Maybe one of the biggest challenges regarding beta readers is where to find them. If you are one of those people who do not know any other writers, or if the writers you do know don't like the type of fiction that you write, finding a beta can be difficult.
For those who are in that situation, let me offer you two websites where you can find betas. For free!
The first is an organization called the Critters Writers Workshop. Run by Dr. Andrew Burt, science fiction author and former president of the SFWA, Critters is an online forum for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers who are looking to have their fiction peer-edited by other writers. Many, although not all, of the writers have had their work published. A few are considered 'professional'; that is, they meet the standards of professionals as outlined by the the SFWA or the HWA.
Critters uses very strict guidelines on how this exchange of critiques takes place. Writers must critique a certain number of stories (generally, one per week) in order to have their own work reviewed. Additionally, there are rules on behavior and conduct.
I've used Critters for years and have found it to be an extremely helpful resource. I highly recommend it.
Another source for finding beta readers is at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. The advantage of Absolute Write is that it covers all types of writing, not just the speculative fiction markets. Also, those looking to have their writing reviewed are not compelled to write critiques in return. The arrangements for beta reading are worked out by the authors themselves.
Whether you are a newbie or a grizzled writing veteran, beta readers offer an invaluable service in making your writing as good as it can possibly be. I encourage everyone to look into what beta readers offer.
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