Beta readers are important to perfecting a novel/novella/short story. They give you a fresh set of eyes, offer opinions, and can be a great moral boost. But where can you find good beta readers? Are there any sites that writers can use to find beta readers that have a reputation for having skilled beta readers? Anyone can read a book and offer their opinions, but a good beta reader knows the difference between two different styles and something that really is bad.
That's a hard one, because it really depends on the community you are working with in your writing. If you are already working with a writers group then you already have group of beta readers right there, just stand up and ask. If you're not part of an existing writers group it might get a bit tricky.
There are always the on-line writers groups, places like critters.org. They are built around the idea of doing beta work, but the good ones have rules and you usually can't just sign up and ask for a beta read. With Critters it takes a few weeks to be established and a few more weeks to get your story through the pipe, so it could be a couple of months before you get your feedback.
You can also look for a local writers group. Meetup.com is a good place to start for that, but once again you really need to become a part of the group before you can really ask them to beta.
Of course there is also the choice of asking family, but they might be over inclined to give you positive feedback and gloss over the problems.
On the other hand a good friend, preferably one who is also a writer, can be a good source of beta work, but if they are also a writer you should be willing to beta read in return. In fact, you should probably always be open to beta reading something in return. That way one story trade solves two problems.
There are also some oddball ways to find beta readers. I've been apart of a few fangroups that have open lists for beta readers. The downside is that but they are mostly looking for fanfiction, though some are open for original work. If you're doing a fan work that might be a worth while place to start.
And you never know, just asking this question here might get you a few offers to read.
Check out scribophile.com. You have to build up your karma enough (by critiquing) in order to post your work for others to critique. But they guarantee results:
Friends and family will always say your writing is great, even if it isn't. Other writing sites are full of people who only tell you "I like it" and nothing else. We're different: we guarantee at least 3 solid critiques on each work you post, and often more.
I haven't tried it myself yet, because my latest work isn't quite done yet, but I am hoping to start critiquing soon and build up my karma for when I'm ready.
I will offer an acquaintance who I already know likes to read a small amount of money to read and critique a work for me--not talking about lots of $$$, maybe $10 USD to read and comment on a short story under 50,000 words. If a person is getting some sort of reward for reading and commenting, he/she will usually stick with it even if they are not enthralled by your writing.
I generally have a few close friends read my work. Over the years I've collected three or four people who actually give good feedback instead of just praise or incompetent gibberish. I also have my mother read my stuff occasionally. (She's an English major, and gives hard criticism.)
You might try putting an ad in Craigslist or a college paper for critical readers.