How EWEB Works

How EWEB Works

Note: This is an archival story—EWEB closed its doors in 2019.

EWEB began in 1965, the concept of the Director of East-West Center Press, Jack Kyle. His idea was to have a press with experience in selling books abroad represent other academic publishers in the United States and Canada. Initially, EWEB provided foreign sales representation for five presses.

In 1971, when EWC Press merged with UH Press, EWEB became a Press department. By this time, it represented about a dozen presses. Today EWEB services 48 primarily academic presses. It provides sales coverage in areas where UH Press is particularly strong—Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands.

Royden Muranaka, Sales Manager
Royden Muranaka, Sales Manager

Enter Royden Muranaka. As EWEB manager, he uses several approaches to sell books for the presses represented. The first and best way is yearly sales trips to various countries in the territory covered—mostly Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. Royden also makes periodic calls on bookstores, wholesalers, and institutions in other countries in Asia.

This is how it works.

Muranaka mails catalogs from member presses ahead of his visits, then calls on each “account.” He is armed with the presses’ various seasonal catalogs, book jackets, and the EWEB combined catalog containing selected titles from each press.

“Person-to-person contact is all-important in some countries, Japan being a good example,” Muranaka says. “Businessmen want to take time to get to know you, to build trust and friendship.

“You cannot deal only by mail or phone and expect to do business in Asia,” he says. “When a buyer feels comfortable with you, the orders will come.”

After-hours socializing with contacts is part of the business experience—two hours for dinner and another three hours for socializing is not unusual. Much business can be done on these informal occasions. Muranaka, in fact, has been so successful at building friendships that he has been invited to spend time in Japanese homes—a rare honor for a foreigner.

Patience when dealing in Asia is the byword. “You can’t be too pushy. You must be flexible and be able to deal with different kinds of people,” Muranaka says.

In some countries it is conventional to offer gifts in the business context as symbols of greeting and appreciation. At the beginning of each major trip, Muranaka is weighed down with offerings of Hawaiian coffee, macadamia nuts, chocolates, liquor, tobacco, and favorite tidbits like beef jerky and microwave popcorn. In Asia, it helps to have business cards in the language of the country and to present and accept cards in an appropriate fashion.

He comments: “They do tend to make generous allowances for us foreigners, however!”

Muranaka spends 10 to 12 weeks on the road annually for these sales trips. Net sales in 1999 (after discount) were $1.2 million. Sales are usually highest in Japan (about 60%); Australia is next (15%), followed by Taiwan and Korea. Certain areas characteristically buy particular kinds of books: Australia likes cultural studies, fine arts, philosophy, civil war studies, and native American studies. Japan buys heavily in classical philosophy and religion, American literature, fine arts, and Asian Studies.

Occasionally, Muranaka attends book exhibits at international book fairs in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Australia.

Direct mail is another important EWEB service. Twice each year, Muranaka and the EWEB staff mail press catalogs to top accounts; the EWEB combined catalog goes out twice yearly to everyone on the mailing list. Because mail is unreliable or slow in many countries, all mail must be sent by air; in some countries mail must also be registered.

Muranaka’s office also assists member presses with payments, credit, and collection. Payments may be frustratingly slow. Some countries require considerably more written information than US businesses are used to providing.

“Some accounts are famous for waiting till next trip so that they can hand me the payment personally–sometimes in cash–a year late,” Muranaka says. “But this is merely part of their preference for doing business in person.”

EWEB services are available to any academic press in the US and Canada. Of course, a press’ list must be appropriate to sell in the territories covered by EWEB. The percentage of nonregional titles that will be attractive in those countries must be great enough to be cost-effective for both parties.

Why is international marketing so specialized? Marketing policies differ from country to country, and a marketer needs to be conversant with those policies. In many countries, one needs face-to-face contact with buyers to be successful at sales. A good sales representative will know and respect the customs of a country and stay abreast of a bewildering array of postal regulations and requirements for direct mailing and delivery of books, as well as varied conventions involving foreign collections and payments.