Alpha Readers, Beta Readers and Critique Partners, OH MY! What’s the difference? (and why you should know)

“Every role is important. Every reader and early insight are critical to the release of a strong story.”

The further I get into this author journey, the more questions I get asked. Don’t get me wrong, I love answering questions and engaging in any conversation related to writing. There are just some questions that come up more frequently than others—and oftentimes they inspire a blog post.

Like this one.

What’s the difference between an alpha reader, a beta reader, and a critique partner? I regularly see them used interchangeable and it makes me cringe every time. They are, in fact, all unique, and each role is important to the development of a strong story.

Do you need them all? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no! It’s really dependent on your writing process and what works best for you (the author). For what it’s worth though, it’s helpful to have a good grasp on the options out there and when and why you made need each resource.

The Alpha Reader

Simply put, an alpha reader will always come before a beta reader—just like alpha comes before beta in the Greek alphabet. An alpha reader is the first person you’ll share your writing with. For example, if I complete three chapters in my fiction novel, and would like immediate feedback on the unedited manuscript before I progress any further, I’ll reach out to my alpha reader.

An alpha reader is responsible for providing basic feedback about the (in progress) story in general. They read for concepts like awkward dialogue, plot holes, world building inaccuracies, or early issues surrounding a character’s arc. While a beta reader can read for these too, an alpha reader plays an essential role as the story progresses. Alpha readers work with an author as they draft the manuscript.

As an author, my advice is simple. Work with an alpha reader you trust. The first draft of any manuscript is a critical time, but it’s also quite vulnerable. Partner with an alpha reader who will offer honest, but important feedback to keep you motivated and progressing in the story.

The Beta Reader

A beta reader will typically get their hands on a more polished, completed manuscript—long after the alpha reader has had their say in the story. Beta readers are individuals who have an interest in your story, are familiar with the genre, and owe you nothing. In fact, beta readers should be people you do not know because they can share constructive feedback without feeling pressured to keep your feelings from being hurt.

In addition, beta readers agree to answer specific questions for the author. For example:


  • Is this book targeted toward its intended audience?
  • Did you lose interest in reading the manuscript at any point?
  • Were there parts of the manuscript that were confusing to you?  
  • Comment on your overall impression/feeling of the story.


  • Is this book targeted toward its intended audience?
  • Is this book achieving its intended purpose?
  • Did you lose interest in reading the manuscript at any point?
  • Were there parts of the manuscript that were confusing to you?

For more examples of questions you may ask a beta reader, refer to Beta Reading: It’s More Than, “Did You Like It?”  

The Critique Partner  

Last but not least, there are critique partners, often called “CPs” for short. A critique partner is similar to an alpha reader. However, a CP will typically not read an unedited manuscript or follow along with the author chapter by chapter. Rather, a CP will swap a lightly edited manuscript.  

The largest difference between an alpha reader and a critique partner is that a CP will always be another writer (whereas alpha and beta readers are mostly readers, they can still be a writer as well). The partnership is simply established to swap manuscripts and both individuals will help each other work through the stories.  

Special Bonus… the ARC Reader!  

While we’re talking about readers here, let’s also define the ARC reader. The ARC reader represents the first group of individuals who will get to read the final, polished manuscript before a book publishes. ARC = Advanced Reader Copy. Authors often choose a group of select trusted individuals for this role. In exchange for getting the opportunity to have the first set of eyes on a story before publication, ARC readers will prepare an early review and agree to promote the book on the day of its release.  

Every role is important. Every reader and early insight are critical to the release of a strong story. And I, for one, am thankful to everyone who has played a part in my publishing journey so far. If you’re interested in joining my team in any capacity listed above, please reach out to

Published by julienavickas

Julie Navickas is a best-selling and award-winning author of contemporary romance. She has a keen ability to weave heart-wrenching, second-chance stories through relatable characters with humility, humor, and heroism. She has quickly become a top-selling author with Inkspell Publishing.

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