Baum began writing in her teens. Her first book, Frühe Schatten, was published when she was 31. She is most famous for her 1929 novel Menschen im Hotel which was made into an Academy Award winning film, Grand Hotel. She emigrated to the United States with her family after being invited to write the screenplay for the film. Her memoir, It Was All Quite Different, was published posthumously in 1964. She wrote more than 50 novels, and at least ten were adapted as motion pictures in Hollywood. Her post-World War II works were written in English, rather than in German.
Baum visited Bali in 1935 – and as a conseqeunce she wrote Liebe und Tod auf Bali (A Tale from Bali) which was published in (1937). The book was about a family that was caught in the massacre in Bali in 1906.