How Long Should a Beta Reader Take? (Solved w/ Timelines)

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When working with beta readers, I always want feedback as fast as possible.

How long should a beta reader take?

A beta reader should take 1 hour for every 10,000 words. This is the average time it takes to both read and process 10,000 words of writing. Two to three weeks is common for a full-length novel, book, or screenplay. Establish a deadline that matches your publishing timeline and their schedule.

In this article, I will answer the most common questions I get about how long it takes for beta readers to read and review your manuscript.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take? (9 Example Timelines)

Writing with edits in red marker—How Long Should a Beta Reader Take
Image by author via Canva

How long beta readers need to read and give you feedback varies widely.

However, there are some general rules of thumb that can help you create a working timeline.

To make it simple, I created a chart that lists some example time frames for beta readers:

Word CountTimeline (Read & Process)
How long should a beta reader take to read 1,500 words?10 minutes
How long should a beta reader take to read 5,000 words?30 minutes
How long should a beta reader take to read 10,000 words?1 hour
How long should a beta reader take to read 15,000 words?1.5 hours
How long should a beta reader take to read 20,000 words?2 hours
How long should a beta reader take to read 30,000 words?3 hours
How long should a beta reader take to read 50,000 words?5 hours
How long should a beta reader take to read 80,000 words?8 hours
How long should a beta reader take to read 100,000 words?10 hours
Beta Reader Timelines

Keep in mind that reading speeds differ and some beta readers take longer to process your work than others.

Faster is not always better.

I suggest that you give your beta readers 2-3 weeks to read, process, and give feedback to you.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take for a Novel?

Most full-length novels range between 50,000-100,000 words, with an average of 80,000.

Therefore, beta readers generally take 8 or more hours to finish reading and reviewing your novel.

You might be thinking, “Great! That means my beta reader will finish my novel in a single day.” They might, but most beta readers read manuscripts in 1-3 hour sessions over the course of a few days or weeks.

So, you probably want to give your beta readers between 1-3 weeks for average-length novels.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take for a Screenplay?

Here is the rule I tell my screenplay clients: Beta readers should finish reading your screenplay in 3 hours or less.

On average, a feature-length (90 minute) movie has 110-120 pages.

Each page might include 180-200 words.

So, if your script is roughly 120 pages long with 200 words per page, then a beta reader needs about 2-3 hours of time.

If your screenplay is shorter or longer, then adjust accordingly.

Remember that rushed beta reading does you no good. While a beta reader can finish your screenplay in an afternoon, it may take them a few days or a week to put their notes together.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take for a Novella?

A novella is any work that falls between 10,000-20,000 words with an average of 15,000.

In other words, most novellas take beta readers two hours to read.

Like with other types of writing, I suggest that you give your readers a standard two weeks.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take for a Short Story?

A short story might only consist of 5,000-10,000 words, which means that it will take your beta reader about an hour or less to finish.

Once again, I suggest giving your beta reader more time than necessary to finish up.

Life gets busy and emergencies happen.

How Long Should a Beta Reader Take for an Essay?

Nonfiction writers who struggle with essays might prefer having their work reviewed by a beta reader.

An essay is typically between 300 and 10,000 words (or more) in length.

Therefore, a beta reader should not take longer than an hour to read your essay—and possibly another hour to organize their feedback.

Shorter essays can be both read and reviewed in less than one hour.

3 Factors That Make Beta Readers Take Longer

A beta reader might take longer to read and give you feedback in three situations.

These three factors can really slow down the process, so they are helpful to understand.

The three factors:

  • The complexity of your work
  • The length of your work
  • The type of beta reader

Beta Readers Take Longer With Complex Works

I work with a lot of beta readers and I can tell you that complex projects consistently take longer to read and process than less complex ones.

What do I mean by “complex”?

A fantasy novel is usually more complex than a nonfiction memoir about the writer’s hike across the Andes Mountains. A story set in three different timelines simultaneously is more complex than a story set only in the present.

The subject matter can also affect how long it takes readers to give feedback.

For example, some readers will take a lot longer with a book that deals with sensitive topics while others might breeze through it quickly.

Beta Readers Take Longer With Long Works

This might sound obvious, but it still affects most writers at some point.

The longer your novel or book is the more time a beta reader needs to read and process it.

For example, if an 80,000-word novel takes two weeks to read and review, then a 120,000-word novel might take three weeks.

The same goes for nonfiction books that are 200-300 pages or more.

Longer books take longer to read, edit, and review because there is more content to process.

The Type of Beta Reader (Skimming vs. Thorough)

Some beta readers may skim your book or novel while others might read it thoroughly.

One of the most common scenarios is a skimming beta reader paired with a lengthy book or novel.

This means they might not pick up on your intention, miss details, and give you inaccurate feedback for your story.

To avoid this problem, look for thorough beta readers who will read every word carefully to give you the best feedback possible.

How Long Do You Need To Wait For Beta Reader Feedback?

As a general rule, I tell my clients to wait one month after giving beta readers their manuscript before asking for feedback.

This gives them enough time to read and process it without feeling overly rushed.

Keep in mind that some beta readers need more time than others, so adjust the timeline if needed.

Of course, there are exceptions.

For example, if your beta reader is very busy and only has a few days to read your work, then 30 days might not be enough for them.

In these situations, it is best to give them the manuscript as soon as possible, come up with a mutually viable timeline, and then follow up regularly.

How To Get Beta Readers To Send Feedback Faster

There are a few things you can do to speed up how long it takes for your beta reader to give you feedback.

Try these tips:

  • Negotiate a specific deadline and timeframe up front (this is the most important strategy)
  • Create a private Facebook group for easier and quicker communication
  • Train your beta readers

The last point may seem silly, but many beta readers don’t know what they are supposed to do.

Write out a short one-page brief with your main expectations, record a short 2-minute video, and answer any questions they may ask.

You can even ask them to watch the following video on how to be a good beta reader:

YouTube video by Writing with Jenna Moreci

What To Do If Your Beta Reader Is Not On Time

Even if you establish a specific timeline with your beta readers, some might still miss the deadline.

It’s no surprise that beta readers sometimes go missing in action (MIA).

What is a writer to do?

Here is what I recommend:

  • Touch base with them
  • Express understanding
  • Ask for what you need
  • Take them out of rotation

The first step is to check in with your beta reader.

We all get busy sometimes, so send them an email or give them a quick phone call to see if anything is going on.

If they are MIA for more than two weeks, express your understanding. Let them know you are aware of how busy things have been lately and that you appreciate their work even if it falls behind schedule.

If your beta reader is MIA for more than four weeks, then it’s time to ask them for what you need.

Give them an updated timeline and see how they respond.

If they do not seem interested in resuming their work as a beta reader, then take them out of the rotation and find another beta reader who can help you.

I know, it might feel like a drastic solution, but sometimes beta readers don’t get back to you for valid reasons.

These reasons could include personal emergencies, illness, family tragedies, and other issues that make them MIA from their responsibilities as your beta reader.

In these cases, taking them out of your rotation is good for both of you.

Just let them know that you understand and will gladly take them back on as a beta reader if their schedule becomes more available in the future.

Final Thoughts

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how long a beta reader takes with your book—everyone works differently.

Ideally, you want someone who can give you feedback in a timely manner so that you don’t lose momentum with your writing project.

Asking beta readers to commit no more than one month of their time is a good rule of thumb so you are not waiting endlessly for them to get back to you.

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