I've recently finished revising a novel based on feedback from a critique group and feel like I'm ready now to get another layer of feedback. I've been looking for beta readers to get this, and was surprised when one of the people I reached out to asked to be paid for it. Is this normal? Should I expect to pay for a beta read?
No. This is not normal. Beta readers are usually fellow writers or people who like reading in your category and can articulate what they think the problems are with your book. In my experience, beta reading is usually a reciprocal thing - I'll read your MS if you read mine - but it doesn't have to be.
Certainly, it's a nice gesture if you give a copy of the finished book to the person who beta read for you, and you can thank them in the acknowledgments section of the book. But I don't believe you should pay actual cash money.
That said, if you are wanting a significant amount of feedback, and perhaps some line editing as well, then there might be a case for paying someone to read your MS. But in that case, I think the line between beta reading and editorial work is somewhat blurred. You would definitely expect to pay an editor and often the differences between what a beta reader and an editor do are quite small. I certainly do little line edits in manuscripts I beta read just because I can't help myself if I see a spelling, grammar or other minor error.
But I don't ask to be paid for the beta reading I do just because I will mention if you have a comma in the wrong place as well as telling you the MC needs to be more active in solving their own problems, or a secondary character is just annoying, not endearing, or that I feel like the whole of chapter 23 is completely redundant and slows the pacing. I just hope that when my next MS is ready to be seen, you will do the same for me.
Hope that's helpful! And good luck with your manuscript.