Getting Feedback From your Readers

I generally recommend that you put together a questionnaire BUT...


Ken Schafer

10/22/20231 min read

When you give some chapters or a draft of your novel to your beta readers, I’d recommend putting together a list of questions for your readers, but DON’T give it to them until AFTER they’ve told you they’ve finished the material. The reason for this is that if they have the questions beforehand, they’ll be looking for the issues you ask about rather than just absorbing and reacting to your material.

Feedback from other writers is even more prone to this problem, as they typically approach the book specifically looking for things to say about it rather than just approaching it as an enjoyable read.

On your questionnaire, tell people you want real, honest answers because you’re going to do a rewrite and whatever feedback they can give you will help you focus on which areas need work, and which are already working. The questions are entirely up to you, but I try to keep them open-ended, rather than questions which will generate a yes or no answer. I generally start with something like the following:

  1. Were there any points in the story where you put the material down for several days before coming back to it--excluding those when there were extenuating circumstances in your life. If so, do you have any thoughts as to why you did so?

  2. Were there any moments, relationships or characters in the book that just didn’t ring true for you? If so, what were they?

  3. Were there any character actions that you just didn’t believe? If so, what were they and why do you think they felt false to you?

  4. Did you connect and care about the main characters? If not, what turned you off about them?

  5. Etc….

One of the big advantages of doing this rather than just getting freeform feedback, is that it allows you to see if there is any commonality of opinion between your readers, because the more people who feel one way or the other about your book, the more likely it is for it to be a relevant issue for your larger audience.