurt an author’s feelings! You may also want them list any questions they had about the book.
FIX: Consider adding questions that help determine what your reader thinks about the book as a whole, how it compares to other books they’ve read in the same genre, and whether or not they’d recommend it to friends. These questions will give you an idea of how effective your writing is when compared with others in its class.
20. Are there any questions you still have about the book?
This is a final opportunity for your beta reader to voice their opinion. In the event that there was not a question that covered their concerns, this will allow them space for free thought and critique.
Now, some questions you might have…
What Can I Expect From A Beta Reader?
A good beta reader should:
1) Know what they’re reading – This means having read similar books in the genre as well as being familiar with general publishing practices such as editing requirements.
2) Be honest but constructive – A good beta reader wants to help improve your story but will also be honest about what didn’t work for them.
How do I select the right beta readers?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to find beta readers will vary depending on your project.
However, a few things to keep in mind when selecting beta readers are:
– Their level of knowledge about your genre and the publishing industry
– Their ability to be critical but supportive
– Their availability to read and provide feedback in a timely manner
– Whether or not they have experience beta reading/editing books
Can Beta Readers Steal Your Work?
No, beta readers cannot steal your work. However, it’s important to choose your beta readers wisely and trust them not to share your work with anyone else.
As long as you have a solid agreement in place – such as a confidentiality agreement – then you can rest assured that your work will be safe with them.
Additionally, you can read all about copyright here.
Of course, you do not need to use all 20 of these questions. However, they should give you a good starting point for determining what feedback to solicit from your readers.
As always, be sure to listen to your beta readers with an open mind and take their feedback to heart – after all, it’s their opinion that can help make or break your book!
Finally, be sure to thank your beta readers for their invaluable feedback and insight. While you may not use all of their suggestions, it’s important to show your appreciation for their help!