Prince Harry's new book in Waterstones' front window Famke Veenstra-Ashmore with permission for Varsity

Writing an article on the publication controversies surrounding Prince Harry’s new book, Spare, and their possible effects on the literary market was not in my list of 2023 predictions. Mainly because I forgot his book was even coming out, so low is my level of care towards the royal family. That was until social media went wild with stories of scandalous sex-scapades, physical assault, and drug-taking, all of which involved a certain ginger royal.

I mean, who wouldn’t get some form of whiplash from hearing about someone being spanked in a field by an older woman? Or being picked up from a party dressed up as a Nazi? Or … well you get the point. Royalist I ain’t, but like a lot of people, I love gossip. And there’s certainly no shortage of gossip in several leaks from Prince Harry’s new book, Spare, sent to the shelves a day early in Spain and quickly snapped up and translated by the British press. Though releasing parts of a book prior to its release is nothing new in the world of marketing and publishing, the nature of these leaks are far more clandestine, the content leaked far more exciting than the regular promotional snippets used. The leaks have garnered far more sensationalism around them because of this.

“The book has been given a status that probably exceeds its actual content”

However, once you get over the initial excitement of the scandal and begin to consider the practical aspects, it appears that this mishap must surely be bad for sales, right? It’s like dropping the main plot twist of a fiction novel in the promotional snippet and then still trying to flog it. However, unlike the novel, the autobiography is not defined by “big twists” or “spoilers” thanks to Wikipedia, which has that annoying habit of documenting celebrities lives in detail. It is however, defined by a non-exhaustive plethora of “tell-all” stories, an amount left a mystery to the prospective reader.

And so the question arises: have all the really juicy parts been leaked already, leading the rest of the book to be a dry and boring read? Or are these few bombshells indicative of what else is to come if you buy this book for £14.00. Publishers seem to be banking on readers believing that it’s the latter in this case, optimising these leaks to be mere appetisers for the main dish. If this ploy is a success and sales skyrocket, perhaps the world of publishing and promotion will be changed forever, huge chunks of plot being dropped a week before release.

“This is just one book of many, its release made all the more exciting by media sensationalism”

To be completely honest though, leak or not, it always seemed as if this book was going to bring in a decent amount of cash. Thanks to media sensationalism, from number one Sussexes superfan Piers Morgan giving the book plenty of promotion in a number of rants, to the Express talking about how this book is the “final nail in the coffin” for the prince, the book has been given a status that probably exceeds its actual content. At most, all these leaks will do is fan the flames, giving people who were probably going to buy the book anyway just another reason to splash the cash. The rest of us, intrigued by the drama outlined in the book in the same way that Love Island drama grips us for eight weeks over the summer, will just wait for those who bought the book to begin to dissect it thoroughly on social media.



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So, are we to see a massive shift in the way books are released? Call me a sceptic, but I don’t see Penguin executives scrambling to leak huge plot twists for their next big titles. This is just one book of many, its release made all the more exciting by media sensationalism, celebrity culture, and the allure of the “tell-all” memoir, especially a “tell-all” memoir of Britain’s most stiff upper-lipped family. If it succeeds, I think it will be due to this, not to some leaks. Anyway, success or failure, I’m sure Piers Morgan will find some way to blame Meghan for the release mishap.