Questions for my beta readers

Sandi Scott August 30, 2016

A beta reader is someone willing to read a story before it is published and offer critical feedback so that the writer can make it a better story before it goes to print. The feedback covers things like story line, pacing, setting, characters, and voice. In exchange for their time and wisdom, beta readers get to read my cozy mysteries before they are available to the general public. They also get to have an impact on the story, as I often make changes based on beta reader feedback. If you would like to serve as a beta reader for my books, use the contact me form at the bottom of this page and let me know.

Here are the questions that I ask my beta readers to consider.  Many thanks to Joe Moore at Kill Zone from whom I borrowed the majority of these 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/his pain or excitement?
  4. Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
  5. 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? Are there parts where you wanted to skip ahead or put the book down? Where, exactly?
  6. Are there any confusing parts? What confused you?
  7. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  8. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?
  9. 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?
  10. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
  11. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
  12. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
  13. Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
  14. Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?
  15. Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?
  16. Did the actual murder mystery keep your attention? Were details and clues released too soon/soon enough/too late? Did you have a hypothesis (or multiple hypotheses) about who the killer was as you read?  Did you guess correctly?  Why or why not?

3 thoughts on “Questions for my beta readers

  1. I enjoy reading and would love to give feedback. I know how important this is, as I’m needing feedback from my beta readers on the book I’ve written and am editing right now. But I’ll share one general observation I’ve made, something I hope all cozy writers will consider:

    I’m sad to see how heroines of cozy mysteries have drifted into such an antagonistic stereotype. I really enjoy a series where the heroine is actually a likeable person, like Emily Brightwell’s Mrs Jeffries or Joanna Carl’s Lee McKinley-Woodyard. Where the main character gathers information (along with the reader) before coming to conclusions, rather than going around accusing first this person and then that one, antagonizing everyone. (And sounding like a rubber ball bouncing from suspect to suspect.)

    I’ve read a number of book blurbs describing the heroine as “smart and sassy” but when I buy the book and start reading, I find the better adjectives would be aggressive, annoying, or pugnacious. In other words, someone you hope to never have dealings with in real life. She goes about her investigation — often in open defiance of the police — acting like she’s the detective in charge. Often paying no attention to her own job, she gets in her suspects’ faces demanding answers, then jumps from one “he’s guilty!” to another on the flimsiest evidence. This may be the writer trying to create tension, but to me as a reader, she comes off sounding as if she haven’t a clue how to investigate anything.

    My tastes may be off-centre from the standard reader preferences, but I just don’t like this. Writers & editors have tried so hard to avoid the “nice Nancy Drew” character that they’ve fallen into the ditch on the other side. For me there’s nothing wrong with a protagonist being respectful of authority and considerate of others, so I hope that in future popular tastes will swing back again and we’ll see more likeable heroines. Women I’d want for friends. I’d be really happy to hear you’re doing a series with an MC like that.

  2. I’ve been in a rehab center waiting for a transplant in a life or face death situation and found light hearted romantic mysteries far better relaxation than tv or other reading, your book fit the order exactly. The best being a mystery where nobody dies, rather solving another type crime involving danger and near death for the heroine.
    I also noticed your recipe for creampuff, using egg custard filling instead of the more common vanilla cream custard, or worse, plain whipped cream. Rich Sweet Egg custard is a throwback to the middle and very early 20th Century. A compatable puff recipe for this filling and era is the one found in the Ruth Berlholtzer American Woman’s Cookbook from the early American Culinary Arts Institute… 1950’s decade edition with the green cover. I think all her books have this same puff pastry recipe. Although the filljng is the vanilla cream and not the egg cream you use, it is the egg cream that makes it “great”. These simple drop puffs bake up with large air spaces for the filling. My family ancestors baked these in home for at least 3 generations before me. Unfortunately I’m not near any of my books right now. When I used to bake them for guests at my Vacation Rental people raved over the combination of tastes and texture.

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