How a multitude of Harry headlines helped propel Spare to early sales success
Publishing protocol may not have been followed, but Prince Harry likely isn’t complaining about his book sales.
An accidental release of Spare, days ahead of schedule in Spain, led to round-the-clock media coverage of the Duke of Sussex’s memoir and its many revelations.
The media eagerly jumped on the emerging details as the Spanish-language edition was translated — leading to Spare-sourced reports about the frayed relations between Harry and the Royal Family, his military career and more.
“It was basically like a different headline every hour about Harry and his book,” said Jocelyn Kelley, a senior publicist with Kelley & Hall, a literary publicity company based in Marblehead, Mass.
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Publishing and publicity experts say the results speak for themselves, as the book reportedly sold more than 1.4 million copies across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom on its first day of sales this past Tuesday.
“For any publisher, this book would be the ultimate statement publication,” said Claire Squires, a professor of publishing at the University of Stirling in Scotland — particularly when a book becomes the talk of the town around the globe, as Spare has.
‘The story got ahead of Harry’
It appears the plan had been for Harry to do a small number of key interviews — with the CBS News program 60 Minutes and also with Britain’s ITV — a few days before Spare hit bookstore shelves.
These interviews made headlines, but they came after the stories that broke from the wider media’s early look at the book.
Kelley, the U.S.-based publicist, said this unplanned release “extended the life of the launch” and got people thinking about Harry and what he had to say for longer than had been planned.
Becky Toyne, a writer, editor and books columnist for CBC Radio’s Day 6, believes the publisher’s intention would have been for the prearranged television interviews to provide sound bites for the media.
Instead, “the story got ahead of Harry,” said Toyne, who admits that while she hasn’t read the book, she feels like she has due to the intense media coverage.
Toyne, Kelley and other publishing experts, however, say it’s unlikely the publisher would have wanted the roll-out to unfold as it did, even if it has been highly beneficial for building buzz.
Curiosity in Canada
Spare has seen sizzling sales in Canada, with Indigo crowning the memoir as the bookstore chain’s fastest-selling non-fiction book in its history.
Rania Husseini, the senior vice-president of print at Indigo, said she’s “thrilled” at the book’s Canadian reception, “despite the early commentary” on its content.
“I have no doubt that the more people read it, the more they will recommend it,” Husseini said in an emailed statement.
Those reading from cover to cover will be able to glean some details about Harry and Meghan’s time in Canada — and how close they came to permanently putting down roots here, after leaving Britain.
“We considered Canada. By and large it had been good to us,” Harry states in Spare. “It had already come to feel like home.”
The couple would move on to California, however, after their security support was pulled.
Some willing to wait
Canadian libraries are also seeing strong interest in Harry’s story and readers are willing to wait to get their hands on it.
Matt Abbott, the manager of collection development for the Toronto Public Library, said more than 8,500 people have placed hold requests for the various formats of Spare, two days after the book’s release.
On the West Coast, the Greater Victoria Public Library has a four-digit demand line of its own. “We currently have over 1,600 holds, across all formats,” Kelly Ridgway, a library spokesperson, said via email on Thursday.
In Winnipeg, the prince’s memoir was the library system’s most-requested book, with more than 850 holds registered, ahead of the weekend, according to David Driedger, the city’s manager of corporate communications.
The Toronto and Victoria libraries report demand for Spare is similar to other higher-profile releases to land on library shelves, like former U.S. president Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
More to share after Spare?
Matthew Bucemi, assistant professor in book publishing at Toronto’s York University, said some of the themes that Harry and Meghan have shared in their podcast, recent Netflix series and now in the prince’s memoir, seem to parallel issues of interest to today’s readers, like self-help and speaking one’s truth.
That may speak to part of what is drawing readers to its pages, in addition to the peek behind the royal curtain that Spare offers.
“How much is Harry unique in this way … and how much does it play into what a readership is already hungry for?” said Bucemi.
If sales of Spare are strong enough, it raises the question if Harry will have more to say in print in future — or potentially if others will have something to say about him.
Harry recently told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that Spare was originally twice its length in draft form and that he had enough material for a second book.
Kelley said Harry’s life remains a “hot topic” from a publishing perspective and it’s possible the book could spur some to delve deeper into some of the claims he makes in print.
The upcoming coronation of Harry’s father may also spur continued interest in all things royal.