Some critics in Britain wrote about the book in baffled tones, lobbing superlatives that were not always complimentary. A review in The Guardian called it “a flawed attempt to reclaim the narrative” that is “by turns sympathetic and absurd.” A critic writing for the BBC called it “the weirdest book ever written by a royal” and said that it sometimes reads like “the longest angry drunk text ever sent.” In The Independent, a reviewer said the memoir was “richly detailed and at times beautifully written,” adding that “if Harry is going to set fire to his family, he has at least done it with some style.”
What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What’s their motivation for telling us? Have they proved reliable in the past? Can we corroborate the information? Even with these questions satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.
By the time the book was released, many of its most incendiary claims had already been picked apart in the press. The week before publication, The Guardian ran an article that detailed a physical confrontation between Prince William and Prince Harry; as Harry describes it in the book, William knocked him to the floor. That same week, copies of “Spare” accidentally went on sale early in Spain and were snatched up by news outlets. Dozens of stories followed from around the world: Prince Harry said in the book that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. Prince Harry wrote that his brother encouraged him to dress as a Nazi for a costume party. Prince Harry lost his virginity to an older woman in a field behind a bar.
The steady drip of revelations led some observers to question whether the book itself would hold any new information. Rather than dissuading buyers, the news media frenzy that followed each new release appeared to help the book sell.
“We were like, is this going to damage sales, do people think they’ve read the story?” Finlay, Transworld’s managing director, said. “The headline grabbing parts are interesting, but it’s not the most interesting thing about the book. I think all it’s done is stoke the public interest.”
ReaderLink, a major book distributor, said pre-orders jumped after the article in The Guardian detailing the scuffle between the brothers. Waterstones, a bookstore chain in Britain, saw a surge of in-store reservations after the article, according to James Daunt, who heads the company.
The question becomes whether “Spare” continues to sell briskly, or if interest will fade as the news media storm calms. Before the book’s publication, some in the industry thought interest would peter out after strong initial sales. But DeVito said Barnes & Noble expects the book to be one of the biggest releases of 2023. She added that the “expertise and talent” of the book’s ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer, would help make the book’s appeal lasting. (In the acknowledgments, Harry calls Moehringer his “collaborator and friend, confessor and sometime sparring partner.”)
ReaderLink, which supplies books to major retailers like Target and Walmart, said it had ordered about 300,000 copies of “Spare.” But rather than shipping all the books out to ReaderLink at once, Penguin Random House held some of them back so they could rush the books directly to stores in case so much of the book leaked that the publishing date had to be moved up.