Interview with Vivian Zabel, Founder/Owner of 4RV Publishing

May 18, 2013 | Bits & Pieces, Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Writing

Interview with Vivian Zabel, Founder/Owner of 4RV Publishing

I recently chatted with my friend Vivian Zabel, founder of 4RV Publishing, the company that published my first two children’s books, Trockle and A Puppy, Not a Guppy.

“Tell me a little bit about 4RV Publishing,” I asked.

“4RV Publishing came into being when as an author I realized that writing had few choices: a major publisher through an agent, subsidy publishing, self-publishing, or vanity presses. I wanted the opportunity for good writers to be able to have quality books published, traditionally. Authors also deserved to have a personal connection to the company that adopted their ‘babies.'” Vivian smiled, knowing that’s the number one reason I chose 4RV Publishing for Trockle, a story which I had written for my son and one that I did not want to sell all rights to or lose all creative say over.

“How many books do you publish each year?”

“How many we publish each year depends on several conditions: staff availability, funding needed, and what submissions are worth producing. In the less than six years we’ve been in existence, we have published a total of 101 books, some of which are no longer under contract (we put a limit on the number of years we have publication rights). We have 26 more titles to prepare and publish this year. We’ve had to close submissions for children’s picture books until 2015, except for authors under contract or invited to submit, because our illustrators can only do so many books during a year.”

“What awards has 4RV Publishing or its books won?”

“We have received a number of awards and honors the past few years,” said Vivian. Asking her to talk about the accolades earned by books her company has published seems to give her almost as much pleasure as asking her to talk about her grandchildren’s accomplishments. “The most recent were two books which received the Children’s Classical Literature Choice Award: Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure – a book is now in the running for another CCL award – and Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi, illustrated by Aidana WillowRaven, which won a CCL silver medal also. Viji Chary’s Porcupine Seeds, illustrated by Bridget McKenna, received the Mom’s Choice Award for Excellence.

“The 2009 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction went to Kirk Bjornsgarrd for Confessions of a Former Rock Queen.

“We had a number of books place in the Homeland New Day book competition: your book, Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard, took 1st in Children’s Books, and A Puppy, not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw, received 2nd in Tween books. Another author’s books took 1st in Novel and in Young Adult. One book received 2nd place at the North Texas Book Festival. Aldric & Anneliese, by Harry E. Gilleland, received honors from the Military Writers organization. Time Pullers, by Horton Deakins, placed in the top five for the USA Book Awards for Science Fiction. We have books entered in other competitions that haven’t released the winners list yet.”

“‘Another author’s books’? Don’t you remember the titles and who wrote them?” I pressed. I know Vivian doesn’t forget the names of the authors who’ve written award-winning books published by 4RV Publishing. It turns out, they were hers.

“Sure, I remember the titles: 1st in Novel was Midnight Hours by…me. 1st in Young Adult was Prairie Dog Cowboy by…me; 2nd at North Texas was Base Stealers Club by…me.”

I laughed. Vivian is a retired teacher, a mom, and a grandmother. She’s proud of her own books, but would rather shine the spotlight on others’ accomplishments. As the owner of 4RV Publishing, those are the kudos she’d rather promote. Next, I asked the million-dollar question: “Do you charge authors anything to publish their books?”

Vivian shook her head. “No, we do not charge authors anything to publish their books, or for any of the services needed to prepare their books once under contract.”

“I hear things are kind of rough in the publishing industry, these days – even some of the big publishing houses are opening subsidy imprints.”

“One reason publishers get in financial difficulties is the return policy. If a bookstore orders many more copies than they know they will sell, they can return left over copies years and years later and have their money returned. Publishers have to pay that money back, either through Ingram or their own distribution system. 4RV finally did away with returns after being hit with a huge bill for books returned that we could find no record of being bought, much less when they were bought. Major publishers pay millions every year for returned books. Of course that hurts. People aren’t buying books as much as they once did, and it has nothing to do with eBooks being available. It’s the economy. So many Big Guys are opening subsidy imprints. They need the income.”

“So why don’t you do the same?”

“Yes, we need the income, too, but we want the best books possible to be under our imprint. Once we accept payment for doing our job, putting out quality books, we lose at least some control over what is published under our name. We want the authors who deserve to be published to have their books in print and then in electronic format without a black mark against their names, which, no matter what some people say, still exists for self-published books. We try to give our authors the best chance to be successful we can.”

“Is it true that even the editors and illustrators work for royalties? So if books don’t sell well, they don’t get paid, either?”

“True and true. However, the owner of the company doesn’t even take royalties, nor does the head of the editorial department. We believe in the company enough that we leave what earnings we have in 4RV. What staff we have are dedicated to our cause. Of course we lose people quite often. They use 4RV to build a good resume and go on to bigger and better things. I can’t blame them, just ask they leave nicely without putting the company in a bind with unfinished projects. However, some stay even when they get positions elsewhere and do a few projects a year.”

“You’re an author, too – does owning the publishing house mean automatic acceptance and fast-track to print for your books?”

“Excuse me as I laugh. All submissions are sent to acquisition editors anonymously, no identification anywhere on the manuscript. One of my submissions was rejected — yep, rejected with malice. The head of the editorial department asked if the manuscript should be sent to a different acquisition editor, and I said, “No, she had valid reasons, and when I have time, I’ll revise and resubmit.” I’ve never had time. In fact, since 4RV was created, I have had only five books published by the company, and they were back when we had few submissions. I will have the first book come out later this summer, the first since early 2010, and it was in the works for three years.”

