Beta Readers

I’m trying to find beta-readers. I’m also trying to find critquers who actually critique, understand the genre, and don’t try to force changes. One candidate has been sorta helpful. The rest have been less than. Going to friends and family has been more like this:

“Oh my God! It is so cute to watch Katty take her little hobby seriously! I’ll go ahead and tell her I’ll look at her manuscript because I don’t want to discourage her, but I really won’t.”

“Seriously? An author? Why are you wasting your time? No, I am not encouraging this. You’re not good enough to be published and you never will be and I know this even though I haven’t read your work.”

Either way, it’s a pain in the ass to find someone who says they will read, in a timely fashion, offer honest critique, and actually do it. But you know – I have no money, so I have to keep trying.

I asked for advice on this subject on the self-publish yahoogroup and got a few responses. I knew beta-readers had to be “trained-” You can’t just give them the MS and say “tell me what you think.” This apparently leads to mental shutdown on the part of the beta (I’ve proven this, empirically. Repeatedly.) I read the responses and went out and dug around offered websites and came up with my own “process” and list of questions.


Beta Reader Template.

1 – initial email

2 – one email at the 5 week point, another at the 11 week point, if needed

*** Initial email ***

You’ve expressed interest in being a beta-reader for my work, and I’m currently at a place where I can offer you that, if you’re interested.

XXX blurb of the story here XXX

The response time I’m looking for the whole book is 6 weeks, but I can wait as long as 3 months. If you don’t think you can commit to this timeframe, tell me now. The reason for this timeframe is because I need to be able to edit and move on to the next story in the queue in a timely fashion. As things actually get rolling in terms of publication, this timeframe will be more important, because I’ll have deadlines to publish under and I cannot hold up a deadline and maintain an even vaguely professional appearance at the same time.

If you don’t feel compelled to finish the story after the first chapter, just tell me. I need to know the specific reasons you didn’t like it so I can address the problem now, not after the manuscript goes live and I get roasted by trolls. I would much rather hear negative comments from people I know and trust than someone I’ve no background on nor desire to meet.

Sending you this book is not an invitation to share it with your friends. I understand your friend may have an interest in this genre, and may even be a nice guy, but unless I feel comfortable with this person reading and commenting on my work, I don’t want you to share it.

There are questions I’m sending you now, and another round of questions I’ll be sending you after you jump up and yell “Done!”

This first round of questions I would like you to keep in the back of your head as you read.

1 – Is anything confusing? Did I lose you somewhere along the tour and now have to send back a guide to hook you up with the rest of the group? Why?

2 – What scenes are boring the snot out of you? Why?

3 – Were there repetitive words, certain phrases that leap out at you/or distract you from reading? What words/phrases?

4 – What scenes grab your face and hold your attention? Why?

5 – Is there anything that leaps out at you as just not belonging or not needed in the story? What and Why?

After the story comes back:

Yay! You survived my story, answered my questions and your brains are mostly intact! Now I get to pester you with even more questions!

1 – Did the blurb I sent you match the book you read?

2 – Was the setting clear? Did you have a reasonable idea of what the people and places looked like?

3 – What are your opinions of the characters? Which ones stood out to you? Were their motivations clear? Did their actions make sense? Did you want to throttle one and bury him/her in the backyard?

4 – Did you have to flog yourself to keep reading at any point? If yes, where and why?

5 – Did you have problems with the dialogue? If yes, where?

6 – Did you have problems with the narrative (the parts where the characters are not talking)? If yes, where?

7 – Were you satisfied with the ending, or did you feel a desire to hunt me down and cut out my heart with a spoon?

8 – What would you cut out of the story entirely, if you had your way?

9 – Did you have problems following any part of the story? Which part and why?

10 – Did you encounter twists that upset you or did you enjoy them?

11 – Was the story too long/too short? Why?

What questions would you add?


About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
This entry was posted in critique, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beta Readers

  1. doreeweller says:

    Beta readers, critiquers who actually critique, and people who say they’ll read it an then do… I agree that they’re really hard to find. I think your template and questions are great. You probably need some genre specific questions though. I’m not sure if this is one of your fantasy, steampunk, or romance books, but you should probably add something related to that, like” was the world building clear” or “how was the chemistry between the main characters?” (I realize these are vague examples, but you get the point.)


  2. The template is still in the building phase. I wanted something generic that I could tweak as needed, but I will definitely have to add the world-building and the chemistry questions.


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