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Friday, March 6, 2015

All Ages by Richard Prosch

What does the title of this post mean to you? What do you think when a book is listed as all ages?

I have to admit, for me it means it's a young adult or kids’ book. I don't know when that idea first took hold, but as a reader it's rock solid in my head. 

And I should know better. 

There are scores of books I read as a kid that were written for adults, books that are --in fact-- good for all ages. Great Expectations, 1984, Hondo, and The Martian Chronicles were all written for adults. But you could read them as a kid. 

I didn't need an adult to tell me what was appropriate. If I could understand the prose, I read it. From The War of The Worlds and Dracula to The Black Stallion and The Hardy Boys, I didn't care who the intended audience was. I read it.

As writers, do you think we get too hung up on that intended audience?

Isn't it something every agent and/or publisher starts telling us from the get-go? Where does your book fit on the shelf?  Imagine the spines of the books next to yours. Who's the target audience?

I sure do understand the necessity of listing a book correctly when it comes to the marketing
But here I’m talking about how we think as writers. Before the marketing must come the story. We shouldn’t write to market. We should write to tell a good story.

Thinking about a couple literary greats: if The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, would they be listed in the catalog with the other adult material?  Or would they be labeled as young adult?  

I think they'd end up with the latter. 

Sadly, to list something today as adult fiction it's almost a given that there are potentially objectionable scenes or dialog inside. In other words, it's the sex and violence that make something adult.

The thing is, once somebody can read, I think it's more important to converse than to censor. Talk about the content instead of blocking it.

I'm here to tell you. In 1976, if somebody would've told my mom that Raymond Chandler or Isaac Asimov were adult books, those books would've been off my shelf pronto. 

But nobody told her. And I sure wasn't going to break the news.

So whenever somebody asks me what I write, I answer like a storyteller first. 

No matter the story's content, I write for all ages.

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. Read more at


  1. I agree with you, Richard. When I see a “suitable for all ages” label, I think kids book. But then I wonder; is this book suitable for kids because the content is “unobjectionable” or because of the reading level of the prose, so it gets a little confusing. As a writer, I want to tell a good story. That is my first concern. Let the marketing chips fall where they may.

  2. Good point about the prose, Michael. There are a lot of adult-level books with some pretty juvenile prose! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Richard you are so right! A few years back I wrote a three book series that actually started out as a short story--but I quickly saw it was going to be much longer than that. The first one is called Red Eagle's War; followed by Red Eagle's Revenge; and last but not least, Texas Forever. The stories were eventually put under one cover, Ride the Wild Range. Though these tales revolve around a 10 year old boy, Will Green, whose family is murdered by a marauding band of Apaches, it is one of those stories "for all ages". Maybe we need to come up with a new phrase, meaning that EVERYONE will be able to enjoy it, rather than "this is really a kid's book, but you will like it too." I've had moderate interest in it--I think because it appeals to everyone, but no one really knows who it's written for. I hate that, because it's truly one of my favorite stories, and I've gotten all 5* ratings on it. No sex, a few bits of "language" and some violence--but I tried not to get too graphic. LOL Anyhow, I really enjoyed this blog post--it's a subject that I have thought about but just couldn't put it into words, and you did that quite nicely. Food for thought.