Baen Books

Baen Books

Baen Books is an American publishing company established in 1983 by long time Science Fiction publisher and editor Jim Baen. It is a science fiction and fantasy publishing house that emphasizes space opera, hard science fiction, military science fiction, and fantasy. Soon after Baen died prematurely on 28 June 2006, he was succeeded as publisher by long-time executive editor Toni Weisskopf.

Founding of Baen Books

Baen Books was founded in 1983 out of a negotiated agreement between Jim Baen and Simon & Schuster. Simon & Schuster was undergoing massive reorganization and wanted to hire Jim Baen to head up and revitalize its science fiction line of its Pocket Books division. Jim Baen, with financial backing from some friends, counter-offered with a proposal to start up a new company named Baen Books and provide Simon & Schuster with an SF line to distribute instead. [ [ "JIM BAEN October 22, 1943–June 28, 2006"] , Baen's obituary by David Drake,]

Growth and Philosophy

From his days in magazine publishing, Jim Baen had a reputation for being able to recognize a gem in the rough and the ability to take a new author and nurture and train him up able to write salable material, and establish himself, which were some of the qualities desired by Simon and Shuster on their team.

In the later nineties, the publisher embraced the newly emerging internet as a means of "spreading the word" about a book or author and created one of the first, if not the first, writer-to-fan discussion forums "Baen's Bar" capable of using a mix of technologies to support the overall promotion and interest in reading books for education and entertainment. The web board became very dedicated to expanding the shrinking reader base for printed works by using the electronic internet to recapture interest.

One project which came about from this focus was the compendium of great science fiction "The World Turned upside down", and the practice begun circa 2002, of republishing older good science fiction in collections and omnibus editions, such as the works of the sixties authors Christopher Anvil and others.

=Electronic publishing strategy= Baen's BarInitially, the company invested resources in "Baen's Bar", its online community service that provides a forum for customers, authors and editors to interact, beginning as a BBS. In the early 2000s, a blogger wrote: "Like every other publisher, Baen set up a website. But several of his authors and fan friends convinced him to put a chat client on his site. Since he was interested, and since several of those authors (like Jerry Pournelle, former columnist for Byte Magazine, for instance) were very Internet savvy, he did. The chat client grew into an incredibly vibrant community called Baen's Bar." [Cite web
title= Baen's Bar, A Successful Community

In recent years, beginning in mid 1999, Baen has emphasized electronic publishing and Internet-focused promotions for its publications. The discussions on Baen's bar convinced him to do so. [Cite web
title= Baen's Bar, A Successful Community
] Baen's electronic strategy is explained exhaustively in a series of "letters" or "essays" called [ The Prime Palavar] by Baen Free Library. "First Librarian" Eric Flint, but in a nutshell, emphasizes distribution of unencrypted digital versions of its works free of Digital Rights Management copy protection schemes through webscriptions, misunderstood by many to be a part of Baen Books, but which only provides the services and is de facto an independent e-publisher. Webscriptions does not apply DRM for Baen, and Baen's Webscriptions, but Baen is the customer and so defines the relationship by contract. It is fair to say that Baen and Flint scoff at Digital encryption strategies and feel they do more harm than good to a publisher. Consequently, Baen also makes its entire catalog available in multiple formats for downloading and typically prices electronic versions of its books at or below that of paperback editions—and makes a profit doing it. [Cite web
title= Baen's Bar, A Successful Community
] According to essays on Baen's science fiction e-magazine "Jim Baen's Universe", also edited by Flint, the strategy is if anything, getting stronger and more fruitful with the passage of time.

Baen's Webscriptions

Other electronic marketing tactics Baen employs include distributing ARC serialized e-book versions of Electronic Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), or E-ARCs at reduced prices, scheduled beginning two or so months in advance of print publication. Baen called this Webscriptions, but contracted implementation to his web services consulting guru Arnold Bailey, who established Webwrights and it's internet lifeline, [] which now also features other publishers such as SF genre rival Tor Books.

The Baen's Webscriptions installments include roughly a third of each book, with the last third coinciding with the print release. Baen in turn links to digital data using webwrights/webscriptions which Baen produces and provides. Whichever website sells the books goes through webwrights during the purchasing, who then pays Baens. The relationship is near incestuously close, but webwrights is credited as the e-published version copyright holder, Baen's webscriptions does accounting and pays the real copyright holders, the authors their cut on the e-books.