“So, 4RV is entered into the Staples PUSH It Forward Contest – what would you do with the prize money if you win?” Personally, I can’t think of many businesses that are more deserving of this “push” from Staples.

Vivian has big ideas on a shoestring budget. $50,000 lets her dream bigger – and lesser-known authors stand to benefit, too. “We need to upgrade all our technology and use digital accounting and record keeping. We would be able to create more eBooks. We need to hire people trained in digital marketing and promote our books even more effectively. The prize money from Staples would give us the “push” we need to compete in today’s publishing world.”

Want Some Good Books?

Shop direct from the 4RV Publishing book store from the comfort of  home at http://4rvpublishingcatalog.com (many of these titles can also be found on Amazon and BN.com, as well, though I prefer to shop direct when possible).

Submissions guidelines can be found at http://www.4rvpublishing.com/manuscript-art-submissions.php

Questions?

I’ll bet Vivian Zabel pops over here from time to time, and would be happy to answer them! You might also enjoy reading her blogs: 4RV Reading, Writing, & Art News or Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

24 Comments

  1. Vivian Zabel

    Thanks, Holly. Yes, we could use the Staples prize to improve our company. I will pop backed in from time to time, too.i

    Reply
  2. Karen Cioffi

    Holy great interview. And, I’ll be doing my part to help 4RV win the Staples contest, that includes voting and linking to this post. Vivian and the company deserve it!

    Reply
  3. Melanie Robertson-King

    Great interview, ladies. I’ve shared it on Facebook, StumbleUpon, Linkedin and Pinterest, not to mention tweeted and scheduled tweets every day until the voting closes.

    Reply
    • HollyJahangiri

      Oh, what an excellent idea, Melanie – I need to go do the same (schedule some tweets); life has a way of sidetracking me, so I need the reminders as much as anyone else. Thanks!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The #2 StrawberriesMy Profile

      Reply
    • Vivian Zabel

      Wow, this thing is beginning to take off. Now, we’ll pray it lands in the right place. *grin*

      Reply
  4. Melanie Robertson-King

    Interview all set up, formatted and ready to go. SEO is in place, I just have to hit the publish button. When I do, it will automatically go to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Linkedin. I’ll go in and do Google+, StumbleUpon and Pinterest then hop on to Triberr and spread the word there.

    Here’s hoping we make this go viral… and not land in “Twitter jail” in the process.

    Reply
    • HollyJahangiri

      Hey, I’m willing to land in Twitter and Facebook jail for such a good cause! (Though Facebook jail is funnier, what with its re-education camp videos and my Spotify protest song queue. My friends get to enjoy that, too!)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…IngeniousMy Profile

      Reply
  5. Karen Cioffi

    Yes, 4RV encompasses everyone involved with the company!

    Reply
    • HollyJahangiri

      We’re like family. 🙂 I’m happy that my books are in such great company, and I’m proud that they’re published by 4RV Publishing.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…The #2 StrawberriesMy Profile

      Reply
  6. Patricia Stoltey

    This is such a good interview. I admire Vivian for jumping into the world of publishing as she has….it seems like an excellent career movie for an author but a whole lot of hard work.

    Reply
    • HollyJahangiri

      I greatly admire her. I’m a gutless wonder when it comes to that side of things, and she just dove in feet first. She’s really a pretty amazing woman.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Flaming Red Pen of Death™ AwardMy Profile

      Reply
      • Vivian Zabel

        Actually, I hit my head and fell in, and I’ve never come to my senses yet.

        Reply
      • HollyJahangiri

        Well, I’ve pictured you doing it that way, a time or two, but figured I’d give readers reason to give you benefit of the doubt. 😉
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…The #2 StrawberriesMy Profile

        Reply
  7. Melanie Kissell

    My vote is in and your post has been shared across the interwebz! Thanks for the heads up, Holly, and best of luck to you, Vivian!!

    Reply
    • Vivian Zabel

      Thank you. I hope everyone continues to vote every day through the 31st.

      Reply
  8. Judith Kavanaugh

    Holly and Vivian: What a beautiful story about doing what you love and the money will follow. And to finish the cliche I will do my best to get that money to follow!! Such a great service to aspiring Authors. I wish I knew you before my Sister self published!!

    Reply
    • Vivian Zabel

      Actually, Holly and I tried the self-publishing route with our collection of short stories. However, unless a person some how sells hundreds of thousands of copies or is already well known, that black mark is there. Too bad.

      Reply
      • HollyJahangiri

        I think it’s the “black mark” is against “self-published work” in general, simply because it’s associated (somewhat rightfully so) with “poorly edited crap.” That’s an uphill battle for competent writers who understand the need for another set of eyes or ten; it is changing, but I don’t think it will ever completely go away. I see it being replaced by a somewhat more democratic process involving trusted (and impartial) reviewers, small publishers that aren’t afraid to support one another and their authors, and readers – but we’re just not THERE yet.

        Meanwhile, if large publishers are unwilling to risk it on unknown voices, we’ll just keep hearing from the SAME voices, over and over, until publishers like 4RV Publishing fill the gap and take the risks the big boys could better afford, but haven’t the heart to take.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…#blogcrawl Prompt: Lucky UnderwearMy Profile

        Reply

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