JC Carlton has a really nice Jim Baen tribute article. Well worth the read.
I’m a fan of Baen Books. I like hard SciFi and adventure. Andrew Liptak notes in his article on Jim Baen, that “the type of fiction that Baen was most interested in: adventurous, escapist, and fun.” I pay my money to be entertained. I don’t need lectures on social justice, and the evils of capitalism. I get more than enough of that just from living in New England.
Thomas Disch, author of The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered The World, doesn’t share my opinion. I read his book, which I liked. Mr. Disch however didn’t like any Science Fiction with the slightest politically conservative leaning. He also wasn’t too fond of female authors either. He targeted Baen specifically for catering stories for conservative fans. I think a more accurate description would be that Jim Baen didn’t discriminate against authors with a politically conservative viewpoint, as other publishing companies did. There are authors who only deal with Baen, because of the open hostility shown at some other publishing houses to any author who didn’t toe the progressive leftist line. Jim Baen didn’t care about your politics, he cared if you could write good adventure stories. Case in point, Eric Flint. Eric Flint is one of the top selling authors at Baen, both in number of books, and number of books sold. He was also an editor at Baen for a while. He as also worked for the Socialist Workers Party. Mr. Flint is a well educated historian, who paid for grad school by working as a longshoreman. He has also co-authored books with Charles E. Gannon, David Weber, and Tom Kratman.
Baen was also an early pioneer in using the Internet as a way to reach their readers. The Baen Bar forums were up and running before most publishing houses knew there was an Internet. Baen also was one of the first publishing houses to sell ebooks. They also bucked the trend, by refusing to put DRM (“copy protection”) on their ebooks. Jim Baen went by the novel notion that his customers were not crooks, and actually wanted the authors of the books they read to be successful, and write more books. Jim Baen went as far to put out CDs (included with hardcover purchases, as well as available online), with a complete catalog of an given author’s work. All without any encryption, and in multiple e-reader formats.
I did some research into the e-book market, and the Baen approach, for a graduate marketing class. The problem, as stated by Eric Flint, wasn’t people stealing your books. The problem was that people don’t know about your books. Baen Books found that when they put out an e-book as a free download on their site, sales rose. Not only for that book, but for the entire author’s catalog that was still in print.
Jim Baen loved his work, and knew that if you gave the fans a good ripping yarn of high adventure, and didn’t consider them criminals, he could spend more time working on content than running the business.