I'm not in the publishing area, but recently I've been reading up on middle grade and YA literature and the importance of target audiences, etc and then I started wondering about the Discworld series.

I have looked up on the Wikipedia page for the series, but according to it, the genre is just "comic fantasy", which I guess is pretty accurate. However, I became very curious as to who was his audience and how did he pitch it for his editor? Did he not consider any age group? Did he write for adults specifically? Did he write the series for middle graders? High schoolers?

Because as much comedic and fun the series are, there's a lot of cultural references that a young child and even a teenager wouldn't get. However, I feel like a lot of people started reading the series as a child/teenager.

It's so bewildering to me that he didn't write for a specific target audience... That just can't be so. Also, so much of the merchadise is targeted to children and I usually find the books alongside Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortuante Events and the like. Isn't the series a middle grade series?

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    It wouldn't have been pitched as a series, so you should really be asking about how Pratchett sold The Colour of Magic, which is clearly intended as a standalone story. (Once that was a success, he could keep writing indefinitely, although a few retcons were required.) Of note in this regard is that Pratchett had already written Strata in 1981, which is a science fiction novel with a similar humorous tone, and so he already had a relationship with the publisher.
    – Buzz
    Oct 15, 2018 at 4:38
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    Strata is also the book that sets out some of the original premise of the Discworld, although a lot changed between that and CoM, and even more as the series went on.
    – ConMan
    Oct 15, 2018 at 6:08
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    It's perhaps worthy of note that during the 1980s, other things (for example, US television shows) were targeted much more generally than they are today. Before the explosion of cable channels led to the fine tuning of everything to specific demographics, there was still an advantage to stories written such that anyone, from children to grandparents, might be able to enjoy them.
    – RDFozz
    Oct 15, 2018 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


According to Terry Pratchett, the Discworld novels were written as general fantasy fiction but then marketed at an adult audience by his publishing house. Pratchett seemed to find it highly amusing that his Truckers books (allegedly for children) had also made the adult bestseller lists.

  • The Discworld novels were marketed at adults

    SysOp Barb Delaplace: Terry, I'm reading Truckers and finding it delightful. When did you start writing juvenile fiction?

    Terry Pratchett: Barb ... I thought that's what I always write . I just write, and it sort of finds its own level. Truckers is only marketed for kids, the Discworld is marketed for adults, that -- apart from a few one-liners -- is all it is. Funnily enough, it's respectable to write fantasy for children, but not for adults.

    Transcript of the Formal Conference held on Sunday, August 11th, 1991 in the CompuServe Science Fiction/Fantasy Forum

  • Latterly, Pratchett defined how you can tell the difference between his books that are written for adults and those that are intentionally aimed at children, by determining whether they're broken up into chapters.

    Q. Why aren't the Discworld books divided into chapters?

    TP: I don't think in chapters - I can't understand why they are required. As far as I can see their only purpose is so that people reading at night can say, 'I'll read to the end of the chapter and turn the light off!' You can turn the light off whenever you like - that's what bookmarks are for.

    But when I'm writing books for children, I use chapters. I go back through the finished text, decide how many chapters I'm going to use, then find suitable places for them.

    Wyrd and Wonderful: The Young Telegraph No.345 May 17 1997

  • Pratchett felt that the Discworld books were "uni-age", suitable for young and old alike.

    Terry: Well, one of the things I like to do is get kids reading. And for some reason, I don't know why it is, and lots of people have been telling me at this convention, it tends to go like this, you know, "My boy is more or less dyslexic and wouldn't read any books, and I've got him on Discworld and now he's a Professor of Comparative Linguistics at Oxford University. I think that's all about writing fantasy, it's a strange kind of fantasy, that I write, it isn't kind of like the normal sort. It is that it's uni-age, you can enjoy it as an adult and you can enjoy it as a child, but I always make certain that the ones that are expressly children's books are written with kids in mind. 'Cause there is nothing worse than pretending that it's a children's book, but waving at mom and dad over the top of the page. That sometimes happens. If you get the Carnegie Medal for a children's book, which I got for the Amazing Morris and his Educated Rodents, there are children's librarians voting for that, and kids themselves and they know if it's a children's book or not.

    An interview with Terry Pratchett

  • 1
    Thank you! That was a very comprehensive answer!
    – bruxabruxa
    Dec 13, 2018 at 21:19

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