A number of resources exist for authors to get feedback from potential readers before publication. You may seek feedback regarding reader interest in your story, the structure of the story, or for other specific purposes. Some individuals will provide the services at no cost. Others may charge a nominal amount. Do your research before making a commitment.
Beta readers are usually sought when the manuscript is completed, but before final copy editing has been done. It is important to let beta readers know what you want from them as well as any timeline for receiving their feedback. The more specific your request, the more valuable the feedback. You can find beta readers through fivr.com or upwork.com, platforms that generally offer work for hire at inexpensive rates. More important than cost, however, is that beta readers understand and like the genre of your book. You might also consider using a service that tracks your beta readers’ progress and gathers their feedback. One such service is Betabooks.co. Knowing that several beta readers have only read a small segment of your book can be as valuable as getting feedback from the one beta reader who completed reading it. It may mean you have not identified the correct target audience.
BookBaby suggests what makes a good beta reader in this post. An important piece of advice in it is the following:
The trick to making the best use of feedback from a beta reader is to get a lot of it and not be overwhelmed by any one comment. It is best to look for themes that arise. Everyone will have an opinion, but if two or more people have the same critical comment, it is something to take seriously.Dawn Field, August 12, 2016, on BookBaby.com
AuthorsXP.com offers services to both authors and readers by bringing them together onto the same platform for readers to get low cost books and authors to get volunteer beta readers and typo killers. I’ve taken up both types of opportunities from the reader’s side and have enjoyed getting to know the authors as a result.
Sensitivity readers are a subset of beta readers who focus on identifying biases, cultural insensitivies, or cultural inaccuracies. Not every manuscript needs a sensitivity reader. Consider the topic of your manuscript as well as feedback from others who have read it to decide if you need a sensitivity reader.
Manuscript review services may be part of a package of editing services or a separate process that evaluates a portion of (usually the first 30-50 pages) or a whole manuscript to get impressions that can be used on the back cover or in marketing material for the book. The San Diego Writers and Editors Guild, for example, offers its members a manuscript review based on the first 30 pages for a very nominal price. Manuscript reviewers don’t typically provide editing suggestions but may offer feedback regarding what they find confusing or challenging.
Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) reviewers are readers interested in receiving books at no cost in exchange for providing feedback to the author before final publication as well as reviews on platforms such as amazon.com or goodreads.com when the books are finally published.
Professional book review services such as Kirkus charge a fee for a review and do not guarantee a positive review. If a review is unfavorable, however, it does not have to be published on Kirkus’s website. The gold standard in reviews is one from a well-known author or publication that highly recommends the book. If you don’t have access to a well-known author willing to tout your book, paying Kirkus for a review may be an option. But it costs plenty.