Wouldn’t you love to know what your readers are thinking as they read your book? You could know when they’re excited or bored, interested or confused.
My wife is my first reader, and I always laugh at her written comments—“hmmm,” “ho hum,” or “oooooh!” These show me what to change in a way I could never do alone.
Unfortunately, most readers are not so dedicated. Instead, if you want many readers to give you advice, try sticking to these seven open-ended questions that readers can fill out after they read.
|Question||Comments about them|
|What chapters were boring, too long, or irrelevant to the plot or sub-plots?||It’s better to ask this than “Were there any?” because this makes the reader think through instead of giving a quick “no.” Though it may hurt your feelings, it will improve the book.|
|What’s missing?||You can specify this. For example, if there is a romance subplot in an adventure novel, ask if the romance seems complete|
|What did you enjoy most about the story?||This helps you feel better after the first questions. It also helps you know what to focus on as you advertise the book.|
|What book(s) would you compare with this story (writing style, genre, etc)?||You hope to get a huge compliment with this one, right? I would love for someone to say I write like Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, or Stephan R. Lawhead.But even more than a boost of encouragement, this questions helps you find your market more specifically, which in turn helps you know which agent or publisher to contact.|
|Without looking back, how would you describe the personality, looks, etc. of… [insert main characters’ names]||I want to see what impression you got, not the quality of your memory!|
|What seems unrealistic in the book?||(This is a perfect way to check if your imagination strayed too far or if you show explain the truthfulness of some stranger-than-fiction history)|
|What questions are left unanswered?||It’s okay to have some of these, especially if you’re writing a series! This question helps you know what the readers cared about in the novel and what they will leave it thinking about. Choose the unanswered questions carefully.|
A big thanks to Bob Evenhouse, from whom these questions were adapted.