Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Steph Reads Baened Books

A couple of Twitter doofuses have decided that today is the day to mock Baen Books and its customers -- which means today is apparently the day for me to explain why Baen inspires my loyalty. Yes, this is going to be one of those dreaded listicles -- but at least it's short.

Reason 1: Baen's business practices are overwhelmingly pro-consumer. First of all, in offering access to an extensive "Free Library," Baen makes it remarkably easy for newcomers to find the earliest books of popular series. Secondly, in releasing its titles without DRM, Baen frees us to do with our books whatever we wish. Both policies send the implicit message that we are valued as customers and considered trustworthy -- an attitude that also heavily infuses Toni Weisskopf's convention-based presentations, where questions, friendly heckling, and general carrying on are encouraged with gusto. At both Dragon Con and Liberty Con, the Baen Road Show and Traveling Prize Patrol is usually one of the highlights of my weekend because the enthusiasm is just so damned infectious.

And their promotion materials are incredibly cool.

Reason 2: Baen is good to its authors. I interact with a lot of Baen authors online, and I have never once heard them complain about their contracts or their relationships with their editors. In fact, to a man, they are fiercely in love with Toni and her consummate professionalism. Here's Larry Correia's take, for instance: "Editor Toni Weisskopf is a professional’s professional. She has run one of the main sci-fi publishing houses for a decade. She has edited hundreds of books. She has discovered, taught, and nurtured a huge stable of authors, many of whom are extremely popular bestsellers. You will often hear authors complain about their editors and their publishers, but you’re pretty hard pressed to find anyone who has written for her who has anything but glowing praise for Toni." And here's Brad Torgersen on the same subject: "If other publishers operated very much according to corporate sensibilities with a corporate mindset, Baen still retained something of the personal touch. A smaller, almost family affair. Editors were congenial and approachable. You could converse with the editor-in-chief on a personal basis. The contracts were straightforward and possessed minimal legalistic jargon. Thus you could work successfully with Baen without relying on an agent or an IP lawyer to run interference for you. The company had absolutely no political or ideological litmus tests. And once you had been accepted into the fold, as an author, the company would really work with you to help you become successful. Not just because it was good for the company, but because the company really did care (as a company ethic) about what it was putting out into the world."

Reason 3: Baen publishes books I like. No duh, right? Baen's principal goal is to entertain its audience, not "improve" it; consequently, it publishes books that are just more fun to read. And by the way, contrary to the stereotype beloved by Puppy Kickers and SJW's throughout the Twitterverse, said books do include strong female characters, gay characters, and characters of color and aren't just mindless "shoot-em-ups". The difference here is that Baen doesn't adopt the pretensions of high litrachure and thus doesn't make a big production out of being "virtuous."

A positive company culture and enjoyable books: This is Baen's secret formula. If being devoted to such a brand makes me a "cultist," then I shall proudly wear the label. Ia! Ia! Baen Fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Baen R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!


  1. And so many baddies to summon by speaking their names aloud three times:

    Kratman Kratman Kratman

    Correia Correia Correia

    Ringo Ringo Ringo

    Does that make the Baen logo equivalent to the Elder Sign ?

  2. Good article, Stephanie. Keith, you crack me up.