#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Using the internet to find beta readers & critique partners

One site where I've found critique partners in the past
One site where I’ve found critique partners in the past
Last month for the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop I talked about how to receive feedback on your work. In the past couple of weeks it’s come to my attention that many writers I know are still struggling with a completely different problem: how to get beta readers and critique partners so they can actually receive feedback. So today I’m going to share a few things that have worked for me, and a couple things other people have suggested.

What are beta readers & critique partners?

First, let’s quickly discuss the difference between beta readers and critique partners (sometimes one person can be both, but typically they’re different people):

Beta readers read a completed manuscript and give feedback from a reader’s perspective. Unlike critique partners, beta readers are often voracious readers with extensive knowledge of your genre rather than other writers. Usually you only want to send them manuscripts that are already quite clean, although sometimes I ask for beta readers on an early draft if I’m struggling with a big structural problem and want an outside opinion.

Critique partners read your work chapter by chapter and offer constructive feedback. This feedback is typically more nit-picky, focusing on individual moments rather than the story as a whole. Critique partners are usually writers you have a reciprocal relationship with–so you read their stories too (or, in my case, you wait impatiently for your critique partners to finish something & feel guilty sending them 1,001 stories).

Often there’s some overlap between these two categories. Some beta readers will also be writers, and sometimes you will trade manuscripts. You may also have people work as critique partners on one project and as beta readers on another project. The important thing is that you have people doing both of these things (and eventually an editor, but that’s a whole different article).

So how can you find them?

There are dozens of ways to find critique partners and beta readers. Many writers suggest physical writing groups, but these can be challenging to set up, especially if you live in a rural area. I’ve never actually participated in a real-world critique group, so today we’re going to focus on social media.

1. Ask in groups/chats

Several social networks offer group chat capabilities. There are hundreds of author groups on Facebook, and many let you seek beta readers/critique partners. Some, like the 10 Minute Novelists group, have a specific day each week for seeking out beta readers/critique partners/other help. Others, like the #Writestuff group, allow you to ask for help at any time.

Twitter chats are another great way to find beta readers. Sometimes chats will be themed around beta readers/critique partners and offer a specific time to seek them out. More often, you’ll have an opportunity to share what you’re struggling with or working on. At this point I’ll say something like “I’m almost finished editing! I WILL be seeking beta readers”. So far I’ve gotten 4 beta readers this way.

2. Use tags

I can’t be certain about other social media networks, but I know Twitter has a #betareader hashtag. Tweet out a short description of your project (including genre & length) and ask for help! You might be surprised how quickly people respond.

3. Ask your fans

Do you already have published work? Or a dedicated social media following? Some of your fans may be willing to help out. You may even want to create a private Facebook group for your most dedicated fans and post beta requests there.

4. Use designated sites

There are also many sites dedicated to helping writers get quality feedback. Critique Circle is a great one for short stories, but you can really only get good feedback on a novel if you pay. Ladies Who Critique is specifically for woman writers, and has connected me to some of my best beta readers.

Final Thoughts

Unless you decide to pay them, you’re probably going to go through several beta readers/critique partners before you find some that work for you. I went through easily a dozen critique partners and half as many beta readers before settling on the group I have now. Some had a work style that didn’t match up with mine. Others grew too busy to take on critique/beta reading requests. Still others disappeared without providing any explanation.

You will go through similar struggles. There will be trial and error. But eventually you will build a consistent group of quality readers, and they’ll push your work to new heights.

Have you worked with beta readers/critique partners? How did you find them? Let me know in the comments section below!

40 thoughts on “#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Using the internet to find beta readers & critique partners

  • I’ve had great experience with the Critique Circle for one of my short stories, as well as having the good fortune to having had some friends volunteer as beta readers as well. I can imagine it’s much trickier to organize when it comes to a novel vs a short story.

