Hypothetical Beta Readers

I would like to pose a question purely hypothetically. Let's say (hypothetically, remember) that a certain person would like to start writing again. But that certain person knows she/he would need a beta reader who would motivate, support, and question her/him in her/his writing. How would she/he find such a beta reader?

Writer friends, discuss.

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012


  1. If I were looking for a beta reader, I'd probably ask people who liked to read and write, whom I trusted to give me good feedback, and who had similar tastes to me. I'd also ask people who I knew had enough time to be good beta readers.

    If you have a strong internet presence in a relevant field (eg, the book blogosphere), theoretically, you could just post an announcement and see who's interested, but I think that you really need to trust your beta reader. I don't think you can accept the first person who's willing to read your writing.

    Once upon a time, I totally would have asked Ani Isilee from LRRH to be my beta reader. She kind of was, actually. She'd send me her writing and ask me questions, and I'd send her my own work and ask her plot and character advice. But there was no formal asking of, "Do you want to be a beta reader?" or anything. Seeking novel advice followed from talking on the forum.

    Actually, today, I still might actually log back into Facebook and send a desperate message to her if I wanted a beta reader because she still might be the person I trust the most to be my beta reader. (I'm not sure she'd have the time, though.)

    That might be another consideration, though. What if you'd want to actually meet your beta reader for lunch and discuss your writing in person? That would probably make the pool considerably smaller. Personally, I'd be fine with an internet beta reader (my second choice for a beta reader would also be an internet friend), but I could see how it could be nice to actually meet and discuss every once in a while.

    Hypothetically, is that at all helpful? What do other people think?

  2. I think friends and family are the best way to go. They are the only ones who care enough that will give the proper encouragement. So ask someone.

    Family is especially best if the encouragement is especially needed. A distant friend (like someone that you mostly interact with online) might be better if questioning/critique is more that is needed.

    But whatever the hypothetical person does, she/he should make his/her expectations very, very clear to the beta reader. No one wants a huge critique when all you really wanted was a few questions and words of encouragement.

  3. I agree with Heather.

    I think. Someone you can see face to face and hand pages to is going to be the best.

    1. I agree, but my pool of people that fit that description is very small (read: no one). I think I'd rather give up writing forever than have one of my family members as a BR. I love them, but I'm way too scared to have them be first readers.

  4. Suggestions: There are members of my family that would be great beta readers -- helpful and kind. I have neighbors that might undertake the task, and the writer could remain anonymous, if that's what they prefer. Book club members with similar tastes might work. Lots of book clubs out there!

    Writing classes are offered at universities. The instructor would become the beta reader of sorts!! My daughter did this and she learned a lot about her writing. Thanks Prof P.

    I tend to fall in Alysa and Heather's camp.

  5. Hey Enna (thanks for the comment, by the way. YES, it was helpful!)

    Hmm, interesting question. I'm one of those weird would-be writers who keeps my manuscripts (actually the flash drive they're stored on) close to my chest, stroking, calling it "my Precioussss" and being absolutely batty about other people reading it yet. I don't usually use betas until I get into the editing phase. HOWEVER, I would suggest finding fellow would-be writers that you already "know," and ones you feel know you well enough in return, and asking their advice.
    PS - did my post get you thinking about this?

  6. This is where I found my excellent beta reader. I just posted a question and someone responded. We have been editing each others work from then on.

  7. There are several online critique sites. I believe one is called critters.org I've had several writing friends recommend it to me, but never used it myself.

    Also, if you are attending a university then it is highly likely that there is a writing group club meeting somewhere on campus. While I attended BYU I participated in Quark (BYU's sci-fi and fantasy club) Writing Group. I made really close friends with writers there.

    Even after we all graduated and moved on we missed each other and critiquing each others work. So now even though we live in several different states we get together once a week over skype and critique our stories that way. Google hangout is also another good way to host a writing group over the internet.

    Another way to find writing inclined people and to form a group is to attend writing conferences in your area and hook up with other authors that write in your genre and have similar goals to yours.

    Good luck! Writing is so much fun right now. There are so many more options then there were just ten years ago. There a many new ways connect with other writers, new ways to launch a publishing career, and new technology that has made it easier than ever to share our writing with others. Just thinking about it gives me a thrill. So exciting.

  8. oh, another way to meet writers that I've heard people recommend is to join a writer's guild or league in your state. If you want to write for kids then I have heard that SCBWI (society for children book writers and illustrators) is a really awesome writing community and they have writing groups too. Also you can attend writing workshops put on by professional authors. Dave Farland does a lot of those.

  9. My favorite critique partners are all friends I've met online through blogging. They live in Washington, Thailand, Chicago, and Nevada (about 45 minutes away from where I live). I enjoy their writing, and they enjoy mine, but we aren't all necessarily at the same level in our writing. In the last year, two of the four have signed with agents. If you have online friends you trust, who are also writing, I recommend going this route. Not everyone you swap manuscripts with is going to be a great fit, even if you do like them as a person. My CPs generally get what I'm trying to do and help nudge me in the right direction. It's important to find people who are willing to let your work be yours, instead of those who would change your story and style to mesh with theirs.

    And I've never randomly asked for critique partners. All of mine have been people who volunteered, who I respected and felt comfortable enough with to agree. I don't think you need very many. You just need a few that you can trust.

    Best of luck!

  10. My beta readers are family or friends. I have lots of friends who love to read and they have read my stuff for me.

    I met my critique partners all at writing conferences, and in my opinion--meeting them was the best part of both conferences. It's nice to meet someone face to face.Of course beta readers and crit partners are very different things.

    Having said that, if you want to send something along my way, I'd be a Beta reader for you. I like reading as a beta. I only have to focus on big issues and leave the little nit-picky stuff to the crit partners.


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