This is often a subject that comes up on panels and podcasts. So let’s start out with: What is a beta reader? Beta readers are often the people who read your manuscript after you initial self-edits, maybe your critique group, but before you hand it to an editor or submit it for publication. When I had a manuscript to my beta readers, what I’m looking for is honest feedback. Feedback that I can take an apply to my story to make it better, stronger…something that both I and my readers will be happy with. I have them look for plot holes, character issues, consistency. I do have some who tend to focus on grammar and typos, but they aren’t my editors. My betas are a team, I value their input and they help me grow as an author.
Do you have to use beta readers? Well…no, but if you don’t I suggest you invest in a good content editor who will help you catch those errors. Do beta readers get paid? No, they do this on a volunteer basis because they love to read and they love the development process. Their perk is getting extra time with the author and getting an advance peek at the book. This is better than an ARC, this is getting their hands on a more raw version of the book.
Where do you find beta readers? All over, mine found me really. I started with a couple close friends that I could trust and from there people offered, normally after giving me feedback on already published piece. Make sure they are people you can trust and will give you honest feedback and not just kiss your ass. You’ll have plenty of people to stroke your ego later. ;)