“Interview with Vivian Zabel, President of 4RV Publishing” by Joan Y. Edwards
Today I welcome Vivian Zabel, President of 4RV Publishing, LLC.
In October 2010, I did an online chat pitch for “Joan’s Elder Care Guide” with Vivian at the I was impressed by the quality of 4RV’s books and that they worked one-on-one with authors and illustrators. I was excited when she told me, “It sounds promising. Send me a proposal and the first three chapters.” In April 4RV Publishing sent me a contract to publish it with a release date of June 2015. I am still dancing on the roof. .
Thank you, Vivian for allowing me to interview you and 4RV Publishing on my blog. Let us begin:
1. How did 4RV Publishing get started? What is the symbolic meaning of the name? How did you and Aidana WillowRaven, VP of Operations, meet? Is she a partner?
I saw a need to fill the gap between vanity and self-publishing and the major publishing houses.
4RV represents my family: Robert (my husband), Rene (our daughter), Robert Jr. (our son), and Randy (our son) – the four Rs – and me, the one V.
Aidana and I met online. Actually we met when she wanted 4RV to accept a manuscript for someone she knew. No, she’s not a partner, but the company couldn’t manage without her.
2. What are the goals of 4RV Publishing?
The goal of 4RV publishing is to produce quality books from the best authors we can find and with the best illustrations and cover art around.
We expect thorough and complete editing so that as few errors and the best writing can be the result.
3. What was the first book you published?
I believe Trockle was our first picture book, and our only foray into hardback picture books. The logistics of hardback picture books is another story.
I’m not sure which was our first young adult or adult book, but it may have been my book The Base Stealers Club, a YA mystery. A side note: All my works have to go through the submissions process, too, anonymously. I have been rejected by a 4RV acquisition editor.
4. What has been the best-selling book? Why?
So far, Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson has sold the most copies, mainly because of the author’s participation in dog sledding and her promotions. Of course it’s a well written book. Terry and her editor worked together to make it the best it could be.
5. What are the three (or more) major problems of being a small traditional publisher? How have you overcome them? What are your strategies for success?
The Consumer Product Safety Act’s directive to have all products for children under 13 tested by a third party testing site nearly destroyed us, and we’ve never quite recovered, even though now books are exempted. Of course, all materials used to make books are tested for lead. How the government thought putting materials without lead together would create lead, I have no idea.
So, money is a major problem. Also costs: printing, fees, shipping, returned books, and other expenses. Un-cooperating authors and/or illustrators cause headaches, too, as do design problems that aren’t caught.
The money factor has no solution. At least the company is now paying its own way, no profit yet, but I’m not having to bankroll the company except for expenses for festivals and such.
Authors who won’t work with editors or fight all the way can be released, and have been. It’s still a headache dealing with them. Illustrators who won’t give progress reports or who drop a project after agreeing to finish leave us dangling. No solution for that problem unless they expect a good reference. Design problems mean more expenses to redo a project. Of course some of those problems are a result of authors not doing a good review of the proofs sent them.
My strategy for success is to continue to put out the best books possible, with the help of some of the best authors, editors, illustrators, and staff around.
6. What are three advantages of being a small traditional publisher?
- We get to work one on one with authors and illustrators and staff.
- We can better control the quality of our books.
- We can watch others succeed.
7. What has given you the greatest feeling of satisfaction and pride?
- Discovering people who have thoroughly enjoyed any of our books.
8. What are your current submission guidelines?
Our submission guidelines are at Submissions (4rvpublishing.com)
We suggest anyone interested follow them carefully.
9. What kind of books are you looking for? Children? Adults?
Check the submissions pages: Submissions (4rvpublishing.com)
10. What kind of books do you reject? (subjects, quality)
We do not accept anything with graphic or detailed sex or violence. I don’t want my company to put out anything that would cause me to be embarrassed if one of my grandchildren or great-grandchildren picked it up.
11. What distribution do you have for your books?
We pay for Ingram to handle our books. It’s the largest distributor in the world. We also have a website and an online bookstore for our books.
12. How does a book get in a book store?
Any bookstore can obtain any 4RV book through Ingram or directly from 4RV.
Recommendations and requests from customers let stores know to carry books, too.
13. When a big book store like Borders closes, do they return the books, or do you have to take them as a loss?
Actually, both. Yes, the books are returned, but the company has to pay full retail for the books, therefore double paying for some aspects and paying more than the returning store did. We get the books back (or we can choose for the books to be destroyed and not returned), but no matter what we take a loss.
14. What do you do to market your books? I love the trailers you do for your books. They are high quality.
I’m glad you like the trailers, but several people create them: sometimes the author or illustrator, sometimes one of our designers.
We have our books at book festivals. We promote online. We have them distributed through Ingram. We send out catalogs to libraries and bookstores. We expect our authors and illustrators to promote their books: some do, some don’t. The ones who do, help their book sales.
15. What do you expect your authors to do to promote their books?
Whatever it takes. They can have readings, presentations, visits to schools and libraries, promotion on the Internet, attend festivals and conferences with their books, and seek reviews for their books.
16. How is 4RV Publishing meeting the customer demand for eBooks?
We’re beginning to format some of our books for ebooks, however we haven’t seen any of that so called “demand.”
Formatting for ebooks is as much work as formatting for print, and we can’t use one format for the other. We have to do two completely different setups.
17. Where can people buy 4RV Publishing books?
4RV books can be bought through a physical bookstore or online bookstore, as well as through the 4RV online bookstore/catalog: http://4rvpublishingcatalog.com. Titles are listed with the imprints:
Look for books according to the last name of the author at http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/contents.php
18. What are your three suggestions for writers who wish to be published?
- Know your craft and have a well-written manuscript. Find at least one person to edit who knows what is required for publication. Follow suggestions, revise, rewrite. Realize that there is no magical number of edits or revisions.
- Research publishers to find one that accepts your genre. Never think your work is so great that any publisher will make an exception.
- Follow the publisher’s submission guidelines exactly. If the company doesn’t have guidelines online, request a copy of the guidelines.
19. What are three suggestions for illustrators who wish to receive a contract to illustrate a cover or picture book?
Most companies have submission guidelines for illustrators, too. 4RV does, and we ask people to follow them.
Our guidelines for designers and illustrators can be found at: 4RV Publishing Submission Guidelines for Illustrators
20. How do you know when a book is right for you to publish? What are three signs that a book is right for you?
- he manuscript is extremely well-written.
- The manuscript is interesting from the first few sentences.
- The writer is anxious to follow suggestions to make it even better.
Thank you again, Vivian for allowing me to interview you and 4RV Publishing on my blog and for believing in me and “Joan’s Elder Care Guide.”
4RV Publishing Book Store: http://4rvpublishingcatalog.com
My book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide: Empowering You and Your Elder to Survive is now available from 4RV Publishing: Thank you, Vivian Zabel for believing in me.
Thank you for reading about Vivian Zabel and 4RV Publishing. I hope the information inspires you to take a step forward to make your publication dreams come true.
Never Give Up
Live with Enthusiasm
Celebrate Each Step You Take
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2011-2016 Joan Y. Edwards
updated November 20, 2019