Although he moved away from traditional publishing, Bakke's book has made it onto the Wall Street Journal's business best seller list and is among The Washington Post's nonfiction bestsellers. His Amazon.com rank was in the 40s last week. He has sold 7,387 books in the first three weeks, a respectable amount for a first effort, according to Jim Milliott, senior editor for business and news at Publishers Weekly.
"It almost brings back into question: Can you make a book by doing a lot of publicity and marketing? I think here's a suggestion that you can," Milliott said.
(Bill O'Leary--The Washington Post)
Metro Business: Coverage of Washington area businesses and the local economy.
In 2004, the big five publishing conglomerates -- Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin USA, HarperCollins and Time Warner -- controlled the majority of the bestsellers. There are 13 publishers that control 98 percent of the hardcover bestsellers, according to Publishers Weekly. Although more books are being published, the same number of books are being sold. Authors often gripe about a lack of marketing and support from their publisher.
Carla Cohen, owner of Politics & Prose, said she might take one business book from a publisher like HarperCollins, but with the small business section in her store it's rare she would stock work from an unknown. If there is more than one request for the book from clients, she said the store "might decide to get it on the shelf."
But for someone like Bakke to essentially self-publish, and then make it on to any bestseller list, is "unusual to say the least," Milliott said. "It shows you, I think, what somebody with a platform and message can do. . . . It's not too many authors who would go to a big publishing house then put $500,000 into it."
To anyone who knows Bakke, his approach to publishing is not a big surprise.
In addition to receiving more attention, publishing the book himself allowed Bakke more control, which he used to include an extended postscript about his Christian beliefs. The 30-page essay, called "Enter Into the Master's Joy," describes what Bakke believes is a need for Christianity to infiltrate public and private lives. An evangelical Christian, Bakke said he was asked by AES board members to tone those beliefs down in public, and book industry experts said it also might have lost favor with publishers wanting a purely business book.
Bakke said the postscript is basically "for people of faith who want to know where this comes from. It's more of an afterthought. I only wanted to write one book, so I put it in there."
Bakke is a part of a Bible study group that meets in the Watergate about once a month. The group is made up of high-ranking Washington businesspeople, including David Bradley, chairman and owner of Atlantic Media. Bradley recalls the first time Bakke was introduced to the group.
"All of us instantly hated him. He was just so much more successful than the rest of us," Bradley said. But now, Bradley said, "he's the most original mind I ever heard. . . . It's strange to be with someone who thought 300 thoughts you never thought before."
As for Bakke, despite criticism of his management style, he has high hopes.
"I really would like this to fall into the hands of bosses. Maybe a little revolution will start in both directions," he said. "I want people and significant organizations to say they are willing to take a risk."
Staff writer Justin Blum and staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.