The launch of Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ book is chaotic. Sales are strong.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
The details emerging from leaks and interview teasers ahead of Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, are sensational, even explosive. News organizations around the world cover them breathlessly.
There is a description of Harry being hit by his brother William to the floor during a fight and Harry’s confession of it he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. There’s also his claim that William and his wife Kate encouraged him to dress as a Nazi, and his recollection of losing his virginity to an older woman in a field behind a bar.
Revealing everything from a member of the British royal family must have been a nightmare to deal with. Big books, widely anticipated books, will often leak, despite publishers’ best attempts to keep the process tightly orchestrated. But the content of Harry’s memoir has been mined to such an extent that it begs the question: will readers still be curious enough to buy the book?
So far, the answer seems to be yes. The media frenzy appears to be driving interest in the memoir, due out Tuesday. “Spare” took first place on Amazon in the United States and the United Kingdom on Friday, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Booksellers and distributors said pre-orders were huge and growing with the avalanche of press coverage.
Still, the extraordinary volume of leaks underscored the challenges, and perhaps the impossibility, of choreographing the release of what may be the most anticipated and controversial celebrity memoir of all time.
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Many of the memoir’s shocking revelations have already been released in case of leaksas well as some of the most dramatic moments from the interviews Harry gave to promote the book distributed online as teasers. All of this was preceded by a six-part Netflix documentary, ‘Harry & Meghan’, which aired in December and where Harry inflammatory accusations against his family, including an allegation that his brother’s communications aides planted negative stories about his wife Meghan Markle in the London tabloids.
Despite the risk that full coverage could lead to Harry and Meghan fatigue, many booksellers expect the memoir to be an undisputed success. Random House reported printing 2.5 million hardcover copies for North America alone. Ingram, the book wholesaler, has 90,000 copies in stock to restock stores that are out of stock. ReaderLink, which distributes books to chain stores such as Target and Walmart, said it has ordered about 300,000 copies. Barnes & Noble also ordered hundreds of thousands of copies.
James Daunt, who heads Barnes & Noble and British bookshop chain Waterstones, said that even the negative leaks had increased customer interest in “Spare” and that he expected to see “the most extraordinary” first day and first week of sales.
The Guardian has since obtained a copy of the book and revealed some of his biggest bombs, in-store bookings for the book, have taken off in Britain, he said.
“This one really caused such a level of hysteria in the press that I’m really hard pressed to think of anything like it,” Daunt said. “All it does is build this great excitement that brings people into bookstores.”
More from Penguin Random House announced in 2021 that they had obtained a memoir by Harry — who stunned the world when he and his wife announced they were separating from the royal family — the book’s content has been the subject of intense speculation in the publishing world, in British tabloids and among royal watchers .
Publishers often guard against leaks with strict embargoes, in some cases requiring everyone who works on the book, including typesetters and editors, to sign nondisclosure agreements. Retailers are often required to sign an affidavit agreeing to store books in a monitored, locked, and secure area if they receive copies before the on-sale date. Some publishing executives even choose not to send long-awaited books to airport bookstores because they tend to pay less attention to the embargo.
Matt Latimer, founder of the literary agency Javelin, which handles many books by high-profile politicians, said he had never seen an embargoed book leak from a publisher or printer. In the days leading up to publication, when the books have to be loaded onto trucks and sent to stores, the revelations begin.
“I call it a danger zone,” Latimer said. “A week or two before publication there is almost always a leak.”
A simultaneous international release further complicates this delicate process. “Spare” will be released in 16 languages simultaneously, multiplying the possibilities for leaks: In Spain, the book accidentally went on sale early Thursday.
Publishing executives say the leak could be beneficial if it spurs the right media coverage and sparks interest in the book. During the Trump era, some of the most explosive information in the books of journalists and former administration officials often leaked early and dominated cable news coverage for days, shooting headlines to the top of best-seller lists. But in some cases, books that are built around news pieces can see their sales plummet after the news cycle has worn off and the media has moved on.
It’s too early to tell whether the overall sales trajectory of Harry’s memoir will be affected by the steady stream of revelations. Many readers will buy the book for an intimate look at Prince Harry’s life from his point of view, not just for the bombshell news. Harry teams up with a highly regarded ghost writer, JR Moehringer, and the cascade of articles does not offer the same narrative journey as a well-crafted book. And his story, while ripe for tabloid fodder, also deals with universal themes like race, class, and sometimes strained relationships between brothers or between fathers and sons. The book’s title refers to a phrase Charles used to name Harry, his second son, as his “backup” or backup heir, since he had already secured an heir in Harry’s older brother.
“It’s ridiculous and it’s fun, but it’s also obviously going to be an interesting book that will continue to sell and continue to be part of the conversation,” said Daunt, Barnes & Noble’s chief executive.
“We bet that book has legs,” he said. “It’s not going to be a flash in the pan.”
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