Author/publisher Vivian Zabel has written in the adult, young adult, and children’s genres. She also has a publishing company—4RV Publishing—which has released nearly 30 books in the last two years. She writes under the name Vivian Gilbert Zabel for adult-level books, articles, and stories (Midnight Hours, Hidden Lies and Other Stories with Holly Jahangiri); she uses V. Gilbert Zabel for young adult and juvenile works (Prairie Dog Cowboy, The Case of the Missing Coach); and Granny Zabel for the children’s genre. As a publisher, Zabel offers the Write On! community a unique perspective and advice for writers in all areas.

Why do you write?
I write because I have to, have no choice. The voices in my head will not allow me to keep from writing.

How do you approach the blank page?
Usually I already have a story in my mind that needs to be put on paper or computer. Of course, the characters make some changes at times, but for the most part, the plot and characters are already “alive” in my head.

How do you juggle so many different genres/age groups, as well as your publishing company?
I’ll have to confess that I mix up which hat I’m supposed to be wearing at times, but I have my own reading ideas, young adult grandchildren, and young grandchildren. I just switch from my reading level to what each of them would like. In fact one of my special acquisition editors is one of my young teen grandsons. If he likes it, then we want it.

I couldn’t manage all I do without help from our art director and her assistant (Aidana WillowRaven and Mandy Hedrick) and other staff members. Most are working with me to make this company fiscally secure. The future looks good.

I usually spend the early, early mornings doing my own writing. The rest of the morning is spent on emails and submissions. The afternoon, I work on editing schedules and assignments, and the evening is used for following up on business matters.

What was the impetus for starting 4RV Publishing? What is its mission?
The “big boys” are interested in authors who are already famous. Beginning authors have little chance to find a spot with a major agent or publishing house. Self-publishing has a bad rap, much earned because of poorly written and/or edited products, and vanity presses give any author no chance to become a “real” published author. I, with the help of Jacque Graham and Janelle Zabel, wanted to help fill that gap between the major publishers and the lower ranks.

We also wanted quality books and to allow the authors to have more say in what happened with their books. For example, many times the author has no input into illustrations. We allow authors to view samples from different artists and to choose which they prefer.

Our motto is “working one on one with authors and artists.” We want to produce quality books from quality authors and quality artists.

You have worked on all sides of the writing front. As a publisher, what do think all writers need to know prior to submitting?
Writers need to learn their craft, including correct grammar, sentence structure, and mechanics (punctuation and spelling). They need to “show, not tell” a story with interesting plot and three dimensional characters that readers can relate to. The manuscript should be coherent, clear, and comprehensive from beginning to end. All parts of the manuscript should hold the attention of the reader.

What are some of the biggest mistakes writers make?
Too many writers think their words are so special that no one should change or suggest they be changed. They send in what is not much more than a rough draft and can’t understand why the submission is not accepted. Friends and family are not objective readers. Their opinions are not valid most of the time.

Additional advice for writers?
Keep working, writing, and learning. I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing for over sixty years now, and I’m still learning.

What do you now know that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve been writing since I was in the third grade, was first published when I was in my twenties, and have added to my knowledge and ability over the years.

I guess the one thing I didn’t know way back when is how difficult it is to make any money writing. However, knowing that would not have kept me from writing.

What do you know know that you wish you knew when you first started publishing?
I wish I knew how crazy I was to start such a risky business. I’ve never been a gambler—until the biggest gamble of all: publishing.


Comments are closed.

  1. Vivian Zabel 12 years ago

    Thank you, Debra for presenting my thoughts and goals so succulently.

  2. […] Here is the original post: Author Q&A: Author/Publisher Vivian Zabel,… « Write On Online […]

  3. Nancy Famolari 12 years ago

    Vivian is a wonderful inspiration to all of us aspiring writers. She tells it like it is, learn your craft and keep working.

    Great interview Debra and Vivian.

  4. Vivian 12 years ago

    Nancy, you summarized it exactly. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Author
    Debra Eckerling 12 years ago

    Thanks for your comment, Nancy. And thanks, Vivian, for sharing your knowledge and experience with the Write On! Community.

  6. Martha Swirzinski 12 years ago

    Thanks for sharing with us today.

  7. Karen Cioffi 12 years ago

    Wonderful post.

    That is great advice to keep on learning. It really is a never-ending process.

  8. Katie Hines 12 years ago

    It’s great learning more about Vivian and all the different pies she juggles.

  9. Dana Donovan 12 years ago

    Wow, a powerhouse posting. Lot’s of great info, but that’s what you get when you put two amazing women together. Thanks for that interview Vivian and Debra!

  10. Magdalena Ball 12 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vivian. I’m not sure I entirely agree about family and friends – some of my best critiques have come from those two groups, and the line between critique group and friends has become increasingly blurry (and no one in my family ever spares my feelings–they’re usually very astute critics!). But I completely agree with the idea of reworking and rewriting.

  11. Janet Ann Collins 12 years ago

    Vivian sounds both creative and courageous. Thanks for letting us get to know her.

  12. kathy stemke 12 years ago

    Thanks Vivian and Debra. I’m glad there are independant publishers with high standards like you Vivian.

  13. Margaret Fieland 12 years ago

    Debra, thanks for the interesting interview. Vivian, it’s inspiring to read about someone like you who manages to keep so many balls in the air. I don’t usually pass my writing by my friends and family — maybe I should try it ..

  14. Brigitte Thompson 12 years ago

    Wonderful interview! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Author
    Debra Eckerling 12 years ago

    Thanks, everyone!

    I think if you are fortunate enough to have objective friends and family – who “get” that you’re a writer – you should go for it! I believe the key toward receiving an effective critique is to know your stuff well enough before sending it out to the universe – and people you know – for feedback. That way you can discern what is constructive.

  16. Dallas Woodburn 12 years ago

    I love the motto of your publishing company: “working one on one with authors and artists.” That seems like just the philosophy to produce top-notch books and nourish wonderful creative careers of writers and artists!

  17. Heidi M. Thomas 12 years ago

    Thanks for the advice, Vivian, and I admire your courage in becoming a publisher. It’s a LOT of hard work!!

  18. Susan Wigden 12 years ago

    I doubt that there is anything better that an author/publisher can do than offer their honest and professional help. It is quite unique and I am sure I am not the only one that appreciates the advice.

  19. […] Vivian Zabel has won several awards with her writing, including first place with her mystery/suspense Midnight Hours, and has written in the adult, young adult, and children’s genres. Her latest novel Stolen, about a women who is battered and torn when her children are abducted, was just released. She taught English and writing for nearly 30 years, and edited newspapers, yearbooks, and literary magazines sporadically for 45. Zabel’s publishing company—4RV Publishing has released nearly 30 books in the last two years. For more on Zabel, read the Write On! Q&A. […]


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