Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Get to a Reader’s Heart: What to Do with First Readers

First of all…Happy Valentine’s Day Eve, Penners!

I so did not want to hear “It was good” or even “It was great.” I needed specifics and I had to figure out how to get them.

What I needed was to get to a reader’s heart and past the fact that the first readers of my manuscript were people who love me and may sugarcoat the truth, which is exactly what I wanted, right?

What do your first readers really think?
That is not what a writer needs. We need the truth, so we can learn our weaknesses and polish our manuscripts until they gleam.

When I completed my first manuscript, I was concerned about this exact issue—gaining valuable reader feedback. Several of my readers were family members and close friends and I did not want to receive the standard “You did a nice job.”

I had to find a way to gain constructive feedback and determine if readers “really” liked my book. After much thought, I put my journalism training to work and wrote down questions to ask them.

These questions turned into a simple questionnaire for readers to fill out after they read my book. I feel it was exactly what I needed.

I asked questions such as “What stands out in your mind about the book?” and “Was the ending satisfying? If not, why?” plus more.

In using the questionnaire, I found that when you ask specific questions people are more apt to tell you the pros and cons of your work. When they are not blindsided with your enthusiastic “don’t you think my baby’s beautiful?” approach, the readers have space to step back and analyze the work.

What did they like? What did they not like? If they liked it, what did they like about it? It’s simple enough, right? You just have to know which questions you want to ask.

Do you have a favorite method of gaining constructive feedback? Please share.

As a Valentine’s Day gift, I have posted my reader questionnaire below. Use it as is or tweak it for your needs. I hope it helps you on your writing journey as much as it helped me.

For more information about first readers or beta readers, check out  literary agent Rachelle Gardner's post - "Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work?"

Reader Questionnaire

Your Name:

Date Completed:

Rate the Book: Loved it – Really Liked It – Liked It – It was Okay – Did Not Like It

1) What stands out in your mind about the book? A certain scene, characters, theme, etc.?

2) What were the book’s strongest moments?

3) What were the book’s weakest moments?

4) Were you confused about any part of the book? If so, which one/s?

5) What surprised you the most in the book? Did you guess anything correctly?

6) Was the ending satisfying? If not, why?


  1. Hey, could I just ask, 'Isn't my book beautiful?' haha

    1. hehe. Well, you always could, but the response may not be as constructive as you need. :)

  2. These are great questions and suggestions--thanks, Morgan! And Happy Valentine's Day. :)

    1. You're welcome, Kiersti! Thanks for stopping by! Happy V-Day to you too!! :)

  3. Morgan, I should be writing right now, but I've been wanting to stop by your blog all day. :) I love your questionnaire. You ask the perfect questions. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Hi Jeanne! You're welcome! I'm so glad you stopped by. Sorry to keep you from writing though! :)

      This blog post idea was you and Jennifer Major's doing (from your comments at Rachelle Gardner's blog. lol). Thanks! Happy V-Day again!

  4. Thanks, Morgan! (BTW, I'm the writer who sparked Rachelle's blog post on readers).

    1. Hi Anne! You're welcome. Thanks for stopping in and commenting! That's too cool! The spark must continue... :)

      Hope you have a great weekend!