The Urantia Book in Europe—Our Journey Building a Distribution Network

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Claire Mylanus
Henk and Claire Mylanus
Henk and Claire Mylanus

Editor's Note: Henk and Claire Mylanus made The Urantia Book and its translations available throughout Europe. Their incredible efforts led to sales and distribution throughout the European and the United Kingdom. Urantia Foundation will always be grateful for their labors of love, which will leave a legacy to generations of future readers.

What is involved in distributing The Urantia Book in Europe today? There’s actually a lot to it, and I have found it to be a rewarding adventure.

Our story starts in January 2009, when my husband, Henk Mylanus, was appointed by the Board of Trustees of Urantia Foundation as manager of European sales. We were both members of the board, and we decided to do this work together. Henk was chosen because of his experience not only in international business, but also in commercial negotiations. I have used my knowledge of commerce and public relations. We form a good complementary team!

Henk speaks five languages and I speak three. This proved to be especially useful in dealing with the different European distributors. In the northern countries, you can usually speak English, but in Italy, for example, French is very useful. In Portugal you can use Spanish. In eastern countries like Poland, you will need German or Russian to communicate.

We drove sixty thousand miles in three years. We made a tour of Europe, starting with France, and including Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Sweden, Estonia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Poland. We traveled to Italy and Poland three times.

Our objective was to ensure that The Urantia Book was distributed throughout Europe, while navigating the complex laws of commerce and distribution in the European Union. By doing this work, Urantia Foundation would avoid the high costs of sending small quantities of printed books from the United States to Europe.

To interact with the different distributors, you need to 1) have knowledge of business, 2) understand the different distribution systems of each country, and 3) develop a good personal relationship with them. The main challenges were:

• Finding distributors interested in selling The Urantia Book.

• Urantia Foundation is a foreign publisher of a single-volume, backlisted book dating to 1955. Most distributors work with publishers that publish new titles regularly, as it stimulates the book market. They normally do not work with only one book.

• We needed means of distribution, transportation, and an accounting system to pay the taxes effectively and legally. Europe has a most complicated system!

Before we went anywhere, we started an internet search for potential distributors for each country, based on the genre of the book. It took about three weeks. Then our travels began.

When distributors met with us, they had questions about the content of The Urantia Book. We did our best to provide answers in accordance with the culture and book market of the particular country—each one being different. We were intuitively selective in our responses.

In some countries, we were literally thrown out; in others the book’s religious content was too challenging for strong Catholic societies. But others were much more welcoming. In France, one famous editor told us, “This is a book which should stay on the market because it makes people think!” He helped us find a distributor. In Poland, a certain distributor was on holiday, but we met a young man who worked there; he spoke English and told us he knew the book and was reading it. What an incredible surprise!

Of the 23 distributors we visited, we now have contracts with 12 of them, and because of the great personal relationship we have with them, we all have become good friends.

Even after having found distributors, you still need to be able to transport the books through Europe without paying taxes in every country. American companies doing business in Europe tend to create a subsidiary in each country, with their Luxembourg headquarters overseeing the business. But these companies have very high sales and revenue and can afford the high legal costs of having a subsidiary in each country. For a small publisher like Urantia Foundation, this model was too costly to be viable.

Henk did a tremendous amount of research about the European VAT (value added tax) rules and concluded that the best solution was to have a fiscal representative in one of the EU countries linked to an EU VAT number for Urantia Foundation. This would allow the Foundation to have a bank account in that particular country. A Dutch fiscal representative who owned a warehouse and transportation department met our requirements very well. We have been operating this way since 2009. This system is not only the most economical, but it also complies with the EU VAT rules.

While using our individual talents to help with book distribution in Europe, we have felt many times the help of our unseen friends, behind the scenes, putting the right people in the right place at the right moment. It has been an incredible adventure, with so many anecdotes of human encounters in so many different cultures. They will stay forever in our memories as a unique, exciting, and wonderful privilege of service to the Urantia Revelation.

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