Dickens, Gertrude Stein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and plenty of other 19th century authors had lots of people to read to and get feedback from–anyone who was close at hand and who would listen. Attaining good feedback often started in young adulthood, when such people congregated (or ran away) with each other, like the infamous group of Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron and Mary’s step sister Claire Clairmont.
To be honest, I cannot say how useful Claire’s feedback would have been since she was part of the pack due to her sexual addiction to Byron, but presumably it was okay feedback since people were used to reading or listening to stories read aloud in the 19th century. They were not distracted by their handheld devices.
Today it is difficult for writers to get feedback because we vie with movies, shows, podcasts and music. Successful authors have their standard readers, but they must reward them somehow. Money? Food? Sex? Reading their readers’ books in return? That might work for Stephen and Tabitha King (as in all the above).
Once I asked Mark Anderson on his Edward De Vere Facebook page (when it was sort of Anderson’s forum), author of the astonishing Shakespeare by Another Name, who read for him. He named Roger Strittmayer, a prominent Oxfordian (who, like Mark Anderson, has his own Wikipedia page).
How lucky for them! I imagine a great number of lifelong writers, people with published credits, still suffer from a dearth of feedback, from friends or colleagues who will read their writing and tell them where to get rid of a sentence or add a detail.
In many cases, I often read and listen to as much from the people I pester as I want them to read or listen to from me. They may give me feedback once and never again, but expect, in the name of friendship, ongoing feedback on their own pursuits. This is endlessly frustrating.
To be fair, Connie Kirchberg, author of several good books listed this site, is my most dependable reader. She has never failed to read and give feedback, even if she is knee deep in saw dust or walking three dogs. God bless the woman and give her good eyesight and a long life! I need her.
As for the rest of the feedback every author craves, I have learned to rely on nagging my family. I think that is the only reasonable thing to do. Walking into a room armed with a story is how I go about it. If they dodge into the bathroom or remember an appointment with a shiatsu therapist, I keep walking in with the story as soon as they get home.