There's a certain urgency to share my work as soon as I've written it. My first reader is my husband, Mike. I'm looking to see whether he thinks it works overall. He'll point out any weak spots and do a quick proofread for me too. Sometimes I read my work aloud to him in the kitchen while dinner is cooking.
Mike and I are a team. If something's off – I'll go back and fix it up and then have him read it again. We'll go back and forth this way.
A first reader should have good judgment. Is a first reader a kind of gatekeeper? I think so. They're the ones who stop you from going forward when you're headed for disaster.
Who isn't a good first reader? Someone who can't articulate what's wrong with a certain phrase or idea. Even worse is the first reader who has nothing to say and draws a complete blank when you ask them what they think.
I also don't want a first reader who has too many suggestions – it's still in a fairly fragile place and I'm just looking for an overall general reaction.