Well, I think it also depends on the expertise of those family and friends. My husband is also an author and I rely on his advice immensely. He also doesn't mince words with me. If it stinks, he'll let me know.Yes, to all above, and I would add that your spouse, significant other, children, parents, friends don't count as beta readers--they're too nice to you, and they understand your brain too well--they'll fill in the gaps unconsciously, just like you do. You want someone who doesn't understand you, and who doesn't have to live with you. (not that you can't take your spouse's, friends', and kids' comments into account, just don't depend upon them)
This is completely dependent on your book. There is no direct answer. Personally, I don't send my book out until I have read through it several times, had my writers group look at it, and had a handful of beta readers read it through. My own novels take about 16-18 months, from my first research to sending out my first query. That's almost a full year of editing. Part of the reason it takes so long is I take the entire thing through my writers group, which amounts to 10 pages a week. But, taking them out, it would still require 10 months of work (probably 5 of editing time) for me. I want it to be the very best it can be before I let agents look at it.
In your case, it would take less time as I'm assuming a children's novel is less than 80,000 words. My advice: read it through a total of *at least* (but try for more) 6 times yourself and have several beta readers read through it for plot holes that you miss.
I 'finished' my first novel in December 2014 after eleven months of solid writing, (ten hours a day), with the intention of self-publishing it as an ebook on Smashwords and Amazon in time for the Christmas sales rush. I quickly decided that this would be a waste of much effort, so changed tack to seek a traditional publishing deal through querying agents.
While doing this I edited my novel, prompted partly by the varying demands of different agents when asking for a sample of my writing. I literally read and edited my story 100 times, keeping a log of the number of corrections I made. This was revealing, but also rather hypnotic for I found that I was failing to spot repetitions, filler words and even entire words and individual letters that were missing—this was through over-familiarity—I knew what I was trying to say and my brain auto-corrected any errors!
Having an astute beta-reader helped a lot, as she has eagle eyes and isn't afraid of speaking her mind. After she'd offered me wise counsel, I thought that I was done, but then followed up on Carol Rose's post 43 Words To Cut From Your Writing. While expunging my manuscript of these, I noticed 25 other words that could be zapped. After ten weeks of joyless editing, my book was 10,000 words shorter and read more tightly.
My manuscript is still too long for a debut novel by an unknown author, but I'm loath to hack away at it, which would feel like trying to make a rhinoceros out of an elephant to me—messy and unconvincing. Instead, I've set my first novel aside to serve as a second or third story in a series, to be published when I'm a successful author (hah!). Writing it taught me a hell of a lot, and I'm now halfway through a prequel—mindful that much of what I'm creating might be edited into oblivion, I'm editing more assiduously as I go along.
As I write, I'm sending the early chapters to a new beta-reader, and she is noticing different sorts of things to my previous critic. This shows to me that people's tastes vary, and it's impossible to please everyone all of the time.
Put it this way Quillwitch, you could polish your manuscript until it shone, but give it to a literary agent or publisher and they would still find things to alter.
I'm not being cynical when I say: your novel is ready when you can't stand the sight of it anymore.
Remember, agents and editors have to do something, so leave them things to do....
Great answer, Thank you! Now, where to find a decent beta-reader?
I have no experience of them myself, preferring to rely on friends who read avidly, but there are several groups online offering beta readers' services.
These include well-known host sites such as Tumblr, Goodreads and Reddit, which has an active community of more than 3,000 YA writers.
It's a secret that no one knows except Pete. But if you're active on here long enough and contribute to the conversation, you should get in I don't know how long that would take, though, so the Back Room may be your best bet for now.Thank you for your answer! And how is it that you earn a spot?