What to Ask Beta Readers


Question Mark Graffiti

Photo by Bilal Kamoon

Sometimes the hardest part about a a critiquing relationship is finding people to exchange work with in the first place.  Yesterday, I put the call out asking for beta readers and you guys were awesome.  Thank you to each of you who volunteered.  I'm beyond appreciative.

But now that I have readers for my book and am going to be beta reading in return, what's the next step?  What exactly do I need from them and they from me?  These expectations are important to set up before you exchange work.
One of the biggest issues is what level of feedback you are looking for. With my critique group, we want it all--detailed line edits, big picture stuff, repetitive words, whatever we can find (similar to what I give on Beta Club days).  This is great to get but is also a slow, time-consuming process.  To get through one book that way can take months.
For the new betas I connected with yesterday, I'm going to be asking for global feedback.  Did you like it?  Did it make sense?  What parts lost your interest?  Did you fall in love with my hero, connect with my heroine?  Did anything make you want to beat your head against the wall?  Were you invested in the story and the characters?  etc.
But as I was thinking through my questions, I searched to see if they was something more organized and ran across the questionnaire below.  I really like the structure of this one, although I will be tweaking a few things. (Don't worry betas, I won't be asking if the love scenes made you hot.  I don't need to get that personal, lol.)

Now, I'm pasting this in because the author said on the site to feel free to share, so that's what I'm doing.  You can find the original copy here.  Hope you find it as helpful as I did.



  • Does any part of the story Drag?
  • Are their parts that you skipped to get to ‘the good part’?
  • Do I over-inform anywhere?
Did you Get it?
  • Did you understand every phrase / term I used?
  • If someone unfamiliar with this world or genre read this, have I explained enough for them to understand everything?
  •  -- Did I forget to mention that someone was demon-possessed, half angelic, or had mystical powers?
Love Scenes?
  • Do any of the love scenes seem overly cliché? (Or overly sappy?)
  • Were the love scenes too fast, too slow, or too frequent?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the love scenes to understand who was doing what?
  • Did any action in the love scene make you cringe?
  •  -- Was your Comfort-Zone line crossed?
  • Did it make you hot?
Do the scenes FLOW?
  • Does one scene lead logically into the next?
  • Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?
  • Did the actions & positions flow smoothly from one to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
  • Were the Flashbacks smoothly integrated to fit onto the current scene -- or did they seem plopped in, like a chapter that was in the wrong place?  
Is anything VISUALLY Confusing?
  • Can you SEE every action clearly?
  • If you went there in real life, would you recognize the places?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who was doing what?
  • Could you SEE what the characters looked like clearly?
  • Did I forget to describe their Clothes, their Hair, their Eyes, any other distinctive feature that pertains to a specific character?
During DIALOGUE scenes…
  • Could you SEE what the characters were DOING while talking?
  • Could you SEE where the characters WERE while talking?
Did the Characters WORK?
  • Do the characters ACT realistic?
  • Does the Dialogue sound realistic?
  • Do their reactions seem logical & realistic?
  • Could you feel the Emotions between the characters?
  • Did the characters seem IN CHARACTER?
  • Who did you like best and WHY?
  • Who did you hate and WHY?
  • Who got on your nerves and WHY?
  • Does any one character get in the way of the STORY?

By the way, if you want more on beta-ing relationships, check out Justine Dell's blog.  She's done a whole series this week on her relationship with her beta, including sharing samples of their crits.


Alright, so I'm curious how your beta relationships work?  What expectations do you have for each other?  Do you seek the details or the global?  Do you give them questions upfront or do you wait and just ask follow-up questions when they're done?  Also, how'd you find your betas?


**Today's Theme Song**
"You Get What You Give" - The New Radicals
(player in sidebar, take a listen)