This is a question I've had in my mind and have been a bit curious about. Let's say I finish writing a novel but before publishing it, I want to get feedback on it. Should I publish it online somewhere? I was thinking having it online for free would probably discourage publishers from publishing your book.

Is it fine to publish it online? If yes, are there specific sites that I should/should not use for this? If no, what would be a good alternative way to get feedback and opinions from people?

New contributor
Fordy is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.

The wise thing to do is get beta readers. They will agree to read it and give you feedback.

Publishing online is publishing. Unless you managed to become a phenomena, no publisher will take a work that was already published. They want first rights.

  • Short but to the point. I don't have enough to add to make a difference.
    – DWKraus
  • 2
    Sorry, I'm a bit newer to the whole writing thing, what exactly is a beta reader? From their name, I would assume it's someone that you get to read the book before you publish right? Is there like somewhere you find beta readers and is it something you hire them to do? Or is a beta reader just a term for anyone that reads it before it's been published, meaning I can just get anyone to do it?
    – Fordy
  • 1
    @Fordy, 1-like an editor but free and not as good. 2-yes. 3-yes, there are many sites. You can try the Beta chat here chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/115415/beta-reviewers-reviewing or an online service like scribophile. 4-in a way but not technically, and yes. See this related question: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/1529/… and pretty much anything else tagged [beta-readers] for more information. 17 hours ago

A published book online or in paper form is going to be considered published and will likely make it harder to get the interest of an agent or publisher, at least for that project.

My suggestion is to look into services like betareader.io and betabooks.co.

They have some technical mojo to make it harder for anyone to access your books (you need to invite readers). Since they are fairly known, no publisher will think you've published online.

Also, at least betareader.io has a beta reader program where you might get in contact with willing readers. (You can use your own readers too).

Both have limits to what you can do for free though (number of books and readers).

You could of course create your own beta reader site, but even if you don't tell Google about it or use search index prevention measures (e.g. robots.txt) you still risk one of your readers "spreading the word" or a search engine getting in there and indexing it anyway, and it will likely be considered published by a publisher.

And if you plan to self-publish... well I heard about some guy writing a book and he wanted it to be perfect so he planned to invite 5000 people to read it and use their feedback to make it so.

It made me laugh. If you can get 5000 people to read a blog post you've published or even harder, make them pay for a book, you've pretty much found your pool of potential readers right there.

So, if you plan to self-publish, all worries about if the book should be considered published or not is of course up to you... the worry then is that all your potential customers might read it as betas and then be happy and move on...


Regardless of publishing, this is a bad way to get feedback

In order to get useful information out of the feedback you receive, you need to build a relationship with your beta readers.

If S. Morgenstern posts a draft of The Princess Bride online, and BaseballGamer529 replies "This kissing scene is boring, you should remove it," does this mean that the quality of the scene is low, or that BaseballGamer just doesn't like romance? Morgenstern knows nothing about BaseballGamer - he has no way to know.

Establishing a relationship with your beta readers allows you to know what they like and don't like, allowing you to turn their comments into useful feedback. It also allows you to communicate with them, elaborating on their responses when necessary, and asking them to read your book looking at specific issues. None of this is possible with anonymous comments on a publicly published story.


I think yes, BUT carefully.

Having it online will definitely discourage publishers, but that doesn't mean all doors suddenly slam shut. They will just be harder to walk through. First I'll tell you what I'm doing related to the question(not necessarily the best), then a few pointers on what you should do.

I first started writing and posting my story on the mostly-dead writing site of fictionpress.com. As there are few people active, you very rarely(ie never) have to worry about people stealing works, and since the story will always have a post date you can easily prove which came first if it comes down to it. You will also, at some point(it may take a while) attract several readers who will follow. I have 7(which, for the site, is pretty good when most have 2-3 or none).

These half dozen or so eventually formed the first of my Beta readers, along with my English teachers, a few others I'd Beta-ed before, and a few good not directly related family members(cousins work great here).

I think in your case, maybe skip the posting online part and just find some good friends to Beta the story. If you're on a few random Discord servers, plug there and see how many offers you get.

If you want to post online, only do the first draft as public, and keep the second and onward limited to Betas and editors and such(I find that Google Docs can do this easily). If a publisher ever asks you to take down the first draft in order to publish, do it. You will most likely get more publicity from the publisher

Your Answer

Fordy is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct.

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.