    • dlgunn

      Critique Circle was actually the first place I went for critiques, but I was quickly disenchanted because I write almost exclusively novels. Critique Circle does have a paid membership level that allows you to create a novel project and invite other users to critique the entire thing/access it all at once, but I’ve never been in a position to pay for it, and I honestly have no idea how good it is.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I’ve had critique partners and groups in the past where physical copies have been exchanged. This worked until I ramped up my writing speed. It’s non productive to receive feedback on 4K a week when you’re writing faster than that.
    I currently have two beta readers, one from a writers’ support group that is fizzling out, and one of my readers. I will look on social media for more when I’ve polished the rough draft of my current WIP.
    Thanks for the suggestions.

    • dlgunn

      One thing I’ve done as my writing speed increases is attempt to build a solid group of beta readers (my goal is to have 10-15 people), so I can send out pretty frequent requests and there’s always SOMEONE who can read it. It’s been crazy useful.

      Glad you liked the article, thanks for stopping by!

  • dlgunn

    Glad you enjoyed it! I hope this will help you find amazing beta readers/critique partners in the future.

    • dlgunn

      Nice! I’ve never actually posted here seeking beta readers, but it’s something I’ll probably do eventually, especially since I’m actually working on a non-fiction book now.

      Glad you liked the article, thanks for stopping by!

  • Really useful post, thanks for sharing 🙂 I didn’t realise that beta readers and critique partners did different things! This will be a useful list to refer to when I finish my draft and need a beta/critique partner.

    • dlgunn

      Glad you found it useful! A lot of people don’t, and often people will do both for different writers, and there’s generally a lot of confusion. I even mix the two up sometimes!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • This is such a great post! I have a couple of writing friends who are in desperate need of CPs, so I’ll pass this post along to them. 🙂 Thank you!

  • This is the best differentiating description I’ve seen of beta readers versus critique partners. I think the term beta readers, in particular, gets misused by writers and readers both.

    I need to find a critique partner, and this has given me some ideas on where to look! Thanks!

    • dlgunn

      Thank you! Beta readers is definitely the more commonly misused term, and I have to watch myself for this all the time.

      Good luck hunting for a CP!

  • Great information on finding critique partners and beta readers. I am lucky enough to have an in-person writers group that has helped with critique partners, but I have been struggling to locate beta readers, (especially since beta readers shouldn’t be your critique partner, as well). I will definitely try reaching out on social media. I had no idea there was a #betareader hashtag! Thanks so much for this information, I will definitely be using it.

    • dlgunn

      Glad you found it useful! It’s personally taken me years to build a stable of consistent beta readers & critique partners, but I have found a group I love, so keep at it and I’m sure you will too! The internet is an amazingly large place, allowing us to find the people that truly connect to our ideas.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • So many struggles finding critique partners. PitchWars was the best place to find CPs for me, but now that I’ve switched genres, I’m struggling again. I find it easy to find beta readers though. I just read some sad news on the Pitchwars website actually. I’m kinda heartbroken, not focusing well. At least one writer if not more (the details are vague) bullied another writer within the online writing community during, and again the details are vague, but Pitchwars 2016 and ficfest (I don’t know when.) She chose suicide earlier this year. I don’t remember interacting with her, and I’m just disappointed in the online writing community as a whole right now. Sorry for the digression. Great post. 🙂

    • dlgunn

      It must be really frustrating to get stuck hunting for beta readers/CPs again when you’ve already got solid ones for your first genre! I hope some of these tips will help you find the right people to help!

      And that is absolutely terrible news, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve always had great support from writing communities & it’s really sad to hear that isn’t true for everyone.

  • I’ve got two critique partners who are exactly what my novel needs … now I just need to start sending them stuff! I’ve enjoyed working on their submissions while I get mine ready.

    I’ve also beta read for some authors, although I don’t tend to do that much – I’m a freelance editor, so that’s something I offer as a paid service. But I know I’ll need beta readers, so I’m keeping a mental list of people to approach – authors who write in a similar genre, or who have local knowledge about my foreign setting.

