what are beta readers and where do you find them
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What Are Beta Readers & Where Do You Find Them? 20 Questions Answered About Getting Feedback

"What Are Beta Readers & Where Do You Find Them? 20 Questions Answered About Getting Feedback" is a resource to help writers understand the beta reading process before they begin.

What Are Beta Readers & Where Do You Find Them? 20 Questions Answered About Getting Feedback

by Joe Walters

What are beta readers featured photo with woman writing

Getting beta readers can be intimidating.

When you send a manuscript to someone else for critique, you send pieces of yourself out with it. Your thoughts, ideas, images, knowledge, tastes. You chose each word on each page with purpose. It came only from you.

But it’s not for you, is it? Or at least not only you.

If you’re seeking publication with your writing, it’s also for readers. Each and every one of them. It is their time, and they are choosing to spend it by reading what you have to say.

So, writers: Write that thing, revise it, revise it again, edit it. Give it your all. 

But before you hit publish or submit, get feedback on it from trustworthy readers.


You are only one person. You can make mistakes and improvements. You have the chance to make this thing absolutely incredible. So do it.

Here are 20 common (and not so common) questions about getting beta readers. 

  1. What are beta readers?
beta readers talking about a writer's book

A beta reader is a person who reads a writer’s work prior to publication and provides feedback on it. This person is meant to represent the experience of an average reader in the writer’s target audience.

For example, a good match as a beta reader for a literary fiction manuscript would be a person who reads and enjoys literary fiction. Historical fiction about WWI? Your history teacher friend (who likes to read!) might be a good choice.

But not every writer has those people in their lives, so they often have to get creative. (Big task, I know). Which leads us to our next question.

  1. Who can you ask to be a beta reader?

People you know in real life:

  • Other writers 
  • Former critique partner & workshop co-members
  • Friends who read
  • Family who reads

People you don’t know in real life:

  • Critique websites like Scribophile
  • Online critique partners & workshop co-members
  • Professional beta readers
  • Book reviewers
  • Social media friends & acquaintances
  • Beta reading & writing groups on social media like Facebook & Goodreads

  1. Can friends and family really be good beta readers?

Honestly…yes. They totally can. But not all of them. And not always. And definitely not without proper guidance going in.

If you’re going to ask friends or family members to beta read your work, they need to know beforehand that you are NOT looking for empty praise. They should know that if they want to be the most helpful they can be, they should share the good things they found in it AND the things that they didn’t think were so good. Which plot points felt weak? Which storylines didn’t you care about? Which characters? 

But even with this caveat, you should be aware that the people who love you most are probably going to be nicer to you than those with some distance. You can totally use your friends and family members as beta readers, but they should not be the only ones.

  1. How many beta readers should you get? 

More than two for sure! But also, probably no more than about six per draft.

It’s great to get a lot of different feedback from a lot of different, unique readers with different, unique interests, but you’re going to have things to work on after the first 5 or so. This is why I think 5 is a good sweet spot per draft so that you can save the additional willing readers for a later draft. 

  1. When should you get beta readers?
picture of do it now or do nothing

You can get beta readers at any point after you’ve finished a manuscript. While you can definitely find value in getting beta reader feedback directly after your first draft, it’s often beneficial to make your book the best it can be prior to getting beta readers.


Because you don’t want your beta readers bringing up issues that you are already aware of. Try to fix those issues before you send it so that your beta reading team can catch things you aren’t already conscious of. 

  1. Should you be worried that a beta reader will steal your work?

You should definitely be aware of the possibility. Book piracy happens, and it can really suck. So do some vetting before you send books out to people that you don’t know personally. If you found them on Facebook or Goodreads, check out their profiles. See how long their online imprint goes back. Feel positive that they are a real human.

I don’t want anyone to steal your work, now or in the future. It is difficult to turn an unpublished manuscript into a bestseller, even for established publishing houses, so it could not be much of an issue in the end. So you can definitely breathe a little bit.

