Interview with Vivian Zabel and 4RV Publishing

“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 Muse Online Writers Conference. 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 (

We suggest anyone interested follow them carefully.

9. What kind of books are you looking for? Children? Adults?

Check the submissions pages: Submissions (

 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: Titles are listed with the imprints:

Look for books according to the last name of the author at


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

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



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43 thoughts on “Interview with Vivian Zabel and 4RV Publishing”

    1. Dear Vivian, You’re very welcome. It was my pleasure to spotlight you and 4RV Publishing. It was fun, educational, and motivating.

      You are a flower waiting to bloom Never Give Up Joan

  1. Bravo to Vivian Zabel and 4RV Publishing. You found a need in the publishing market and you met it. I wish you much continued success.

    Thank you Joan for this interview post. I learned a great deal. Two questions especially interested me. Question #10 proves that 4RV Publishing is not willing to compromise its principles. I liked that. Question #13 is a reminder that publishers take a big risk with many stakeholders, not just authors and illustrators.

    Thanks again.
    Linda A.

    1. Dear Linda, Thanks for writing and letting Vivian and me know which questions intrigued you. It is indeed good that 4RV Publishing is not willing to compromise its principles. It is true that publishers both big and small take a big risk with many stakeholders, not just authors and illustrators. I’m glad Vivian Zabel took a risk and started 4RV Publishing. I hope my “Joan’s Elder Care Guide” will become their best-selling book when it is released in June, 2015.

      Delight in Your Corner of the World Today Joan Y. Edwards

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Linda. Yes, publishing is risky, and for someone who doesn’t gamble, I did take the biggest gamble ever. However, hopefully it will pay off.

    At least we’ve put out some excellent books.

    1. Vivian,
      I’m glad you believe so strongly in your publishing goals. Thank you for being willing to take that risk for the benefit of so many.

      Wishing you much continued success.
      Linda A.

  3. When you look at the list of 4RV books, read Vivian’s comments and answers and know the day to day battle that goes into publishing good books with meaning, great content and wonderful illustrations you can have nothing but respect for this amazing woman. 4RV Publishing is making a difference in the wonderful world of books.

    1. Dear Ginger,
      Thanks for writing. You are right, Vivian shows courage, integrity, determination and resourcefulness. She is definitely making a difference in the wonderful world of books.

      Do something fun to celebrate you.

      Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Vivian, You’ll get where you’re going because you have a plan. That is called determination, persistence, courage. You’re a good leader.

      Look from a Different Point of View Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Thank you for the great interview. I’m proud to have a children’s book accepted by 4RV and am saving this link in my file for easy reference for all the wonderful information it contains.

    1. Dear Connie,
      You’re welcome for the interview. I’m excited that you have a children’s book accepted by 4RV Publishing. May this lead to many more successes for you.
      Do something fun to celebrate you!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Joan and Vivian what an excellent interview. It’s nice to learn a little about the company and all the hard work it takes.

    I love to give out 4RV Books. One of my favorites is Angeline Jellybean. That’s a big hit with my 3 year olds that I teach in my church’s preschool.

    My son, Joe, who is 4 loves Spider in my Mailbox, Colors, and Angeline Jellybean.

    Beth’s In My Bath and Carla’s Cloud… are some of my personal favorites.


    1. Dear Stephanie,
      Thanks for taking time to write. I’m glad you liked the interview. It’s cool to hear which books are a hit with you, your son, and your preschool students. Thanks for giving out copies of your favorite books. What you give to others, God will send back to you.
      Do something to celebrate you today!
      Joan Y. Edwards

  6. Great Interview, Joan. I appreciate that you listed the books that 4RV has published. Vivian works very hard to keep the quality of the books excellent. I have yet to read one of the books that did not capture my attention. Vivian both writes and publishes excellent written books.

    1. Dear Jacque,
      Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I thought listing the books might help promote the great work of Vivian, her editors, her authors, and all the 4RV Publishing staff have created for us to enjoy.
      Do something fun to celebrate you today.
      Joan Y. Edwards

  7. Joan, thanks so much for this comprehensive interview with Vivian. Appreciate you helping promote 4RV and all of our books. Plus I just love your all-around encouraging attitude. :o)

    Vivian, thanks to you and Aidana and the rest of the staff at 4RV for believing in us as authors and illustrators and creating terrific books for readers of all ages.

    1. Dear Beth,
      Thanks for stopping by. You’re very welcome for the interview and promoting 4RV and all your books. Thanks for saying it was a comprehensive interview and that I have an all-around encouraging attitude. You are very kind.
      Do something good to celebrate your sweet self today!
      Joan Y. Edwards

      1. Dear Vivian,
        Thanks for saying I have a definite encouraging attitude. Thanks for the compliment about your good authors and illustrators.
        Do something fun just for the enjoyment of it.
        Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear P.I. Barrington,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you liked the review. I’m glad that Stephanie forwarded a link to my post.
      Congratulations on your new book.
      Do something fun to celebrate.
      Joan Y. Edwards

  8. Dear Karen,
    Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was my pleasure to list 4RV’s books.
    Do something fun and impromptu to celebrate you!
    Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Kristine,
      Thank you for reading my interview with Vivian and 4RV Publishing. You’re right. She is a hard-working editor. She has published many great books.
      Do something fun to celebrate you today.

      Joan Y. Edwards

  9. Thank you to all of you who added a comment about the interview with Vivian Zabel and 4RV Publishing. You have made it interactive and fun for me. I appreciate you very much.

    Celebrate you today!
    Never Give Up

    Joan Y. Edwards

  10. Wow!! What a phenomenal spotlight this is, Joan! I can’t wait until your book comes out. I remember reading that 2015 and doing a double-take. The time flies and it’ll be worth the wait, but still! I am eager to read it. (Well, not too eager to NEED it, mind you – but I know folks who could use it.)

    Thanks for this!

    1. Dear Holly,
      Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to leave a sweet compliment. Vivian Zabel is working towards trying to get it out sooner. I understand what you mean about not needing the Elder Care Guide, but reading it to plan ahead in your mind to help yourself or others who may need it.
      Celebrate you today!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      1. I don’t give up. 😉 And when I’m tired and the thought even crosses my mind, I find support in unexpected places, remember how blessed I am, and keep right on plugging away. Thank you, Joan!

        1. Dear Holly, I like your attitude. Being thankful and being open to help from sources known and sources unknown helps us in many ways. Thanks for writing.

          Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Hop right to it. Check out the lily pads available for you Joan Y. Edwards

  11. Wonderful insights into the operation of a First Class small press. I’m pleased that 4RV Publishing & Vivian decided to take a chance on a new author. “Victoria and the Ghost,” my book publiished by them came out three weeks ago. Thank you, Vivian & I also want to say I love Aidana’s cover for my book. Thanks, Joan for this article.

    1. Dear Janet,
      Thanks for writing. Congratulations on your new book, Victoria and the Ghost. I am very happy for you. Thanks for saying my interview with Vivian gave wonderful insights into the operation of a First Class small press. You’re very welcome for the article. I hope you’ll come back and read other articles on my blog.
      Celebrate you and your love of writing!
      Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Vivian,
      Thank you for letting me know. I changed the URLs for 4RV Publishing in my interview of you in 2011. They were correct in this post. Do you allow pre-ordering?

      Thank you for all your work to help me.

      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up

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