|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Wake Forest, North Carolina|
|Distribution||Simon & Schuster (US)|
Diamond Book Distributors (UK)
|Key people||Toni Weisskopf|
|Fiction genres||Science fiction, fantasy|
Baen Books (//) is an American publishing house for science fiction and fantasy. In science fiction, it emphasizes space opera, hard science fiction, and military science fiction. The company was established in 1983 by science fiction publisher and editor Jim Baen. After his death in 2006, he was succeeded as publisher by long-time executive editor Toni Weisskopf.
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 Baen to head and revitalize the science fiction line of its Pocket Books division. Baen, with financial backing from some friends, counteroffered with a proposal to start up a new company named Baen Books and provide Simon & Schuster with a science fiction line to distribute instead.
According to Locus's 2004 Book Summary, Baen Books was the ninth most active publisher in the U.S. in terms of most books published in the genres indicated, and the fifth most active publisher of the dedicated science fiction 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 science fiction 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).
Beginning in mid-1999, Baen emphasized electronic publishing and Internet-focused promotions for its publications. The discussions on Baen's bar convinced him to do so. Baen's electronic strategy is explained exhaustively in a series of "letters" or "essays" called The Prime Palaver 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 Baen Ebooks (formerly Webscriptions, which was not formally part of Baen Books, but in effect an independent e-publisher). Baen and his successors believe that DRM does 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. 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, especially with the advent of e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle, and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
Initially, 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, Jim 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, a 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."
On February 15, 2021, American author Jason Sanford posted via Patreon "Baen Books Forum Being Used to Advocate for Political Violence". Publisher Toni Weisskopf released a statement saying the Bar will remain closed pending an investigation. The site was reopened on April 9, 2021.
In addition to selling individual titles in electronic format, Baen has distributed serialized e-book versions of new books at reduced prices in monthly bundles. Originally called Webscriptions, these Monthly Baen Bundles are scheduled three months in advance of print publication. Webscription.net was implemented by Baen's preferred website expert, Arnold Bailey, who also sold e-books for other publishers. At the start of 2012, the Webscription.net website was redesigned, renamed to Baen Ebooks, and moved to baenebooks.com. Despite the new name, Baen Ebooks continues to sell e-books for other publishers, notably science fiction genre rival Night Shade Books.
Baen's standard setup is based on monthly bundles. Each month, whichever books Baen has coming out in paper (paperback or hardcover, new or reissued) are bundled put together in a fixed price (currently $18) bundle regardless of the number of books (historically 4–9 books, average 5–6). The Monthly Baen Bundles are released in installments beginning three months prior to physical publication. The first installment, released three months prior to paper publication includes roughly a half of every book in the bundle, with some books usually included in their entirety. The second installment, two months prior to print publication includes roughly three quarters, and the third installment on the 16th of the month prior to official print release includes the full text. The first two installments are generally available only as HTML, while the last includes all formats supported. Each bundle can only be bought until the 15th of the month prior to official print publication, which is about the time the printed books reach retailers. (Until December 2012, bundles remained on sale indefinitely.)
Another avenue for distribution that Baen uses for some of its new titles is the offering of eARCs (electronic advance reading copies) 3 to 5 months prior to publication. Marketed as a premium product for the fans who absolutely positively have to read it now, they are priced at $15 per single title and can differ from the final text (as they are electronic proofs). After print publication, the "cleaned up and finalized" electronic copy is available both online through the monthly bundle or as a single title (priced variably $7–10, older titles are less).
The electronic versions by Baen are produced in five common formats (HTML, Palm Pilot/Mobipocket/Kindle format, Rocketbook, EPUB/Stanza, Sony LRF, RTF, and MS Reader versions), all unencrypted in drastic contrast to the rest of the e-publishing industries strategy. Jim Baen disliked Adobe's portable document format for reading purposes, but Baen Ebooks offers some non-Baen titles in that format. When customers purchase a title from Baen, they can read it online or download it in any format they want as often as they want. Baen instituted a parallel practice of using promotional CD-ROMs with permissive copyright licenses containing many of its stable of authors' works. Whether downloaded or by CD-ROM, the source material is available in all the formats Baen supports.
The great majority of books published by Baen are still available as e-books, long after the hardcover or paperback versions have gone out of print. This is especially important for midlist titles, which rarely get reprinted. Until December 2012, it was also possible to purchase older monthly bundles.
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. In 2001, Wired magazine described Webscriptions as "innovative". 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."
Baen's first run at magazine-style book publishing took place in the late 1970s, in the form of Destinies, a quarterly 'bookazine' that featured fiction and non-fiction by well-known and new authors that Baen was promoting. It was published by Ace, where Baen was employed at the time. Under the aegis of Baen Books in the 1980s, he published two more bookazine series. The first was Far Frontiers. The second was New Destinies, edited by Baen, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Michael A. Banks.
Baen's began the experimental publication of The Grantville Gazette, an e-magazine anthology series specifically related to the popular Ring of Fire alternate history plenum. The Gazettes are professionally edited and approved fan fiction. They are published on a regular schedule and available individually at Baen Books or Amazon, or by subscription.
In the early 2000s, Baen tried magazine-like publishing again, establishing two self-sustaining e-zine enterprises with a separate staff for each, both spearheaded by Eric Flint: Jim Baen's Universe and the Grantville Gazette series, which was reconfigured after Grantville Gazette V.
The general audience speculative fiction anthology Baen's Universe is available only online. 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.
From 1999 to 2011, Baen's e-books were produced by Webscriptions under contract for Baen Books in various (at least five) common digital formats. Because these multiple formats complicate the issue of identifying electronic versions, Baen and Webscriptions did not use DOIs to identify their e-books (even though some of their books had DOIs). The electronic e-ARC practices also complicate things in "publications dates", since the first released text starts two to three months before the release of the print copy, though the released text is not guaranteed to fully copy edited—and so occasionally differs from the final released fully copy-edited versions. Thus, like the Grantville Gazettes the e-publication date antedates the print copy by about two months—the interval before the release of the last third and the hardcover print edition is simultaneously released.
Authors whose works have been published by Baen include:
Series published by Baen include: