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THE AGE OF DISCOVERY

Target’s editors spent almost two years developing Doctor Who Discovers, a range of educational books that fell short of expectations…

Target Books was launched in a publishing environment that bears little resemblance to the current market. These were the days before Amazon transformed the landscape of book retailing, and when the net book agreement – a price maintenance system in force for much of the 20th century – outlawed competitive discounting.

In this world of relative certainty, the power was held by the chief buyers at the bricks-and-mortar shops which, in the 1970s, were pretty much the only places you could buy a new book. If they liked the look of a forthcoming product then they would place an orderwith the publisher’s sales rep. Those reps would tot up those figures and report back to their sales directors. Those directors would, as a rule of thumb, then recommend that print runs should be set at approximately double the size of advance orders. It was a system that served the Doctor Who novelisations well for decades, but the same system effectively curtailed the Doctor Who Discovers series before it had even been launched.

A spread from The Doctor Who Monster Book (1975).

The Doctor Who publishing licence was a valuable commodity that in 1975 survived the sale of Target’s US parent company Universal-Tandem to the British publisher Howard and Wyndham. It was the newly named Tandem Publishing that commissioned Terrance Dicks to write Target’s first non-fiction title.

The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book was an attempt to combine the appeal of two subjects that were already proven successes in children’s bookshops.

Writer Terrance Dicks established a style for Target’s non-fiction books.

The Doctor Who Monster Book was a large-format paperback that ran to just 64 coarse black-and-white pages. The text was sparse and low on detail, at least by modern standards, but the design showcased a heady combination of previously unpublished photographs and Chris Achilleos artwork. Retailers were sufficiently impressed with the concept that Tandem printed 100,000 copies in anticipation of the book’s publication on 20 November 1975.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Considered a unique record of Doctor Who’s history in the era before fanzines, official magazines and home video, Target books are probably the most cherished items of merchandise inspired by the show. They’re certainly the most commercially successful. From the early 1970s to the early 90s, it’s estimated that Target sold over eight million novelisations and other Doctor Who books. This is the inside story of a legendary imprint, from its rise and fall to its triumphant revival in 2018. Highlights include exclusive interviews with the key players, numerous rare images and extracts from two unpublished manuscripts.