Prince Harry's memoir Spare has become the fastest-selling non-fiction book in the UK since records began in 1998. "As far as we know, the only books to have sold more in their first day are those starring the other Harry (Potter)," claims Larry Finlay, managing director of Transworld Penguin Random House. With the fastest selling book overall being Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final instalment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. It sold 8.3 million copies (or 345,833 books per hour) on the day of its release, 21 July 2007.
It’s an undeniable hit, breaking the record for first-day non-fiction sales in the UK with a whopping 400,000 sales across hardback, ebook and audiobook formats, and including pre-orders. In the US it sold over one million copies on its first day, overtaking the record of 890,000 set by Barack Obama’s A Promised Land in 2020. Furthermore, Spare has sold more than ten times the volume of the next highest selling title, the cookbook Bored of Lunch by Nathan Anthony. The previous fastest seller in Nielsen BookData’s printed book records, was the original Pinch of Nom cookbook, which sold 210,506 copies in its first week in 2019 (read more in our article here).
This highly-anticipated memoir of the brother of the future king was accidentally released early in Spain, with sellers having breached their commitment to the publisher. Penguin had carefully orchestrated its’ publicity campaign; the strategy was for Harry to conduct a string of broadcast interviews airing in the 48 hours before the book's release.
"The net result has been that about every two or three hours, someone translates another chapter and then there's been another news dump of some new line," notes Neill Denny, joint editor of book trade news website BookBrunch. "No publicity campaign can normally achieve that. It's almost worked better than a serialisation. James Daunt, who heads Barnes & Noble and the British bookstore chain Waterstones, said that even the negative leaks have been driving up customer interest in Spare.
However, it has given the press time to pick and choose which leaks to publish with their audience having no other frame of reference to provide context to said leaks. Whilst the sales figures may be beneficial, Prince Harry’s intended portrayal of himself may not have been the same had the books not been leaked.
Prince Harry carefully released his media outlets one by one to boost sales and visibility. The Spotify podcast ran from August to November, followed by the release of the Netflix series in December, now the publication of Spare in January. "Had they dropped all of them at once, their market will have fragmented - some will have bought the book, some will have watched the series or listened to the podcast," says Mr Coram James (CEO of digital marketing agency Go Up). "But it's not just about giving consideration to their various stakeholders and employers, it's also about, how do we keep ourselves at the top of the news cycle for as long as possible?”
Despite being leaked, sales of Spare have prevailed, in part helped by aggressive marketing campaigns, with the book available for half its retail price – £14 rather than £28 – at Waterstones and Amazon. But it’s the foreshadowing of the book with the controversial opinions presented in Harry and Megan’s docuseries and podcast that really captured the attention of our nation and ensured a landslide success of sales.
So, will you be sparing £14 or more on your very own copy?