    I found my critique partners through the Scribes loop at American Christian Fiction Writers – it’s an online member-only critique group, and many people then move away from the larger group and form their own smaller groups.

    That’s also how I connected with the author I most recently beta read for – I critiqued one of her chapters and identified some factual errors. I loved the story, so offered myself as a beta reader when she was ready.

    • dlgunn

      That’s great! And if you have a list of specific people you want to approach, I’d suggest approaching them well in advance to make sure they’re actually interested/will have time. That way if they’re not actually interested you’ll have time to find new people before you absolutely need them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • dlgunn

      Me either! Although my CPs are very slow writers & I wish they’d write faster so I can read some of their stuff!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I used an online critique group for the first time yesterday. I tried this in a closed group of writers I know well, so there is a big trust factor. They are also author’s whose work I admire. I would definitely go this route again. I won’t go to beta readers until this part of the process is done and I’ve finished self-editing.

  • Has no one mentioned Scribophile.com yet? o.O I practically live on that critiquing site. I’ve found dozens of beta readers there and even more critique partners and teams. There are also dedicated groups that set up genre-based beta swaps every couple of months for those not wanting to network for themselves, too. What makes this extra useful for finding beta readers is how you can read people’s prior critiques to see if their feedback tone and reading style work for you.

    • dlgunn

      I technically have a Scribophile account, but I could never really get into the site – it was honestly such a long time ago I can’t even remember why. Maybe I’ll check it out again!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Having a good critique partner is like finding gold! I use Inked Voices. It wasn’t easy to find my partner there, but I did. We work at the same pace and are both happy with it. My biggest pet peeve is giving work out and never hearing back.
    Thanks for the ideas to find more!

    • dlgunn

      I’ve never even heard of Inked Voices! I’ll have to check it out – and I hope you enjoy checking out the sites I mentioned!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I have the hardest time finding CPs. A lot of them just disappear, never to be heard of again. Anyway, great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • dlgunn

      That’s so frustrating, but it’s a struggle for everyone. If you’re determined enough you will eventually find CPs who can be consistent.

  • This is the exact point I’m at right now, so this was very timely! I’m about to send my MS out to beta readers, but I’ve never had a CP. I’d love one, but I can imagine it takes time to find a good one, someone who’s work you also love and enjoy reading regularly. And whose advice and suggestions you value and agree with. Thanks for the advice 🙂

    • dlgunn

      Glad you found it useful! And yeah, it definitely took me a few years of bouncing around before I found my first steady CP. Good luck with the hunt!

  • Great post, and thank you for pointing out the distinction between beta reading and critiquing! I’ve sometimes seen these terms used interchangeably, and there’s always a voice in the back of my mind going “That’s not right…” So thank you!

    I someone a few comments above mine mentioned Scribophile, and I’ll have to second that person’s recommendation. I’m not as active as I would like to be, but the critiques I’ve received on Scribophile have been invaluable, and I’m always wishing I had more time to really sink into the site and develop relationships there. Scrib seems to be a very polarizing site (I’ve seen a lot of people love it and a lot of people hate it), but I’ve found that as long as you approach things with an open mind and are willing to take the time to explore all the possibilities the site has to offer, then it’ll be a really great place to find new writing and get a lot of opinions on your work in a relatively short amount of time.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • All great advice! I found my most hardcore beta reader through Craigslist (imagine that! it did take a bit of paring-down first), and several others knowledgeable readers through random Internet meetings/Twitter friendships. One of my most valued readers is a woman I met at a conference. Getting yourself out there and keeping an eye out for people who write a similar age or genre is key… and then keeping contact with the ones who give the most useful feedback.

    My post: http://wp.me/p7eeNm-1KB

    • dlgunn

      That’s the first I’ve ever heard of someone finding a beta reader through Craigslist! That’s an excellent idea, thanks for sharing it!

  • I did my first beta read around December/January, thanks mainly to Twitter and having read & reviewed one of the author’s previous books last year. A good experience for me and I hope it was of some use to them.

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