If your childhood was anything like mine, books like the Saddle Club, Heartland and Jill’s Gymkhana will have featured heavily!
So when I was given the task of photographing Michelle Charman’s Forelock Books, a selection of horse and pony fiction books, and they turned up in a box at my house, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and was left wondering how many of the books I could get through before I had to give them away to the models on the shoot.
Michelle was after new images of her products, to help strengthen her online brand and assist in her online marketing efforts. So, I happily agreed to source children and ponies to help with this mission.
And what a lovely project it was. I really did feel like I was reliving a part of my childhood. I used to absolutely adore reading pony related books when I was younger and I feel like Michelle’s wholesome, family orientated brand is providing that exact feel-good feeling, for the newest pony-mad generation.
So, I thought I’d just ask Michelle a few questions, to give you a chance to get to know more about these beautiful books and how they came about.
Can you tell us a little about Forelock Books and how they came about?
I have always loved reading and riding, horses and books, so what else was I destined to do but publish the very best pony stories for new generations of young riders?
After growing up having great adventures with ponies and friends on the mountains and beaches of Snowdonia, I moved to London where I worked in publishing for over 25 years, before setting up Forelock Books.
Pony stories had become unfashionable during the ’90’s and 00’s and most of the big publishers had stopped publishing british pony stories, but with horsemanship getting more media attention following the Olympics, riding has once again become a cool, adventurous,competitive and skilled sport.
Children are once again proud to be thought of as equestrian and they aren’t shy of being seen reading equestrian fiction.
What has been the greatest obstacle along the way?
Self-doubt. I started the business convinced that there was a market and I was sure that great stories would sell themselves – if I loved them, surely everyone else would too. We started well, books sold well at local Pony Clubs and we were getting good publicity in national magazines, but things didn’t take off in the way I hoped.
Despite great publicity and wonderful feedback, sales were very slow. For a time panic set in and we tried to target different markets, we tried to be everything to everyone, changing price points, giving away products and spending huge amounts on advertising and promotions, all to no avail.
There have been many times that I have seriously contemplated giving up, but every time there looks to be no way forward I get a boost from a parent or child who takes the trouble to tell me how great our books are and how much they have enjoyed the stories, and I have to keep going.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is attending horse shows and events, speaking to young riders about their ponies, what they like doing and their favourite adventures.
If you could pick one book as your favourite, which would it be and why?
In terms of Forelock Books, I can’t really pick a favourite, I love them all and I chose each one for different reasons. I’ve read each one several times over since publication, I choose which to read based on how I’m feeling and they seem to get better with each reading. This is why I decided to make them into little hardbacks that could be read over and over.
As an overall favourite book (not a Forelock Book) then I would say CS Lewis’ The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, for the adventure, friendships and the way the book expands the reader’s imagination.
What does the future look like for Forelock Books?
It’s uncertain. The stories are wonderful and I have complete confidence in them. I also love the look and feel of the books and I know that children love them too. They are perfect gifts for children to buy for their friends, for young riders to treasure and for families to share, but we need to sell in larger quantities, nationwide in order for us to keep investing in new stories that will delight future generations.
What did you hope to achieve from the photoshoot?
We always sell well at events where children and their parents can see and feel the books. We have high production values and we are very proud of our products – the books, nets and gift boxes, but the beauty of the book and the wonder of the stories just wasn’t coming across online.
I hoped that a professional photographer would be able to capture the beauty of the book and the essence of our stories in pictures. It was a very tall order, but you have done an amazing job. I now hope that potential customers all over the world will be able to see how utterly gorgeous our books are.
As you can see, Forelock Books come in the cutest wrapping paper or novelty mini haynet, if you purchase them as a gift, so if you’d like to introduce your pony-mad youngsters to the next generation of equestrian fiction, you can find out more at…
Michelle has books for all ages and absolutely loves it when new clients ask her advice, about which book might be suitable for their needs, so don’t hesitate to drop her a message and ask her about her favourites.