I first encountered Baen Books in junior high school (late 80s), and started paying attention to the publisher “because the stuff they’re putting out is REALLY good”.
In 2001, I was bored, and encountered the Baen Free Library, and specifically, John Ringo’s novel “A Hymn Before Battle“. I gave it a shot, reading on my PC during lunch hour – and went to Book People (in Austin) that evening to buy the paperback.
I proceeded to start devouring everything I could by Ringo (one of the few authors who I would buy their works in hardcover, because I didn’t want to wait for the paperback), and by exposure through the Free Library, read other Baen authors. In most cases, I read one of their works through the BFL, then went out and bought the rest of the series in hard copy.
I started buying other Baen hardcover titles solely for the CDs inside the back cover, full of ebook versions of various Baen titles that weren’t up at the Free Library yet. You can still download most of those at The Fifth Imperium – thanks to Toni and company for allowing those files to stay online!
The majority of my book purchases are now electronic, and Baen is a publisher that I can trust with $15 for an e-ARC of the latest title from a favorite author, knowing that it’s NOT going to suck – and that it’s DRM-free so I can convert and read it on any device I want. While there’s been one or two titles over the years that have been sub-par, mostly where a new fledgling author has taken over an established series from a major author’s outline, those have openly been acknowledged by the main author and promised better results in the future. I’ve never been outright unhappy with any title I’ve bought from Baen.
My wife unfortunately passed away in 2009. The first time I laughed and smiled after that was while reading a passage in one of Ringo’s “Legacy of the Aldenata” novels. I wrote up a quick blurb, explained why, and sent my thanks to Mr. Ringo. I never expected to hear back from him, but I did! It wasn’t much, but it was one of those little things that inspire loyalty in fans. Five years later, my last name was even used for a very minor character in one of his latest books! As I said, tiny little things, make a huge difference.
Through John Ringo I discovered Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and sequels. Bought the ebook, ordered a signed paperback and a few MHI patches, and was overjoyed to have direct communication with Larry a few times. Got at least three friends hooked on the series as well.
What struck me most was that I’ve *never* gotten a “I’m the big author, you’re just a reader” vibe from any of the Baen authors (or Toni, the publisher, who has directly commented on a couple of my Facebook posts talking about Baen) in communications. Larry comes across as an aw-shucks guy who likes his guns and just happened to get lucky with a story he wrote. MANY books later – he still has that same attitude, as do most of the Baen authors I’ve encountered.
Through Larry I’ve now discovered Brad Torgersen, and have become a fan of his work as well and look forward to his book coming out on Baen later this year.
As a kid in junior high (I’m 39 now) I never thought that I could have near-instantaneous communication with the authors and publisher of most of my favorite books. This post explains but a tiny few of the reasons why I’ve been a Baen fan for more than twenty-five years, and why I don’t plan on that stopping anytime soon.