But also, do work on your part to try to make sure it doesn’t happen or react appropriately when it does. One of my favorite ways is to send it in .pdf. Then, set up a Google Alert for your book title and author name. Since you have written this book (on your .pdf, with a date), you have a paper trail proof that it is your book. This is a good thing. Here’s more on what you can do if it happens.

  1. Where do you find beta readers online?

Unpaid beta readers:

Paid beta readers:

  1. How do you ask people to beta read?

This varies from situation to situation. If you’re writing an email to a personal comrade from your workshop days, you should start out personally. If you are posting on a Facebook group or in a Goodreads group, it’s most important to communicate clearly what your book is about and what you are asking of them. I also think using lists are helpful for people scrolling these sites.

Social media pitch sample:

Hey all,

I’m looking for a round of beta readers to take a look at the latest draft of my mystery novel. Here’s the info:

TITLE: [Book title]


WORD COUNT: [X words]


TAGLINE: [Write 3 sentences about what the book is about, almost like a very short book description you’d see on Amazon. Make it interesting!].

I am hoping to find readers who could provide big-picture feedback in the form of a free-form letter about what works in the story for you and what doesn’t. Comment below if you’re interested!

  1. What are the most effective strategies for getting more beta readers?
  • Have an interesting book description that makes them want to read it.
  • Offer to swap with other writers.

  1. Should you pay for beta readers?
should you pay for beta readers

It’s not always easy to get beta readers. It takes literal time to read and provide feedback, and some books are more difficult to find readers for than others. If the book is a sensitive topic and/or over 100k words, you could have fewer offers to beta read than you’d hoped. In other cases, you could get the feedback but not necessarily feel like you agree with what the reader is saying and/or feel like they didn’t provide enough feedback.

This is where paid beta readers come in. This way, you can orchestrate the amount of time it’s completed beforehand and have a wider pool of more experienced readers to choose from. 

That’s not to say every beta reader you pay is guaranteed to be what you’re looking for.

The best you can do is research, believe in the people, and agree on something that works for the both of you. Even though you don’t usually think about it in terms of per-hour payment, when you consider how long it takes to read a book and acknowledge that every reader reads at a different pace, you can see that it’s not usually too much. $100 for a book that takes 10 hours is $10/h. Then, add in note-taking, writing, & editing time. You could see fees anywhere from $5 for a whole book to $250 & beyond for solo readers. Be realistic and strategic about your budget for sure, but recognize that you’ll probably get different work expectations (& quality) from a $5 service.

What you want them to do is what they do best: read, pay attention to their feelings, and communicate with you at a high level about your book.

I’m definitely biased, but…I take a lot of pride in IBR Group Beta Reading. We all like different books and have different specialties, and we’re mad-hat, book-crazy reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, book marketers, editors, and authors. Wanna know how readers would feel if this book came out today? Ask the people selling, lending, writing, and working with the published ones!

  1. Should you ask the beta readers questions or have them read it fresh?

This is one of my favorite questions of this whole list.


It’s different for everybody! I love working fresh as a beta reader because it allows me to comment on what I believe to be the most important positives and negatives of the book. “[This] is the biggest reason why I would only give the book 3 stars if it was published today.” This way I’m not influenced by what they asked—I’m merely a reader.

But a few specific questions can go a long way in getting what you’re looking for, too. You should definitely still ask the big question (was it good, bad, or in-between, and what are the reasons why?), but if you truly don’t know what to do about that one character and want to see what your reader thinks of them specifically, you can get that answer, especially from paid beta readers. 

Some authors even like to use long questionnaires, which can be excellent and comprehensive if asked correctly. They might only require the questionnaire and a few long-form answers within it. This can be good, but they can also be detrimental if you don’t ask the right pointed questions. Here’s a big list of ideas. It’s best to be specific.

  1. How long should you give beta readers to read it?

This depends on length and the reader’s availability. For a full-length fiction manuscript (50k to 100k words), I like asking for four to five weeks. It’s not a pressing timetable for most. If you want them quicker, keep an eye out for some paid readers who will allow you to expedite the service.

