Question: What are beta readers, and how can I find a few to read my manuscript and provide feedback? 



Before publishing a manuscript, there are several stages of editing and revisions an author must go through to produce the best book possible. These include utilizing critique partners, doing self-editing, acquiring beta readers, and hiring a professional editor.

While critique partners are individuals you might use for feedback throughout the drafting process, beta readers are most beneficial once you have a completed manuscript you’ve already self-edited. You can think of beta readers as test screeners who preview your work before it is officially released, just like movie test screenings.

Beta readers are not professional editors, but can help with big picture questions and provide an honest critique of your work from a reader’s point of view. For fiction, they can point out plot points that are missing, comment on the pacing and any parts that lag, say whether characters are likable and if the conflict is clear, and let you know if the story maintained their interest throughout. For nonfiction, they can point out things that are confusing, flag parts that aren’t well-defined, comment on the flow and order of content, and let you know if the problem and solution are clear.

We know it can be difficult to entrust others with your writing, but getting this honest feedback from beta readers is critical to the overall success of your book, and is a stage that should not be skipped.

Beta readers are people you ask to read your self-edited manuscript and provide feedback.
What to Look for in a Good Beta Reader

People in your immediate circle like family and friends might seem like the most convenient options for beta readers, but you need to consider how honest they will be with you when reviewing your work and providing feedback. Those closest to you are likely very supportive of your writing and do not want to hurt your feelings or confidence. They are usually not the best options for beta readers.

A qualified beta reader can be someone in your close network, but he or she must be familiar with your genre of writing and the expectations set by the industry. They must also be willing and able to provide constructive criticism, even if it might be tough for you to hear.

To help narrow down the list of potential beta readers and find qualified candidates, you’ll want to look for these characteristics:

They are your ideal target readerYour target readers are those individuals most likely to purchase and benefit from reading your book. It’s important to identify the specific demographics and psychographics of this group early on in the writing process so that you understand the readers for whom you are writing. These ideal readers are often driven by your book’s genre or topic.


They are an avid reader familiar with your genre – An individual may not be in your book’s primary target audience, but does fall into one of your secondary audiences, meaning they might read your genre along with many others. Avid readers tend to read widely and are naturally familiar with trope, structure, and content expectations that come with different genres. They also understand quality writing that keeps them engaged and interested throughout the entire book.


They can provide an honest critique – You want to identify individuals that can be objective when reading your work and who won’t be influenced by their personal relationship with you. Getting biased or sugarcoated feedback might be flattering, but will not be helpful.

They are reliable and responsive – Requesting someone read an entire manuscript and provide feedback is a big ask. If an individual you are considering is not the most reliable or responsive, they will likely not be a good beta reader. It’s important to be clear about your time frame and what you are asking before requesting someone to commit.


If they are an expert on your topic or theme – If you’ve written about a complex topic or area of expertise, it’s helpful to have at least one beta reader that can speak to the accuracy of your content. For example, if you’ve given your main character a medical condition you aren’t familiar with other than through research, it can be beneficial to have someone personally familiar with that medical condition comment on the believability of your character’s experiences. Or, maybe you are writing about a culture that is not your own. Finding someone with that cultural background to review your work will ensure it is authentic.


If they have an understanding of writing craft – Your beta readers don’t have to have writing experience themselves, but it is beneficial to have at least one that understands elements of writing craft such as tense, point of view, storytelling structures, dialogue, and writing techniques. Fellow writers in your network are a great place to look for potential beta readers.

You’ll want to aim to have at least five beta readers so you can get a broad spectrum of feedback, but even if you can only get a commitment from two or three beta readers, some is more helpful than none. This means asking more than five individuals, knowing some may decline for various reasons, and others may not get feedback to you in your desired time frame.

Where to Find Qualified Beta Readers

Building a beta reader group can be more difficult than it sounds. Many people will say they are willing to provide honest feedback in exchange for a copy of your manuscript, but only a few will actually follow through. It takes a lot of time and effort to read an entire manuscript, reflect on it, and provide meaningful feedback to the author.

To find a good mix of qualified readers and writers, we recommend looking in these four places to build your beta reader group:

Your current personal and professional network can be a good place to look for beta readers.Your Current Network

Your existing personal and professional network is a natural place to start when searching for beta readers. Using the qualification characteristics noted above, review your network and flag any individuals you feel meet some of these requirements. You might find co-workers, former classmates, extended family members, friends of friends, or social acquaintances that could be a good fit.

If you already have an email marketing list and are sending a weekly or monthly newsletter to your followers, you can send an email asking if anyone is interested in receiving an advance review copy of your book in exchange for honest feedback. This can be a great way to engage eager readers of your genre since they’ve signed up for your newsletter and are interested in your content.

