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Old 11-29-2010, 09:30 PM   #1
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How is Baen doing?

Anybody actually know how Baen is doing? I love Bean's business practices, their free library, DRM-Free ebooks for $6. I love the types of books they publish.

However, most everything I've read on their site was written a LONG time ago. It's been something like 8 years since Eric Flint has written a "Prime Palavar" on the Baen Free library talking about free ebooks and how they helped sales.

With the kindle, nook, sony, iPad and all the smart phones -- just how is their free ebook system working for them today? I could well expect someone who was reading those free ebooks on a computer to go out and buy a pbook. But those of us with ebook devices, those free ebooks leave us no reason to then go out and buy a book.

They release $6 copies of their ebooks the same day their brand new hard backs go on sale for near $20. What has this practice done to their hard back sales?

Through the fifth Imperium website, the cd's from the hard back book gives us a huge catalog of free ebooks beyond what the Baen Freel Library has. Baen isn't simply giving away the first book or two of a series, but entire series.

They rarely put new books in the Free Library, I noticed. Have they changed their minds?

Anyone "in the know"?

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Old 11-29-2010, 11:09 PM   #2
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A lot of people have asked that question, but like most publishers, Baen doesn't seem to give that sort of info out. Baen still puts out new books by some of their name authors (Weber and Bujoid, for example, have new books this year) and has new authors that I like, so as far as I can tell, things aren't much different than they have been over the last 10 years.
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Old 11-29-2010, 11:18 PM   #3
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They are one of the only source for some of Heinlein's books in ebook format which has to help. But I am not much of a MilSF fan nor do I care for horror/fantasy/vampire stories so I have almost exhausted what their catalog offers which interests me enough to buy. So where I was once buying 8-12 books/month I might buy a book or two every now and then.

They need access to more Tor back catalog titles.
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Old 11-29-2010, 11:31 PM   #4
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Anybody actually know how Baen is doing?
Baen does. They're a privately held company, and have no obligations to put out any financial info.

I've heard suggestions that they put out about 70 books a year. For comparison, a big publisher can put out around 200 books in a week. If this is correct, then they're still pretty tiny.


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Originally Posted by leebase
With the kindle, nook, sony, iPad and all the smart phones -- just how is their free ebook system working for them today?
There's no way to know, just as there is no way to say if their choice not to use DRM alters their sales in either direction.

If they're keeping it up, though, they probably still believe that it's a cheaper or more effective way to promote their books than via advertising.


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Originally Posted by leebase
They release $6 copies of their ebooks the same day their brand new hard backs go on sale for near $20. What has this practice done to their hard back sales?
It's probably all but destroyed them.

The key question though is if the margins on the $6 ebooks are anywhere near those of the hardcovers. That would depend entirely on the advances, royalty rates, and other associated costs. It also depends on how much they're selling through their own site compared to other retailers. $6 bought direct from Baen means they don't have to cough up $2 - $3 to the retailer.

We can guess that it's working, but "how well" is not public knowledge.
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Old 11-29-2010, 11:54 PM   #5
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I've heard suggestions that they put out about 70 books a year. For comparison, a big publisher can put out around 200 books in a week. If this is correct, then they're still pretty tiny.
This is probably about right. Webscriptions is supposed to include 4 or more new ebooks a month, and they always meet this target. So I consider them a stable, but not growing, niche publisher. They have released back lists of a few authors as ebooks, which is likely profitable but harder to do these days (since authors can publish themselves on Amazon etcetera).
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Old 11-30-2010, 12:03 AM   #6
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Before the Free Library and Webscriptions, Baen was actually putting out fewer hardbacks and trade paperbacks. Now they have more hardbacks, including more new authors introduced in both hardback and trade. More NYT best-sellers, too. Of course, there are a lot of factors for the change in the business. They are probably putting out more trade paperbacks because the market for mass market paperbacks is not doing as well.

Still, they seem to be a stronger presence in the marketplace now. A far cry from the company that published 1945 by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen. I don't know if that was their first hardback, but it was one of their first hardbacks, and it was a huge flop. They printed too many copies and last I heard still had boxes full of them in their warehouse.

Ever since Webscriptions, I've bought Baen hardbacks just because of the Baen CDs inside. I bought Cryoburn in hardback just to get the Baen CD that came with it, even though I knew it would end up on the Fifth Imperium site soon after the publication. And even though I bought the eArc because I couldn't wait. After all, it's Lois McMaster Bujold, dude.
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Old 11-30-2010, 12:51 AM   #7
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As far as I know, Baen is doing just fine, making money on ebooks and pbooks alike. I seriously doubt they would continue to release new hardcovers and ebooks simultaneously and with low ebook prices if they thought it was destroying hardcover sales. They're smart people, and they know how to make money.

Someone commented that they ought to have more Tor backlist books. I don't think they have any Tor books anymore. I don't know exactly what happened there, but I think it might have been Tor's decision to use DRM, which Baen doesn't.

The Free Library, I believe, is very much an "as time permits" effort, so it's no surprise that it's not updated frequently. And I imagine at this point, they probably only add books when authors volunteer them.

Last edited by starrigger; 11-30-2010 at 12:54 AM.
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Old 11-30-2010, 01:03 PM   #8
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It's probably all but destroyed them.

