What questions should I ask my beta readers? #amwriting

19 Oct

Using beta readers is vital for any book, fiction or non-fiction. But you have to use them well and in a focused way, so that you can work with their feedback and make sure your book is the best it can be. Here are some questions you can ask your beta readers (these are based on questions I’ve been asked and questions I’ve asked people about my non-fiction books)

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone you get to test-read your book before it goes through the final stages towards publication. You can have several rounds of beta readers, of course, but they generally come somewhere before your final rewrite and edit:

  1. Plan
  2. First draft
  3. Second draft
  5. Third draft
  6. Edit
  7. Fourth draft and preparation for publishing (layout artist)
  8. Proofread
  9. Publish

Note: You might have a substantive edit before or just after the beta readers; if you have one after that stage, it’s an idea to add another beta read in afterwards, which would give you this:

  1. Plan
  2. First draft
  3. Second draft
  5. Third draft
  6. Substantive edit
  7. Fourth draft
  9. Fifth draft
  10. Edit
  11. Sixth draft and preparation for publishing (layout artist)
  12. Proofread
  13. Publish

Questions for fiction books

Questions for fiction readers will revolve around plot, character and setting:

What is your very first thought upon reading the first paragraph?

Do the characters seem realistic / attractive / interesting to you?

Did you spot any plot holes or huge errors? (I would ask the beta reader to mark up any small issues along the way)

Did you enjoy the story?

Did the pace of the story flag or go too fast at any point?

What made you want to keep reading?

What did you think of the ending?

What did you think of the setting? Would you have liked more or less description?

Did the characters speak naturally? If not, what could I do to improve this?

What was your favourite bit of the book?

What was your least favourite bit of the book?

If it’s a book in a genre: did this fit the way this genre works? Was there anything that jarred with the usual way this genre works?

Questions for non-fiction books

These questions will be slightly different and will relate to the audience for the book and the information it provides.

What do you think about the way this book is arranged?

What did you think the aim of the book was?  Do you think it achieves that aim? What could help it to achieve that aim (even) better?

Who did you feel the book was aimed at?

Was the book personally useful to you? Can you think of people it would be useful to?

Were any sections unclear or confusing? What could I do to make them better?

Were any sections particularly good? Why do you think that is?

Questions for all beta readers

Some questions are universal:

Would you recommend this book to a friend or contact?

Who do you think this book was written for?

What kind of person would most enjoy this book?

I hope you’ve found this post interesting and/or helpful. Maybe you’re a beta reader and this has helped you to do that job! Do share any other questions you ask or have been asked in the comments so this can build into the most useful resource possible – and please share using the buttons below, too! Thank you!


Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Reading, Writing



10 responses to “What questions should I ask my beta readers? #amwriting

  1. Don Massenzio

    October 20, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.


  2. Cheryl K

    October 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    This is an interesting post, as I’ve never heard the term beta readers before. Do people get paid to do this role?


    • Liz Dexter

      October 21, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      It’s quite common but probably only within certain circles, as I’m an editor and know lots of writers and people who advise writers. I would say they don’t in the main get paid – the “payment” lies in getting to see a book before it’s published, or in helping their friend or relative work towards publication. So one stage before people who read and review Advanced Readers’ Copies. Some book editors will provide the same sort of service, but together with professional editorial comments, which will be paid for.


  3. W R Davis

    October 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for this. Very timely for me as I’ll be sending my current manuscript to beta readers in the next couple months.


    • Liz Dexter

      October 22, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      I’m glad you found it useful! And best of luck with your manuscript, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. C Heinz

    November 23, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    I just landed my first beta reading gig. I wasn’t sure what the author really wanted, besides my “honest opinion.” Your post was very helpful to me for focusing in on what aspects of my opinion that the writer probably wants. Thanks for publishing this article!


    • Liz Dexter

      November 24, 2021 at 11:12 am

      I’m so glad this was helpful for you, and thank you for letting me know! Good luck with your beta-reading!



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