Beta Reader Breakdown Part 2, Equip your team

Find Part 1 of Beta Reader Breakdown, Pick Your Team Here

Now onto the tough part. What do you ask the beta readers to do? Or do you say nothing? I think some rough framework is needed so I am creating a packet I will print off for each reader, it includes:

A complete print off of the entire book in the correct format, hole punched and put in a three-ring binder. I have a few reasons for this:

  1. Ease of use for the reader. They are doing you a favor lets keep things easy.
  2. It helps ensure no pages go missing, it happens. The parakeet ate it… right…
  3. It makes it official. You need your readers to take this as seriously as you are.
  4. Finally, it will be easier for you to compare them when they are returned.

I decided to go against a digital version as some of my readers advised they did not have the knowhow, or software for digital editing/critiques. You can do it digital if you want, it’s up to you and your readers. Personally, I like paper, but that’s me.

On the inside of the binder I will have a basic directions page as the first page and provide a pen and highlighter. When I say basic I mean basic. Here is what I am using:

Dear Beta Reader,

Thank you so much for agreeing to read my novel! I’m so excited about your feedback and cannot wait to get this back from you. My time line is three weeks x/xx/20xx, if you cannot finish it in that time I would still like it returned.

I’ve included a highlighter and I’d like you to simply highlight any areas of text that you felt read funny, had errors or did not seem believable. At any point you feel extreme emotions (laugh, cry, anxious etc) while reading I’d like you to draw that face next to the text like a mini emoticon.

I will ask you a few brief questions at the halfway point and at the end. Any comments or concerns as you read are appreciated but not mandatory. If you get too into the story to comment I will be so happy! 

I’d like this to be a fun collaboration for the both of us. So at any point you feel like reading has become a chore and you would rather not finish it please let me know.

Thank you again for your time helping me with this project, Sincerely Aspiring Author

Instead of doing questions after each chapter I have opted for two sets of questions. This allows the readers to experience a book-like read, which you want. While still giving you the feedback you really need. You can ask more/less questions and change them up. It’s up to you and the feedback you are wanting to get. Be sure these pages have enough room to write an adequate answer on and not all scrunched together at the top.

Half way through the novel I will ask these questions:

  1.  If you had to guess, how do you expect the story to end?
  2. What character do you like best and why?
  3. If you had to quit reading right now what questions would you still want to know the answer to?

It is so important here that you do not ask any leading questions.

For example, Do not ask, “Is so-and-so too boring a character?” A better question would be, “Do you find any characters boring or out of touch?” Let the reader decide, instead of planting a character in their minds. If you come up with ‘problem’ questions than you should revise those areas BEFORE you use beta readers. Beta readers catch things you have missed and give a reference on how close to market you are. They are not there to check your spelling, grammar, or fill your plot holes. They may find some of those things but you should have fixed those already. To learn more on revising check out my Revisions Post.

At the end of the novel I will ask these concluding questions:

  1.  Did you find the ending satisfying? Was it believable? Would you change anything?
  2. At any point did you want to quit reading? If so why?
  3. Did you feel the book moved at a good pace? At any point was it too fast/slow?
  4. Would you recommend this book to a friend to read? Why?

If you don’t like these questions you can make up your own too. A quick internet search will show thousands of options for questions to ask. A caution, do not overdo it. We all want to know everything about what people think but don’t burn out your readers with too many questions.

Now all that’s left is to wait for the readers to return those packets. I suggest more writing or reading while you wait otherwise three weeks can seem like an awfully long time. I hope this helps you navigate the forest of beta reader questions for your novel!

How about you? Any good tips/questions to add to my list? Check out part three of Beta Reader Breakdown Here for more on how to work off the critiques you received.

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