The key question though is if the margins on the $6 ebooks are anywhere near those of the hardcovers. That would depend entirely on the advances, royalty rates, and other associated costs. It also depends on how much they're selling through their own site compared to other retailers. $6 bought direct from Baen means they don't have to cough up $2 - $3 to the retailer.

We can guess that it's working, but "how well" is not public knowledge.
Actually, it's probably saved them. The vast majority of Baen's success and growth has come since they started this policy of day and date release of cheap ebooks. It may not be working for anyone else, but it's definitely working for them.

Another thing to remember is that the cost of doing business through Webscriptions is much lower than the cost of doing business through the book trade. I wouldn't be surprised if Arnold Bailey (when he set up Webscriptions) took a much smaller share than most retailers do.

My guess is that by cutting out a few layers of middlemen, and saving on printing/storage costs, Baen is probably able to make more per copy on an ebook than they are on a mass-market paperback. And by eschewing DRM, they're able to eliminate the major per-unit cost of the ebooks.
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Old 11-30-2010, 04:37 PM   #9
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Has anyone looked at the front page of the free library? It was written in 2000. There is a main section called "prime palaver" that hasn't been updated since 2002. There were no ebooks added to the free library this year.

That simply begs the question about Baen's adherence to the power of the free ebook. Baen is lauded time and again on this forum, and I've always felt "for good reason".

I just don't see any material "post success of the kindle" and wondered if there had been any sort of change of opinion on the topic.

Clearly, they are still selling DRM free ebooks for $6 at the same time as the hard backs are presented for sale. As well as Webscriptions for $15 a month that contain 4 or 5 ebooks plus parts of forthcoming new releases. And they still are putting out CD's in those hard covers that have lots of free ebooks -- including free ebooks of NEW books (including all of the Honor Harrington series, for example). And they haven't shut down the Fifth Imperium site.

So, I was just a bit confused. I am a paying Baen customer because of the Baen Free Library, so I have a "gut feeling" that their practice works. But really -- ALL of the Honor Harrington series (something near 20 books) for free? I ended up buying a few just because I felt guilty that so many had been given away.

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Old 11-30-2010, 05:43 PM   #10
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The free library has mostly been merged into the main webscription web site.

And Eric Flint has been ill, and then very busy.

However, it seems that a couple of titles got added in August 2010 (although for some strange reason they're listed second in the "What's New" section.

I'd suggest that you go and join in at Baen's Bar (http://bar.baen.com/) and ask directly.

I haven't got the impression that Baen is having any troubles. I think they'd rather like to get more slots per month from their distributor for their paper copies.
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Old 11-30-2010, 06:20 PM   #11
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There is a main section called "prime palaver" that hasn't been updated since 2002. There were no ebooks added to the free library this year.
They added Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warrior's Apprentice this year in anticipation of the Cryoburn release and some short story collection selections from Night Shade Books, who are the only other publisher who've made contributions to the Free Library, I believe. They just haven't bothered updating the listings on the main site. But it all shows up at Webscriptions.

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And they still are putting out CD's in those hard covers that have lots of free ebooks -- including free ebooks of NEW books (including all of the Honor Harrington series, for example). And they haven't shut down the Fifth Imperium site.
T5thE runs with Baen's knowledge and blessing. And those bundled CDs make me consider getting stuff I wouldn't normally, as well as first-run hardcover editions of stuff that I would, just for the bonus, even if the included books are mostly repeats or stuff I already own.

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I ended up buying a few just because I felt guilty that so many had been given away.
Methinks you may have just discovered their secret marketing strategy.
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Old 11-30-2010, 07:10 PM   #12
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Methinks you may have just discovered their secret marketing strategy.
But I can say fairly, that I would have bought more. I don't like hard back books. And the Baen books I like are HUGE hard backs. I might be tempted to buy a hard back for the CD -- but the CD is given away for free.

I am now informed about the state of the Baen Free library web pages. They are just out of date. There has been no change of heart with respect to the power of free ebooks as an advertising "good thing". It seemed reasonable to me that the rise of ereaders, and folks who feel the ebook IS "the book" might have changed their thinking on the topic.

I still question the sanity of giving away even the latest, still fairly new, releases.

The other part of the "how is Baen doing" -- is about wanting to have some facts to back up our boasting of how great the Baen way of doing things really is.

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Old 12-01-2010, 04:33 AM   #13
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I'd suggest that you go and join in at Baen's Bar (http://bar.baen.com/) and ask directly.
Ah - I see you did, and got a reply from Toni Weisskopf herself.
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Old 12-01-2010, 10:45 AM   #14
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Ah - I see you did, and got a reply from Toni Weisskopf herself.
Yep. It's been a good discussion there. I really do not like their forum software. It is SLOOOOOW. There is kind of a sense that folks "just know" what all the insiders/regulars know. As if folks should know that the Fifth Imperium site has all the cd's and not just the Baen Free library. The free library site itself has become WOEFULLY out of date. When I send people to that site, folks won't "just know" what all the insiders/regulars know.

Then again, it's a FREE site maintained by someone in their spare time, someone who doesn't have a lot of "spare" time.

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Old 12-01-2010, 11:08 AM   #15
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I do second the opinion on the forum software. I understand it's optimized for NNTP users, but when they changed to the current software I found I basically stopped using the Bar because the software got in the way.

I still visit occasionally, but now it's once or twice a month, where before the current software came in it was 2-3 times a day. The sad thing is that I buy less from them now, too. The change in software kicked me out of the loop so....
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