Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Survey question, writer friends!! How many different alpha/beta readers do you use?? (I seriously want to know)


ImageHey writer friends, as I’ve been trying to finish up my perpetually nearly finished novel, Hooligans in Shining Armour, a thought’s been nagging me. What is the most effective way to use readers, professional critique services, and editors to make your novel sparkle?



(No, no! Not this kind of sparkle!!)

Image(More like this, I guess?)

I do think you can have too much of a helpful thing, i.e. beta readers. That getting too much feedback can start to make things convoluted for the writer and potentially do more harm than good to the blossoming novel.

Also to all of you starting Camp NaNoWriMo today, happy writing! I’m supposed to be doing it, too, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be done with integrity…lol. I admit it freely, don’t judge!!!

How do you decide when it’s time to close the doors on that and focus just on editing? How many readers do you typically use? Do you have a strategy for how you use them?

31 thoughts on “Survey question, writer friends!! How many different alpha/beta readers do you use?? (I seriously want to know)

  1. Kourtney Heintz

    I aim for 3-5 beta readers. Over the years I’ve found 3-5 people who have really helped me see what was missing from the page. I hope they stick with me over the years and books to come. πŸ™‚ I give them open ended questions like what bored you? what would you like more of? Less of? What character did you like/hate and why? What’s confusing? Does the world make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charles Colp

    I have a hand picked few that I use. Each of them brings a very different perspective to the party. I have only included one other person who is a writer. The rest of the people include a grammar fanatic, a romance only reader, a fantasy reader, and a sixteen year old. The Sixteen year old is my harshest critic, and my son. Once I have their feedback on the nearly finished project. I do the step I am in now, hiding myself in my little office space making corrections and adding/subtracting to flesh it out better. I always try to set a deadline for the cutoff. Good luck! I know you will do well.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yeah, finding those good, solid readers is key I think! And also a variety of perspectives, too. Thanks for the well wishes and happy writing or re-drafting or editing or whatever stage you’re on now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Charles Colp

        Being a glutton for punishment, I am D: all of the above. I promised at new years that I would write serials and short stories five days per week. My only week I failed yo meet that goal was the week we moved.


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        I am also a glutton for punishment!! This week I set the goal of reading through my entire MS (printed), making edits, reprinting for one last read-through, all while alpha reading another writer’s MS. I don’t think I’ll be meeting my goal… Why do we do this to ourselves?


      3. Charles Colp

        I am naturally stubborn, and over-driven when it comes to my goals. This gets me in deep sometimes but I always manage to get it all done. The entire time wondering why I did it again. It is probably because I can, and I know that if I give myself easier goals, it will only get me half-way to where I want to be. I think I separated my shoulder last week teaching my kids stuff at the park. I knew going to the doctor would hurt my typing and productivity. My wife, who is much wiser than I, insisted we are going to the doctor tomorrow if she has to drag me. Sitting still has never been my strong suit. I wouldn’t have so many crazy experiences to call on when writing, if it was. Possibly it is a writers condition. If we discover it can we name it?


  3. authorleighmichaels

    I only use a few Beta readers – for “Kaedyn’s Story” I used 3; for my upcoming Juvenile Fiction, I’m using a handful. When I get it back from the Beta reader, I ask specific questions; I don’t hand it to them and ask for carte blanche feedback – or maybe just have ONE person that you ask to do that.

    If you’re looking for grammatical editing, keep that separate, and look for someone who knows how to do that well.

    With the JF I am about to send out, I am going to send a short questionnaire (like 3 questions) to get the feedback I am looking for. I’m with you – it needs to be kept simple and specific in order to do any good.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yeah, definitely key to have people who write your genre read it, because they know how it’s supposed to be written. This time around, someone got me to 16-year-olds to read it and that was very helpful!


      1. Rachael C Marek

        That’s a good idea! I have this one story sort of meant for the YA market and having someone in that age group read it would probably be very insightful. I haven’t been a YA in quite some time. πŸ˜‰

        As for finding some fellow geeks, I branched out into a new writer’s group for fantasy/sci-fi writers, so once I get my bearings I’ll find someone there whose opinion I might like. Good Luck!


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        Nice plan! It’s always such an awesome thing to find a good writer’s group, and one so genre specific. Best of luck with yours as well πŸ˜€


  4. Allison Forsythe

    I haven’t used any beta readers yet, but I’ve talked to people about it. You can definitely end up with too many cooks in the kitchen! I think it’s a good idea to have at least two, but my sense from those who have done it is that more than eight (some say more than five) can get tricky. It’s probably best to pick people who are used to reading critically and will be able to provide you with valuable feedback — and who, hopefully, will be willing to talk to you about the draft if you have follow-up questions about their comments. Depending how well you know your betas, some guiding questions could be helpful to spark that discussion.

    I think it’s a super idea to look for professional editorial or critique services (everyone needs a copyeditor!), but I would recommend waiting until you’ve incorporated the feedback from your betas. (That’s my plan, anyway! By the time I have a professional go through my draft, I want it to be almost ready for publication.)

    Good luck with yours! I have no doubt that it will sparkle. πŸ˜‰


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha thanks. Yeah, reflecting on things, next time I think I’ll stick to 5-8 max or it does get to be too many cooks. The key is definitely looking for people who can offer different kinds of insights, too. I have found professional critiques helpful as well; they are professionally trained in the craft of writing. Thanks for the comment and best wishes with your work!


  5. Rae Venn

    I have a couple friends who are beta readers for me; they read everything. But I also belong to a writer’s group, who get to see some of what I write. I have found that going to the writer’s group is immensely helpful even if they aren’t critiquing your writing, because you get to listen to and see amazing discussions about different elements of someone else’s writing; which in turn relates to your own. As far as beta readers go, I have pretty much one (but she isn’t spectacularly helpful given that usually she just says what I’ve written is amazing. It’s always good to have someone who will always see the good in your writing, so you don’t lose hope, but you should have someone with a more critical view, as well.) I sent my manuscript to an editor after I had edited it a few times myself, and his comments were extremely helpful as well.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Thanks for sharing!! Yeah, you definitely need beta readers willing to tear things apart. Hearing things are great isn’t particularly helpful in moving your novel to the next level lol. Happy writing!


  6. Rea

    I’m usually the alpha, beta, copywriter, and editor rolled into one. I write shorter fiction generally, so maybe that influences the reason I don’t rely much on feedback. Either that or I’m a control freak!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha well if you have the skill for it!! I just find there’s things I don’t notice as the author… Plot holes, character issues, things that don’t make sense. I miss it because it all makes sense to me lol. I’d imagine it’s a much bigger issue in a novel tho!!!


  7. lorellepage

    I have 6 for my first book. One is a book friend in another country, one was an acquaintance, and one was a friend’s daughter who is in my target market. The rest are people in differing age groups who I’ve known for a while, but don’t necessarily associate with. I used to jump to change every bit of feedback I received, but now I wait to see if others pick up on it. And if this happens, and I also agree with it , then I consider it for change πŸ™‚


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