A note on lateness: Some readers may need more time either at the onset of your request or around the due date. If it’s a free beta reader, give them that time and thank them for letting you know. You can check in one more time probably (kindly!), but if they don’t, just let them go. If it’s a paid beta reader, ask for a partial refund if you find it appropriate.

  1. How should I send my manuscript to my beta readers?

I like email the best. You can definitely attach a file over Facebook messenger if that’s where the bulk of your communication has been thus far, but getting an email is another form of vetting. The more they prove they’re real and ready to read, the better.

In the email, I’d recommend including the following:

  • “Thanks for offering to read my book!”
  • Attach the book as .pdf to the email.
  • A request like, “As I’m sure doesn’t need to be said, please do not share anything about this manuscript or your reading of it online or elsewhere. Could you agree to that term in your reply to this message?”
  • Ask for confirmation on the expected turnaround time.
  • Include any questions you’d like covered in their beta report and/or another reminder that you’d simply like for them to share what they consider to be the most important feedback, positive and negative.
  1. What type of feedback should you expect from a beta reader?

Beta readers are meant to provide big-picture feedback. This storyline works, while this one doesn’t; this character works, while this one doesn’t. Beta reading isn’t copy editing. They may leave copy editing or proofreading notes, but that’s not primarily what the task is for. If you’d like to double-down to make sure they don’t spend time leaving notes like that, you can say that in your initial request or in your email with the book attached. 

  1. What do you do with your beta reader feedback?
photo says reflect rethink revise in response to the question of what you should do with beta reader feedback

Ah, the age-old question and the age-old answer!

Sit on it.

Read the letter and breathe and read the letter and breathe and read the letter and breathe.

Thank the beta reader for their time and consideration, even if something they said makes you upset. Sit and breathe some more. If you have additional questions on something they’ve written and they offer to keep chatting with you, ask those questions. 

Then, after you’ve breathed a lot, jot down all of the notes that you believe in the most and start planning how to improve your book. It’s time to revise, not just rewrite. Be open to cutting that book open and throwing a ton of good stuff into it. Your work isn’t done yet. But it is getting closer to being awesome if you’re willing to keep working.

  1. What if you don’t agree with something your beta reader said?

Then fuhgeddaboutit!

Not only are beta readers wrong sometimes, they can communicate it ineffectively too. Now, if three of five beta readers all say the same problem, then maybe you should look into it more. Find out why they’re wrong but you kind of are too. Be vulnerable and willing to be honest with yourself and your work. Your book deserves it.

  1. What’s the difference between a beta reader and critique partner?

A critique partner is someone you develop a relationship with over time by sharing and critiquing each other’s work. It’s a partnership, not just a one-off beta reading request. You’ll want to allot time to critique their work if you are seeking a critique partner. 

  1. What’s the difference between a beta reader and a sensitivity reader?

A sensitivity reader is someone who reads for a specific potential issue, like offensive content in your representation of race, sexuality, culture, and more. If you wrote a bisexual main character, it could be good to get a sensitivity reader who can read those aspects of the book to help you achieve authentic representation.

  1. Should you mention your beta readers in the acknowledgments of your book?

Yup! Or not! Totally up to you. I do like it though. It can feel special for those readers to see their names in published books. If that helps convert them into reviewers on Amazon or Goodreads, even better.

  1. Can I ask my beta readers to leave a review for my book once it’s published?

Yup! I couldn’t get you out of here without at least a little book marketing advice! Your beta readers have already read your book, and they’ve already shown that they’re willing to support you.

When your book goes live, I’d recommend dropping them a line with the book link to Amazon, Goodreads, or both, and asking if they’d be willing to write a short review for you. Getting book reviews is extremely beneficial (and time-consuming), so any shortcut helps.

Happy revising!

About the Author

Joe Walters IBR founder

Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. When he’s not doing editing, beta reading, or reviewing work, he’s working on his squirrel novel and trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.

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