But Bridge learned quickly that to make him a best-selling author in the 1980s, it had to aggressively market his writings, especially within the bookselling industry.
For a time, the firm was enticing book distributors to place large orders by offering them free television sets and VCRs.
Marcia Dursi, director of book operations for ARA Services in Maryland, which distributes paperbacks to supermarkets and airports, said she was offered a TV for the employee lunchroom.
"I don't have to be bribed," Dursi said she responded.
Former Bridge consultant Robert Erdmann said that, while other publishers offer incentives, he stopped the practice at Bridge because "it could be perceived as influence peddling."
Erdmann, a non-Scientologist, was an industry veteran hired by Bridge to help make inroads in the competitive publishing world.
Because the Scientologists at Bridge "did what we told them to do," Erdmann said, "Dianetics" is no longer "the passion fruit of the Pacific that people in the Midwest are afraid to eat."
When it was first published in 1950, "Dianetics" rode bestseller lists for several months before sales dwindled. But it has remained the bedrock--"Book One"--of Hubbard's Scientology movement.
In "Dianetics," Hubbard said that memories of painful physical and emotional experiences accumulate in a specific region of the mind, causing illness and mental problems. Hubbard said that, once these experiences have been purged through cathartic procedures he developed, a person can achieve superior health and intelligence.
So revered is the book that Hubbard scrapped the conventional calendar and renumbered the years beginning with the date of its publication. To Scientologists, 1990 is "40 AD" (After Dianetics).
From the outset, the Scientology movement has made the book the centerpiece of its campaign to generate broad interest in Hubbard's writings.
In the last few years, millions of dollars have been spent on "Dianetics" advertising to reach a targeted audience of young professionals who want to improve their lives and careers.
The ads have appeared on television, radio, billboards and bus stops.
"Dianetics" has been a sponsor of the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams games on radio. Race cars in world-class competitions such as the Indianapolis 500 have sported "Dianetics" decals. In New York City recently, 160 billboards promoting Hubbard were purchased in subway stations.
Next month, in what may be the Scientology movement's biggest promotion yet for the book, Dianetics will be a sponsor of Turner Broadcasting System's 1990 Goodwill Games, an Olympics-style event bringing together 2,500 athletes from more than 50 countries for two weeks in Seattle.
Among other things, there will be Dianetics commercials during the internationally televised competition and Dianetics signboards at sporting venues. Goodwill Games spokesman Bob Dickinson said that Dianetics and 12 other sponsors--including Pepsi, Sony and Anheuser-Busch--have paid "lots and lots of money" for the exposure, but he would not provide a specific figure.
"It is safe to say it is in excess of several million dollars," Dickinson said.
Word of the sponsorship has triggered more than 100 complaints from disaffected Scientologists and critics of the church to TBS, the Atlanta-based cable network owned by media entrepreneur Ted Turner. Most have accused the network of providing a global forum for the Church of Scientology.
But Dickinson said that Dianetics, not Scientology, is the event's sponsor and that "we really don't make any value judgment in terms of the product of the sponsors. They have a right to advertise." He added that Dianetics for years has been buying air time on TBS.
Although Dianetics advertisements never mention Scientology, the book's promotion is a key component of the church's efforts to win new converts. Scientology literature calls the strategy the "Dianetics route." The idea is to attract readers to Dianetics seminars and then enroll them in Scientology courses.
Given the success of the Dianetics campaign, Bridge now seems confident that the public will clamor for Hubbard's Scientology writings.
Hubbard books that for decades had no audience outside Scientology are scheduled to be mass-marketed into the next century, complete with costly promotional campaigns as big as that for "Dianetics."
One of them, Hubbard's 1955 "Fundamentals of Thought," has "Scientology" splashed across its cover, the first test of whether Hubbard's image has been so greatly improved that the public is finally ready to accept his religion.
Even long-forgotten science fiction that Hubbard wrote back in the 1930s will be dusted off, dressed in eye-grabbing covers and pushed as though it were written today.
In recent months, billboards have appeared along Los Angeles freeways and such well-traveled thoroughfares as Sunset Boulevard.
With the sea as a backdrop, they show a smiling Hubbard of earlier years, the wind tousling his red hair. Below his robust image is the phrase: "22 national bestsellers and more to come . . . "
The selling of the late L. Ron Hubbard has only begun.