Thursday, December 29, 2005

Caveat Emptor

Many thanks to those who sent in corrections to Amazon.com for the Richard Chizmar/Endurance snafu, as you all were able to fix it.

Some questions have been coming in about a new SF/F market op that looks tempting, so here are my thoughts:

Baensuniverse.com is promising to pay more to authors and provide their upcoming Summer 2006 bi-monthly electronic magazine with no copy protection (which means consumers can buy, bootleg and distribute it without hindrance.)

The submission process seems a bit overly complicated, with the guidelines "strongly recommending" new and pro writers to register and post a story on one of their Baen's Bar slush pile boards. I'd strongly recommend that you check out the Bar thoroughly before posting.

For pros, considering your work will not be protected, the money is not all that great. If you're into the give-it-away-to-the-world mindset, however, then this won't bother you. Writers who depend on resales and reprints for a chunk of the annual income should probably give this a pass.

Pay rates are subject to this clause: "Our rates are lower for stories that we buy from unsolicited manuscripts, whether submitted through the submissions address or the AS conference. They range from six to fifteen cents a word depending on various factors." Rights are also not defined very well; the wording as is seems too vague. Pubbed or unpubbed, if you're considering this market, I'd request clarification on the money, those "various factors" and rights.

Subscribers can snag six issues for a range of prices under different snappily-worded classifications of membership, as defined here. There are a wide range of subscription rates, depending on what perks you desire. The front page says $30.00 for six issues; a Titan membership costs $50.00 per year, and an Andromeda membership costs $500.00 per year, and there are seventeen other packages here. Pros, note the "author access" being offered to Andromeda members is not specific; I'd get clarification on precisely what that access is.

Baen is considered a major publisher, so if you're angling for SFWA membership, some sales to BU will likely get you in Le Ski-Fi Klub. As a stepping-stone to novel writing, Baen does a lot of two- and three-way collaborations, and if you're not a Name and/or aim to become a Baen book author you might be sharing cover and creative space. I've only done one small project with this publisher, but based on that experience, my advice is to read a few Baen books, take a look at the Bar, and (if possible) talk to some authors with more Baen experience before you dive into their universe.

All of the above is, as usual, my opinion, not to be chiseled in granite, etc.

5 comments:

  1. Definitely should always check something out carefully before submitting work. I do have one story however, that offers a bit more light in terms of sales and such. One friend, a published author with two books at Baen, just sold a story to Baen Universe. She said that, for her at least, the response time was very quick and the check also came really quickly. So, those are two pluses. Though she didn't give me numbers, of course, she also said the check was for a 'nice amount'.

    So, at least one positive experience to report.

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  2. I've recently been writing quite a lot about Baen and Baen's Universe at my blog and one of the source materials I used was one of Eric Flint's free library discussion. There would seem to be considerable evidence that the non DRM attitude of Baen leads to increased ebook sales and (eventually) increased sales of backlist paper books.

    Obviously the DRM debate is complex but Baen does have considerable commercial success on its side so I think your fears that reprints get given away for free is a bit overstated.

    (Disclosure I have written a couple of bits for the Grantville Gazette which is kind of the forbear of Baen's Universe)

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  3. Jules4:21 AM

    I've recently submitted a story through the "posting on the bar" process, and while it doesn't seem they want to buy it, I am rather pleased with the outcome, including several useful critiques and comments from one of their first readers (Paula) about why she wouldn't buy it.

    Much better than the "not suitable for our publication" I've got for the story elsewhere.

    My one comment on the process is that the system for rejection is rather hazy... they leave the story up on the board for a couple of months, and if they haven't decided to buy it in that time it is considered automatically rejected. You don't get any notification of this.

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  4. Of course, you are perfectly welcome to _not_ use Baen's Bar to submit, you can email your submissions the "normal" way to submissions@baensuniverse.com.

    But don't expect anything more than the usual "not for us" form letter. Also, the purchase rate for stories out of the bar so far has been running about twice the rate for stories to the email.

    Finally, regarding the "No DRM" argument, Baen is clearly on the side of the angels here. Every experiance Baen authors have shows clearly that e-book editions of science fiction works, distributed freely without copy protection increase paper sales. To date, no one has ever published any analysis which indicated a single loss of even a single sale from "pirated" e-books. Baen's experiance with webscriptions, where you can get this months five or six titles, in four formats, with no DRM of any kind for $15.00 including the latest hardcovers, indicate clearly that these e-books increase paper sales, not decrease them.

    But then, I too am a Baen "Grantville Gazette" author, and the head geek for the 1632 web site and for the Baen's Universe web site.

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  5. dirty wrote: Obviously the DRM debate is complex but Baen does have considerable commercial success on its side so I think your fears that reprints get given away for free is a bit overstated.

    It's definitely a polarizing issue. For the record, I'm not against or for it. I think it should be up to the individual writer and/or the copyright holder to decide.


    Rick Boatright wrote: Of course, you are perfectly welcome to _not_ use Baen's Bar to submit, you can email your submissions the "normal" way to submissions@baensuniverse.com.

    But don't expect anything more than the usual "not for us" form letter. Also, the purchase rate for stories out of the bar so far has been running about twice the rate for stories to the email.


    Good warning, Rick, thanks.

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