How to Get Helpful Feedback From Beta Readers

by Carla Douglas
@CarlaJDouglas

Sending a finished manuscript out to beta readers has become a routine step in the self-publishing process. 
Beta readers can provide crucial feedback about whether your book is ready to go public, and authors know this.
It’s one thing to get readers to agree to give your manuscript an assessment; it’s another thing entirely to make the most of the precious time a beta reader spends with your material.
So, you’ve found one or more avid readers to take on the task of giving your book a first read. What next?
Read on: below I discuss how to get information you can act on from your beta readers.

How to Ask for Feedback

You’re asking your beta readers for feedback. But what does that mean? Be specific. At the very least, include a checklist so that your readers are paying attention to the kinds of things that concern you most.

Fiction

For fiction manuscripts, focus on the aspects of your book that you are least confident about.
For example, if you’ve struggled with dialogue in your novel, include a question or two about it, such as, Is it always clear who is speaking during passages of dialogue? or Does dialogue successfully advance the plot and/or help to develop character?
Encourage beta readers to write their observations and comments either in the checklist file or annotate your file.

Nonfiction

For nonfiction manuscripts, your focus will be somewhat different. People read nonfiction for information and understanding—guide your beta readers with questions about the clarity of your content and how it’s presented. You might also ask about how the book as a whole is organized.
In nonfiction, the tone of your writing is more important than you might think. The wrong tone can put a reader off early in a book—don’t be afraid to ask your beta readers about this. If you have a subject-matter expert who’s agreed to read for you, then customizing a checklist/feedback form specifically for that person is a good idea.
So, what would such a checklist look like? Below is the checklist that was sent to beta readers for Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

For both fiction and nonfiction, let your beta readers know that they needn’t pay too much attention to things like typos and formatting. You’ll cover these items later when your book is copyedited.
Your beta readers are doing you a huge favour. Giving them a checklist to guide their feedback will help them help you.
Image by goXunuReviews

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2 thoughts on “How to Get Helpful Feedback From Beta Readers

  1. Hello,
    I need to find a (some) beta reader)s) to help get my friend’s book into shape before going to print for the 3rd time. Kay has had some really bad advice in getter her book ready to publish and getting it published. I’m not an expert but I know there are people who can help us get this thing done. ANy suggestions?
    Thank you.
    William CLaypool
    415-350-2956

    1. William,
      There’s a lot of conflicting advice about how to prepare a book for publication. I’ve written a guide for self-pubs called Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, and it’s available for under two dollars on Amazon at the moment. I’d recommend starting with it. It should help you to identify what you’ve already done, what still needs to be done, and what your options are for doing it.

      Best of luck,
      Corina

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