Social Media

It’s never too early to start building your presence online as an author, and social media can be very effective for connecting you with readers around the world. You can post on your social media pages that you are seeking beta readers to see if anyone is interested. Or, you can dig deeper into specific social media platforms to find relevant groups and connect by engaging and commenting. Facebook, for example, has several beta reader groups that connect writers and readers such as Beta Readers & Critiques with 19K+ members. Goodreads has a similar group called Beta Reader Group with 26K+ members.

Other Writers/Authors

Writing groups and communities are great places to connect with like-minded individuals working toward common goals. You can find groups locally that meet in person, or regional, national, and global groups that meet and communicate online. These writing groups may include more experienced authors that can provide guidance and critiques. Getting feedback and advice on your manuscript from other writers can be invaluable.

ALC members have access to Author Circle forums. Once your book project is set up in your Author Space, you are provided a private forum where you can invite ALC members and even non-members to join your circle. You can ask questions, start discussions, conduct polls, or share your manuscript to get feedback. ALC members also have access to the First Chapter Feedback Forums, where they can post their first chapter and receive feedback from fellow ALC members. It's crucial the beginning of your book grabs reader attention and entices them to keep turning the pages. Without a solid first chapter, the rest of your book will likely not matter to readers, so the forums are a great way to ensure your book is starting off strong. You can use the connections you make in your Author Circle or in the First Chapter Feedback forums to find qualified candidates.The ALC has Author Circles and Forums for writers to get feedback on their books.

If one-on-one is more your style, there are experienced professionals that serve as a book coach or consultant. Book coaches are often authors themselves and can wear many different hats including mentor, teacher, critique partner, and beta reader.

Online Platforms or Services

One way to build a group of qualified beta readers more quickly is using platforms or services that specialize in connecting writers and readers. There are a few platforms that offer this service for free like the social media groups noted above, but many charge a service fee to the writer. Here are a few of the more popular platforms writers use to connect with beta readers:

Scribophile – A writing community that is focused on getting feedback from other writers on a point-based peer review system. Writers earn points by providing feedback and can then use those points to post their own work for feedback.

Critique Circle – A platform for writers where you can post your work for a critique from other writers. The basic service allows you to critique the work of others to earn credits. You can then use these credits to post your own manuscript for feedback.

StoryOrigin – A cross-promotional marketing tool for writers that connects them with readers and other writers. It can assist with email lists, book reviews, beta reads, newsletter swaps, and more. You must have the paid plan to acquire the beta reads.

Independent Book Review An organization that offers “group beta reading” for a fee where 3 to 5 professional beta readers review your work and provide feedback reports within five weeks. Beta readers can include reviewers, librarians, booksellers, book bloggers, book marketers, editors, and authors.

Best Practices When Requesting Feedback on a Manuscript

It will take a great deal of time and effort to pull your group of beta readers together, so it’s important the process results in valuable feedback you can use to improve your book. Here are some recommended best practices when requesting feedback from a group of beta readers:

Be specific – Rather than leaving the feedback format open-ended, many authors find it beneficial to furnish beta readers with a questionnaire to help focus the feedback. The questionnaire can be very specific or more general, depending on how detailed you want the feedback to be.

When providing beta readers with a manuscript, send a PDF or EPUB file.Give a desired time line – Provide a specific due date for the feedback before you ask someone to commit. You’ll want to give beta readers at least a few weeks to read your manuscript and provide feedback. Some individuals may not be able to work within your time line due to other commitments.

Make it simple for readers to access your manuscript – The easiest and most cost-effective way to get your manuscript to beta readers is to email a digital PDF or EPUB file. A PDF is a universal file format that most individuals will be able to read on the computer, tablet, or smartphone through Adobe Reader or a browser window. An EPUB file can be read on a dedicated e-reader device or by installing an e-reader app or other software on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Be open to constructive criticism – Receiving critiques of your book can be hard since you've labored over the content for months or maybe even years. Just remember, feedback will help improve your book. You don’t have to implement all feedback or suggestions received, but do pay particular attention if you receive the same feedback from more than one beta reader. It’s worth reviewing and considering their perspective.

Thank them for their time and effort – It’s important to recognize the time and effort each beta reader committed to your manuscript. They typically aren’t paid, so many authors will provide a free, signed copy of the book once published and include their beta readers by name on their Acknowledgements page.

Return the favor – Volunteering to be a beta reader for other writers in your network can be a great way to learn more about the craft of writing, explore genres outside of your own, and help out fellow writers. Definitely return the favor if the opportunity arises.

Finding and working with a group of beta readers is an essential part of the book editing and revision process. The quality and characteristics of the individual beta readers will directly impact the quality of the feedback you receive, so do your homework to find people that meet the criteria noted above and that you feel will be honest, reliable, and thorough.


Photo Credit: Maica via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Antonio_Diaz via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Moyo Studio via Getty Images