Beta Reader Questions

Happy Beta Reading Day!  For those who are lurking around my blog, here’s my approach to beta readers. Read on!


I am sending the manuscript to the beta readers tonight (eeeek)!

This is the time when I sing their praises in advance, because beta readers receive potentially flawed manuscripts. I’ve also checked my emotions at the door, because in order to make the book better, I need to hear (and be receptive to) the hard truths. And the fact is, I already know that there are parts of the book that so desperately need better writing for flow and dialogue.

So, until responses come back, here are some of the communications I’ve sent to the awesome volunteers who will be wading through my first attempt at a novel.

1. Opt in/Opt out Request— Everyone who expressed interest in being a beta reader received this message two days ago.

Good morning, friends!

You’re receiving this message because you expressed interest in being a beta reader. I understand that life happens (both literally and figuratively, as at least one beta reader is expecting a new baby any day now), so if you are unable to participate, please let me know. Otherwise, here is the plan:

  • I will be sending out the manuscript on Thursday.
  • I can send it any of the following formats (and then it is up to you to get it onto your e-reader if that is what you’d like to do): Kindle ebook (.mobi), ePub eBook (.epub), PDF, Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx), Rich Text (.rtf)
  • The survey questions are due by April 30th–There are 34 questions to answer, and I would recommend planning to spend at least twenty minutes taking the survey.
  • Once you have submitted the survey, I ask that you please delete the files from your computers and/or e-readers, and delete the email including the file attachment.
  • As a special thank you for helping me, you will be listed in the acknowledgements of the published copy if/when that day arrives.
  • In order to receive your manuscript copy, please either message me on FB or email me with your file format preference. I will not send it out until I hear from you individually. Thank you in advance! -Allison

2. I created a survey in Survey Gizmo (which I found much more user-friendly than Surveymonkey). 


  • Did the first 5 pages pull you in and make you desperate to read more? Why or why not?
  • Did the first 10 pages pull you in and make you desperate to read more? Why or why not?
  • When you first started the book, at what point did you yawn, set it down and start a game of Candy Crush/Check Facebook, etc.?
  • Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, what’s going on, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, what were you confused about at the beginning?


  • Does any part of the story draaaaaaaaaaaaaag?
  • Are there parts that you skipped or skimmed to get to “the good part”? It’s okay. You can admit it. Now tell me which ones.
  • As you continued reading, at what points did you stop, put the book down and start watching cat videos on You Tube?
  • Were there large info-dumps, particularly with back-story or technical details? Where?
  • Which part of the story was the best? Was there a sequence that you couldn’t stop reading?
  • Which part of the story was the worst and made you think you needed an alcoholic beverage or another cup of coffee just to get through it?
  • Are there parts that should be elaborated on, or made more detailed? (Did you want to read more about Penelope and Jeremy’s first kiss? … I know you did. Don’t act like you didn’t.)

The Characters:

  • Did you like Penelope Graham? Why or why not?
  • Could you relate to Penelope? Did you feel her pain, excitement, boredom, etc.? Did you hate the Mandate Contract/LSA as much as she did?
  • Who was your favorite character and why?
  • Who was your least favorite character and why?
  • Did the main characters have chemistry and did their relationship make sense?
  • Which side characters are you curious to know more about after reading this installment?


  • Can you see every action clearly in your mind? Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to fully understand what was happening?
  • Could you visualize the characters? Did you have enough information to imagine them in your head? Is more description needed?
  • Did the setting pull you in and make you want to save (or escape from) Stratford too? Did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you? Where could the setting be enhanced?
  • Did you feel like you were in the year 1958 the whole time?


  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, etc.? This is young adult, not science fiction– eye colors can’t change by themselves.
  • Was there a word or phrase that was used so often you wanted to throw the book across the room? Or perhaps at me?
  • Where did you feel like you were being hit the foreshadowing hammer? (I know, those hurt)
  • Did any part make you think, “Yeah, right!”, “Seriously?”, or “As if…”?
  • Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial?
  • Did any part of the novel make you laugh to yourself?
  • Did any part of the novel make you cry (hopefully not in boredom)?

The Ending:

  • Did you expect it to end like that?
  • Did the story leave any big unanswered questions? If so, which ones? (Please tell my you made it the end)
  • Did you love the ending, or did you absolutely hate it? Why?


  • In your opinion, what are the main strengths of the story? The main weaknesses of the story?
  • Who do you think would be interested in this book? Example: if you liked The Hunger Games, you might like Divergent.
  • In your opinion, what literary category would you put Shelved in? Example: Young Adult, Alternate History, etc.
  • Anything else you want to tell me?
  • Please spell your name the way you would like it to appear in the acknowledgements.
  • Optional: Provide your mailing address so I can send you a thank you card.

Thank you sooooooo much for being a beta reader for Shelved!
Your responses to these questions will help me whip the story into shape. You are greatly appreciated!

3. Expectations–These are the expectations I sent to the beta readers this morning.

Good morning everyone! Happy Beta Reading Day!

Here are the instructions, my expectations, and what you can expect from me.


  • Read the book
  • Pay special attention to the first two chapters. Did it draw you in? Why or why not?
  • Complete this survey: (survey link was provided)
  • Delete the book from your email, computer/laptop, and Kindle/Nook/e-reader. 
What you can expect:
  • Uneven writing–parts have been rewritten and will be great, and other parts will be, well, not great. This is a work in progress after all.
  • Potentially confusing details– if it doesn’t make sense, be sure to let me know in the survey.
  • Receptivity–I will read every comment and consider it carefully. Not all changes will make it into the manuscript, but ALL will be considered.
  • Gratitude–I know you are helping me to make it better, even if it is difficult to hear.

What I expect:

  • Please finish the book, good or bad.
  • Please complete the survey afterward.
  • Read for enjoyment–not to find punctuation or grammar problems (that’s what editors are for).
  • Look for plot holes, things that don’t make sense, things you hated, and things you loved.
  • Please try to be impartial and brutally honest. As a beta reader, at all costs, keep the thought that you are hurting my feelings under your heel until it stops wiggling. Honesty is imperative at this point in time.

Often an author has a clear picture in their mind of the personality trait of a main character, or what the setting looks like, but it doesn’t translate to paper. It is easy for writers to get too close to their projects, so your viewpoint is what will help the novel. Your opinion matters. 


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