I recently interviewed William Steven Riley, illustrator and publisher. Most people know him as Steve or Steven. In his family it was common to go by your middle name. He works from the comfort of his California home. “I love it, but it does mean that sometimes I don’t get things done as fast as I probably would having an office.” His wife home-schools their two children, and Steve loves having the family close-by.
Steve is currently working on Furnatche the House Dragon, written by author Honey Apotos. The story is about a family who discovers a baby dragon in the basement furnace. Steve is also finishing The Little Flame written by Denise Gary, his good friend and CEO of Kids Need To Read. The Little Flame is a heartfelt adventure meant to inspire kids to pursue the important things in life while maintaing healthy relationships.
When asked how Steve chose this line of work, he admitted it chose him, almost by accident. He reached a point in his life when pursuing unimportant careers needed to change. “If I don’t give something else a try, then this will be my life.” Life was not awful, just not what he wanted. After some soul searching, writing and illustrating children’s books were his best chance to succeed.
Steve now has three titles the Little Ty Cooney National Wonders Series. They are Little Ty Cooney and the Big Yosemite Race, Little Ty Cooney and the Big Yellowstone Mystery, and Little Ty Cooney and the Grand Canyon Tour Company. Other works include author Derek Sabori’s book Lu and the Earthbug Crew Zap the Energy Spikes. The illustrations were a collaborative effort between he and Mark Wayne Adams. Steve has three other books written. He is also collaborating with with World Class Climber, Dean Potter on a story about his life, which many people would say are just plain crazy.
Most all Steve’s character ideas are born in sketchbooks. “I will be drawing one day and some random sketch will just come to life in my imagination,” Steve says. His written stories generally evolve around characters, not a specific plot or theme. “All the story elements are there in the characters just waiting for me to discover them.” His Ty Cooney series began in Yosemite Valley with a little raccoon that lived under his family’s porch. “I sketched a little cartoon picture of him and that picture inspired the rest.”
The only career for Steve before publishing was managing restaurants in Yosemite Valley, California. It required very little of his creativity, and focused on managing people, resources, and providing customer service. His experiences inspired the entrepreneur within him. Publishing has been frightening and rewarding for Steve. “Frightening because if I fail there is no safety net. Rewarding because, when I succeed the rewards are mine.” said Steve. The combination of those two things keeps him highly motivated.
Steve is an independent publisher and illustrates for other independent authors. I asked him to offer insight to other’s considering independent publishing. His first words of advice were to develop a business plan on how to sell books. “This is a business driven by money. Money is derived from sales. If you have a great book and no way to sell it, you are in trouble. If you execute a good marketing plan, then your book is going to make you money.” Money isn’t the most important thing to Steve, but paying the bills is a publishing priority.
“I think the most significant moments for me were the first moments of the journey. The first time I held in my hand a real true-to-life published book, that I wrote and illustrated.” says Steve. “Upon the arrival of my first 5,000 books, I stood back and looked into my garage at the enormous pile of boxes. My wife and I took pictures with the pallets. It is comical to think of it. I still smile when I see those pictures.” Steve said. To him those moments cannot be taken away, because the first memories were the best.
Steve didn’t hesitate when asked if he would start his publishing career again. “I absolutely would, in a New York minute!” Steve replied. The one thing he would change would be to start before he graduated High School. “I always had silly ideas and funny pictures of crazy characters floating around in my head. I never believed they would ever amount to anything.” Steve replied. Starting younger would given him nearly twenty years longer to build upon his success. “I recommend not hesitating or making excuses. I would just do it.” He also recommended choosing the correct college institution. His education was a good, but felt an art school would have provided more opportunities.
To contact Steve Riley visit his website at: http://tycooney.wordpress.com
“I keep thinking Mark is just using lines like everyone else – how is it his lines look so much better?” – Steve Riley