April 2, 2016 | Posted in: April 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, Author Resources, Writing & Grammar Tips, XterraWeb Book Blog

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B is for Beta Reader

What is a beta reader? Why authors need a beta reader

What is a Beta Reader—and why should an author have one (preferably several)?

A beta reader is an individual who reads an author’s manuscript before it is sent to an editor and provides the author with unbiased, helpful advice. A beta reader will read an author’s manuscript from a reader’s perspective and offer constructive criticism focusing on the flow and/or pace of the story, characterization, dialogue, and potential plot holes. Authors can miss things or be too hard or too easy on themselves. Using beta readers can help ensure an author hasn’t overlooked something vital in their novel.

A “good” beta reader will:

  • Provide in-depth feedback and detailed explanations about potential issues with characters, dialogue, timeline, flow/pacing, plot, etc.
  • Provide feedback in a constructive, unbiased fashion
  • Balance positives and negatives
  • Pay attention to particular aspects of the manuscript the author has expressed concerns about
  • Offer ideas and/or suggestions about ways to eliminate any issues and/or improve the story
  • Work within the given time frame the author has requested or give a reasonable estimate of how long it will take the beta reader to read the manuscript and provide the author with feedback

Authors and beta readers may find it helpful if the author provides beta readers with a list (or questionnaire) about what the author wants the beta readers to look for and the type of feedback the author would like.

Sample Beta Reader Questions

  • Did the story hold your interest from the beginning? If not, why?
  • Were you bored at any point?
  • Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is and where/when it’s taking place? If not, why?
  • Could you relate to the main character(s)? Did you feel his her pain/excitement?
  • Did the setting interested you? Did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
  • Was there anything you didn’t understand?
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  • 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 was this?
  • Were the characters believable? Did their actions/dialogue fit their personalities?
  • Were there any characters you felt could be more interesting or likable?
  • Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters and/or the relationship of any of the characters to the main character?
  • Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few?
  • Were any of the names of the characters too similar? Too difficult to pronounce?
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequence, places, character details, or other details?
  • Did the dialogue keep your interest?
  • Did the dialogue move the story forward?
  • Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial, stilted, or not like that person would speak?
  • Was there too much (or not enough) dialogue in any parts?
  • Did you feel there was too much description or exposition (sometimes referred to as an “information dump”)?
  • Did you feel enough description or exposition wasn’t given at any point?
  • Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
  • Was the ending satisfying? Believable? Was it a cliffhanger? If so, did it “fit” the story and resolve any conflicts?
  • Did you think the writing style suited the genre? If not, why?
  • Did you notice any obvious repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization errors? Can you provide examples?
  • Which scenes/paragraphs/lines did you really like?
  • Which parts did you dislike or not like as much, and why?
  • Are there parts that made you want to skip ahead or put the book down?
  • Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
  • Which parts should be elaborated or brought more to life?
  • Did any parts confuse you? What confused you?
  • Which characters did you really connect to?
  • Which characters need more development or focus?


  1. Cynthia
    April 2, 2016

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    This is such a good idea and very informative for those that are just starting with the beta reader thing. Thanks for this Kelly!

  2. Tom
    April 2, 2016

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    Another great post and one worth saving.
    A few days ago I released my fourth anthology of short stories – checked by no less than twelve beta readers.
    There are twelve stories in the book and each story had between two and four readers. I’m pleased to say I had no big issues to resolve but it gave me more confidence in the finished article.

  3. miladyronel
    April 4, 2016

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    Very informative. Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

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