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BETA READERS: A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
Whether you have critique partners or you don’t, a smart final step in writing your chapter book is to recruit beta readers. For those who may not know, a beta reader is a test reader who if all goes well, will give you opinions and advice from an average reader’s perspective. But it doesn’t quite work to give the reader your book and ask, “How was it?” “What are your thoughts?” “Any advice?” Unless, of course, that works for you. However, in my opinion, what does work is to give them questions to consider while reading and to answer ultimately.
I did this with my recent chapter book Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Cowboy Trouble, and it was extremely helpful. I asked six writers to read my book and answer a list of questions I gave them. I chose to ask writers because I wanted feedback both from potential readers’ perspectives and from writers’ perspective. I feel like I got a good mix of feedback. I’m guessing getting some feedback from children ages 8 to 10 (the target audience age) would have been wise. But I thought it might be tricky to have them fill out the questionnaire. However, if you have access to a number of kids in your book’s age range and you can ask them questions and take notes, that would be a great way to go. I’m going to keep this short, but offer you lots more reading via other articles below. Following is the list of beta questions that I gave my beta readers. This will give you a good starting point in developing your own questions when you are ready to have your book read by test readers.
One tip about creating questions—make sure they are open ended so the reader provides you with specific and detailed comments instead of simply answering “yes” or “no.”
SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY (book 2) COWBOY TROUBLE
BETA READER QUESTIONS
1. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
2. Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
3. Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel her pain or excitement?
4. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
5. Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
6. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
7. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?
8. Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names or characters too similar?
9. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not how that person would speak?
10. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts? Please explain.
11. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
12. Was the ending satisfying? Believable? If not, why?
13. Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?
14. Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?
15. What do you think the take away message(s) is/are?
16. Do you notice a theme throughout the story? If so, what is the theme?
17. Do you think a prologue is necessary to clue the reader in to Sienna’s world?
18. Does this book stand alone and make sense without the first book in the series?
19. If you read the Trying to Make it Rain, does this book work well as a second book in the series?
20. If you read the Trying to Make it Rain, does this book feel consistent in voice and in Sienna’s personality?
21. Please feel free to make any other comments in areas that haven’t been addressed in this questionnaire.
Now that I’ve shared what I did, I will share the following articles that give more tips and also studies how a variety of authors approach working with beta readers.
Beta Readers: Who, When, Why, and So What? by Barbara Linn Probst
I kept my post fairly short because there is no point in reinventing the wheel. Here are links to other articles about beta readers that you might find helpful.
How to Find and Work with Beta Readers to Improve Your Book by Kristen Kieffer
To Betta or Not to Beta by Joe Moore
Writing Feedback: The Ultimate Guide to Working with Beta Readers by Amanda Shofner and Alicia Rades
Introducing the Beta Reading Worksheet by Jami Gold
Worksheets are in word.