The electronic versions by Baen's are produced in five common formats from webwrights, including word processor friendly versions, all unencrypted in drastic contrast to the rest of the e-publishing industries strategy. Jim Baen disliked Adobe pdf format for reading purposes, but webwrights offers some titles in that format as well at the clients request. The "marketing gimmick" Jim Baen tried was making the E-ARCs are available in a five for a single price subscription option, which allows a subscriber an even more cost effective price for a lot of reading material.

After print publication, the "cleaned up and finalized" electronic copy is available both on line through webscriptions and through the parallel practice Baen instituted of using promotional CD-ROMs with permissive copyright licenses with many of its stable of authors works. Whether downloaded or by CD-ROM, the source material is available in all the formats Baen supports, which includes some for e-book readers.

Magazine experiments

The Grantville Gazettes

Baen's assayed the experimental publication of "The Grantville Gazette", an e-magazine anthology series specifically related to the popular Ring of Fire alternate history plenum. In fact, today Baen serves as a distributor of the e-zines and occasionally buys an issue and prints it; the real publisher (Switch over from production at Baen Books to under 16writ|Paula Goodlett occurred between volumes GG04|Vol. 4 and GG06|Vol. 6) is the milieu creator Eric Flint, while the actual publications are copyrighted to ", Inc." which pays the anthologies' authors. Starting in 2007 the Gazettes were e-published through a separate [ dedicated website] as well as through the Webscriptions.

Jim Baen's Universe

That semi-failure lead in turn to a separate establishment of two self-sustaining e-zine enterprises with a separate staff for each, both spearhead by Eric Flint: Jim Baen's Universe and the reconfigured (after Grantville Gazette V ended the initial spin-off production mode using the E-ARCs mode as an e-zine.) Gazettes magazine.

In contrast, the general audience speculative fiction anthology "Baen's Universe" is available only on-line. At approximately 120,000 words, this latter publication is unusually large when compared to most traditional print editions of science fiction magazines, and the average size of the newly reconfigured Gazettes is similarly generous.

In 1999, Baen launched its "Webscriptions" service, which provides customers with the opportunity to purchase access to a "bundled" discount package of electronic releases from Baen's catalog, varying in composition from month to month.

For a fee, a customer subscribes to a set of approximately five novels and/or anthologies. Each package is commonly a mix of new releases and older titles.

Upcoming titles (in both Webscriptions and as individual purchases) are released to the customer in increments in advance of the scheduled publication month. The usual method is to make the work available for reading as increments in HTML-only encoding. Two months prior, the subscriber may read 30-50% of the work; one month before publication, 50-75% becomes accessible. The complete text becomes available in multiple digital formats in the day and month of the released print publication.

All titles in a particular month's Webscription remain available in that "bundle" henceforth (as do all of the packages offered since the onset of the Webscription service in December 1999), and may be purchased retroactively.

The subscription aspect of the term "Webscription" refers not only to the serial manner of treating with new releases, but also to the way in which the purchaser is obliged to accept all of the selections in a particular monthly package, in much the same way as he/she would accept all of an editor's choices when buying a copy of a monthly science fiction magazine. This actively encourages purchasers to read outside their usual preferences by making available to them works by authors (and materials in subgenres of speculative fiction) that might not have come into their hands otherwise.

Because Baen subsequently maintains the great majority of their electronically released publications on its Web site for purchase, the publishing house has been able to make midlist titles available to readers long after they would typically have gone out of print under traditional publishing practices.

Baen has made liberal use of free content in its marketing efforts. For example, free sample chapters of its books are typically available on the Baen Web site. The "Baen Free Library" allows free access to dozens of titles from the company's backlist, often the first book published in a series by a Baen author. Baen also provides free electronic copies of its books to readers who are blind, paralyzed, dyslexic, or are amputees.

Baen's emphasis on electronic publishing has generated press coverage for the company. "Wired" magazine has described Baen's Webscriptions service as "innovative". [M.J. Rose, [ "Come and get 'em"] , "Wired", March 13, 2001.] Charles N. Brown, publisher of "Locus Magazine", has praised Baen's approach in an interview in "The New York Times", saying "Baen has shown that putting up electronic versions of books doesn't cost you sales. It gains you a larger audience for all of your books. As a result, they've done quite well." [Cite news
author = Pamela LiCalzi O'Connell
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
title =Publisher's Web Books Spur Hardcover Sales
publisher = "The New York Times" (registration required)
pages =
year =
date =2001-03-13
url =

Baen Digital Object Identifiers (DOI)

Baen Books authors

Although Baen himself was politically conservative , Baen Books has published works covering a broad spectrum of political philosophies.

