How do I find beta readers for my book?

I see variations of this question all over social media every day. Not knowing where to turn, some people post blindly on Twitter or Facebook, looking for willing strangers/fellow writers who will crit their genre. It’s an inefficient and risky method, but luckily there are better ways to find reliable beta readers to workshop your book with you.

The best way to find beta readers: dedicated critique communities — and I don’t just mean Facebook groups.

I prefer these dedicated communities and websites to other methods of finding beta readers online, such as social media groups for writers or Reddit forums. These niche websites have guidelines that weed out the bad apples, swindlers, and flakes — you’re less likely to get screwed over by someone whose ranking in the community depends on good behavior. You don’t have that safeguard with less structured arrangements, like Facebook groups.

Being part of a writing/critique community is also a sign of commitment. Anyone can drop into a Facebook group periodically — and just as quickly drop out of their commitments to the strangers they’ll leave hanging — but keeping up a distinct writing profile takes extra work, and is not undertaken lightly.

These are some of my favorite sites for critique/writing. Some I’ve used as a writer, and others I’ve explored as a critique partner in search of my writing tribe.

Scribophile

This site is my personal favorite for workshopping fiction, short stories, and query letters online. The community guidelines are protective of authors — you can report abusive behavior with ease, and repeat offenders are banned from the site — and the system rewards wholehearted participation.

Members collect “karma points” for publishing critique of others’ work. The longer and more detailed the critique, the more points you earn. Works get a turn in the site’s “spotlight,” during which critiques net more points. Once a work is out of the spotlight, it can still receive feedback, but the reward to the crit partner is less. After a while, or when a user chooses, a work can be “locked” to further critique — usually when the author feels that they’ve received sufficient feedback on a particular chapter.

I workshopped my military sci-fi novel on Scribophile, and had success leveraging the private spotlights of groups. There are forums and groups for dozens of subcategories — first time authors, romance authors, short story authors, etc.

Critique Circle

This is another community website that operates on a critique-for-critique basis. Premium memberships are slightly cheaper than Scribophile, at $3.29 per month (versus $5), but the basic principle of the site is the same. Users pay “credits” in order to post their work for critique, and earn credits by critiquing other people’s work. Critique Circle only posts a select number of works per week so as not to overwhelm users, so it may take a week or more for your work to appear. New users can receive up to 5 critiques per chapter, but there is no limit for established users. You can even set limitations on who can submit feedback for your work, so as not to waste time on flakes who will drop in for one chapter and then disappear from the site altogether.

Even though Scribophile and Critique Circle are basically the same type of community, I prefer Scribophile for its user interface. Critique Circle has a very dated aesthetic. Mostly, I use CC for its publishing tools — they have a writing/publishing glossary, a submission tracker, an outlining workshop, name generator, writing exercises, and more. Critique Circle’s emphasis is definitely more on community, whereas Scribophile puts the focus on sharing and collecting feedback.

Book Country

This was the first online critique group I ever heard of that had the prestige of being for “real writers.” That’s probably because I read about it in an article whose subject was a newly bestselling author who had workshopped her book on Book Country — and earned an $80,000 advance when the book was publishable. You can bet my eyes bugged.

For a long time I was too intimidated to join the community there. I had preconceived notions about not being “good enough” to work with up-and-coming “real authors.” I was making excuses and participating in this self-deprecating cycle of doubt — neither of which net success, by the way.

Book Country’s focus seems to have shifted over the years to focus more on helping people publish. They have a whole nav menu dedicated to publishing services, packages, retailers, and promotion. It’s distinguished itself as a resource for authors who intend to self-publish. The forums here are a great place to network and learn craft, though — I find the Book Country forums superior to the Scribophile and Critique Circle, in terms of topics, discussion, and the thoughtfulness of users. The best part: you don’t have to create an account to view the forums. You can get a taste for what they’re like without handing over your email address.

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