Spare Breaks Non-Fiction Records
By Megan Whitlock
Prince Harry's much discussed memoir, Spare, has broken the record for the fastest selling non-fiction of all time, the Guinness World Records has now confirmed. Surpassing Barack Obama’s, A Promised Land (2020), their website reports that the book sold 1.43 million copies on its release day across the UK, US and Canada.
The memoir, which was published on 10 January by Transworld, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has been the focus of much controversy due to its tell-all nature. Within it, Harry discusses his relationships with his family (particularly the tension with his brother), issues with mental health and substance abuse, and other revelations and self-reflections on his experiences within the royal family. The book has received a polarising reception that has likely only increased sales figures, with the BBC news branding it “the weirdest book ever written by a royal” (full article available here).
Regardless of reception, PRH are now on their second print run, after a first run of 2 million copies. This is an interesting reversal of a growing consumer trend of disillusionment with the celebrity memoir, as both The Guardian and The Bookseller reported in December last year that hardback sales of celebrity autobiographies are down (The Guardian, 2022). The sale of Spare at 50% discount from big retailers such as Waterstones and Amazon (bringing the RRP of £28 down to £14) has also received kickback from independent publishers, who are often not able to offer such large discounts.
As well as its promises of never-before-seen insights into one of Britain’s most notoriously closed-off families, much of the attention surrounding the book was fuelled by presale leaks caused by the book accidentally going on sale five days early in Spain. Although the book was quickly pulled from shelves, the mistake created a huge publicity boost, with leaked extracts detailing Harry’s request to his father not to remarry and other intimate details. In an unusual publishing move, Transworld did not sell the serialisation rights to the book (the rights which allow newspapers to run book excerpts and reviews pre-publication). The move meant that for many media outlets – a lot of which are currently wrapped up in legal battles against the Prince – the leaks were the first opportunity to run and comment upon extracts, no doubt further boosting interest.
Whilst Spare’s record-breaking nature is hardly surprising, due to the profile and publicity currently surrounding its author, it will nevertheless be interesting to observe how the book shapes future celebrity autobiography trends.