Baen authors include:
*Poul Anderson
*Robert Asprin
*Lois McMaster Bujold
*Paul Chafe
*C. J. Cherryh
*Stoney Compton
*L. Sprague de Camp
*Andrew Dennis
*Virginia DeMarce
*Ann Downer
*David Drake
*Eric Flint
*Esther Friesner
*Robert A. Heinlein
*James P. Hogan (writer)
*Sarah A. Hoyt
*Mercedes Lackey
*John Lambshead
*Holly Lisle
*Larry Niven
*Andre Norton
*Dr. Jerry Pournelle
*John Ringo
*Spider Robinson
*Joel Rosenberg
*S.M. Stirling
*Travis S. Taylor
*David Weber
*Michael Z. Williamson

The market for SF in the United States

In 2004, more than 2,500 titles in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror were published in the U.S. by 248 publishers. According to the 2004 Book Summary, ["Locus", February 2005. Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 50–54.] Baen Books was the ninth most active publisher in terms of most books published in the genres indicated, and the fifth most active publisher of the dedicated SF imprints, publishing a total of 67 titles (of which 40 were original titles). It is difficult to judge the issue of quality but, based on the number of times a title published by Baen Books appeared in the bestseller lists produced by the major bookselling chains, it is ranked the seventh most popular SF publisher. In 2005 Baen moved up to the eighth position in the total books published with 72 books published (of which 40 were original titles). ["Locus", February 2006, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 50–53.] It was the sixth most active publisher of the dedicated SF imprints, and the fifth most popular SF publisher based on the number of bestseller list appearances.

Baen Books series

*1632 series/Ring of Fire series: The very popular series and rapidly expanding 1632verse multiverse, the first of several planned Assiti Shards mechanism series, of which two others are in production or under contract. The mainly collaborative series begun in 2000 in 1632 has grown at a remarkable rate to 1632Count series total allworks released works with more forthcoming—despite suffering through five years or so with a split marketing image, being variously called "Ring of Fire series" or "Assiti Shards series"
*The Bard's Tale: A series of books based on the RPG computer game series of the same name.
*Belisarius series: The premise of this science fiction (more specifically alternate history) series is that a war between two competing societies in the future spills over to 6th century Earth.
*Chicks in Chainmail: A series of anthologies centered around this theme, edited by Esther Friesner.
*Freehold War
*Heroes in Hell
*Honor Harrington
*Legacy of the Aldenata
*The Man-Kzin Wars: A shared universe based on the Kzinti Conflicts in Larry Niven's Known Space universe, featuring writers personally selected by Niven
*March Upcountry Series
*Raj Whitehall
*Vorkosigan Saga
*Wing Commander: Baen published seven "Wing Commander" novels from 1992 to 1999 (starting with "Freedom Flight" by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon, and ending with ' by William R. Forstchen and Andrew Keith), including the novelizations of two of the games, ' and "".

External links

* [ Baen's Grantville Gazettes] -- various prefaces, afterwords, and columns.
* [ Jim Baen's UNIVERSE Homepage]
* [ Jim Baen's UNIVERSE Columns archives] -- various columns, Editors and otherwise, no subscription needed.
* [ Prime Palaver essays] , most discussing copy protection and Baen's e-policies.
* [ Editor's columns of JBU] -- "Salvos Against Big Brother" and "The Editor's Page"; "Salvos" are similar essays by editor Flint specifically focused on DRM and Baen's electronic publishing policies.


External links

* [ Baen's Grantville Gazettes] - First (originally experimental) e-zine, the gazette is unique in that it is canonical for the best selling Ring of Fire series.
* [ Jim Baen's UNIVERSE] the publishers second foray into e-zine publishing.
* [ Baen's Bar Online] - All e-manuscript submissions for either of the above ezines have to go through this door into the two sub-forums 1632 Slush or JBU "Universe Slush" conference. Baen's Bar is the only submission mechanism for submitting stories to two professional SF Magazines. [cite Sm|Boatright, December 2007, Wikipedia|q=All stories submitted to the Grantville Gazette must be submitted through the 1632 Slush conference on the Bar, and all stories submitted for the "introducing" slots in Jim Baen's Universe must be submitted through the Universe Slush conference."]
* [ Baen Books official Web site]
* [ Baen Free Library]
* [ Baen e-books via Webscriptions]
* [ Index of Baen on-line resources] at
* [ Free Baen materials for the disabled] at

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