The Editorial Director in Mexico of Penguin Random House reveals the sensation of Prince Harry
Few books in history can boast of become a worldwide sales record in just a couple of hours. What we witnessed on January 10 is a phenomenon that is not seen every year in the publishing sector at an international level. To understand a little more the success he has had Sparethe biography told by Harry himself and whose stories are priceless, have left more than one with a circumstantial face.
Exclusive interview with the Editorial Director in Mexico of Penguin Random House about ‘Spare’
we chatted with David García, Editorial Director of Penguin Random House Mexicohe brings us up to date with everything you need to know about Spare, the book that currently dominates the conversation at almost every after-dinner table in much of the world. Read here the 6 most controversial statements by Harry in Spare.
This book is a success David…
Yes, it is a success but not because we thought it would not be, the reality is that we were not aware of the phenomenon that this book was going to be. Spare from Prince Harry is a landmark launch at Penguin Random House. It surpassed the sales records of Michelle Obama and Barack Obama. It is a book that we published simultaneously in 16 languages and the first day it exceeded a million and a half copies sold.
In Spanish we have sold a little more than 200 thousand copies that, to give you a reference, an average book in Spanish that does well sells five thousand copies. Many books sell thousands of copies. We are very happy with the response from readers who are interested in royalty, even if they are not regular readers, it has been surprising.
In which countries is ‘Spare’ number one in sales?
It is the number one book worldwide in sales of any publisher. not just from Penguin Random House these days. It is in first place in sales United States, Canada, England, South Africa, Germany and of course in Spain. In all the countries of America it is in the first or second place starting from the United States to Argentina in Spanish.
We are facing a phenomenon in sales, right?
First, I think it has to do with the fact of the magnitude of the figure that breaks a paradigm or a convention that royalty does not publish books. Well, there is the background of Diana a few years ago, are different times.
Second, it has to do with the construction of the book. If you already had the opportunity to read it, the truth is that the biography is quite well done. The prince and the team were closely accompanied by our team of editors, proofreaders, writers, etc. so that it would be very well constructed and I think the book flows very well.
Also part of the success is the level of deep revelation offered by the prince. I myself confess that I did not think he would be so transparent and so honest. It’s amazing.
‘Spare’ is the number one book worldwide in sales of any publisher.
Yes, the level of detail it gives is amazing…
It’s gross! I did not expect it. I really didn’t think about that level of detail. I even see it as self-revelation and probably a need to say “This is my version. This happened”. The level of detail is so deep that you find out things you never thought you could find out.
Exact. I was very surprised to learn that this book was twice as long. I think it was just over 800 pages long and it was cut.
It is actually something that happens to us with leading figures. It also happened to us with former President Obama, the memoirs, if I remember correctly, were 1,800 pages. It is very difficult because they have a lot to tell. Then to make it more attractive, there is an edition —but beware, there is an edition in terms of writing, not in terms of content. I mean, it’s not like there’s been a break in the story. It is what he was willing to tell.
I ask you this because when Queen Elizabeth II died, it was said that Harry had asked to modify his memories with the intention of removing the most compromising stories of his father, King Carlos III.
We only delayed the release of the book. That is to say the book was supposed to come out in the fall of last year but we globally decided to move the release to January 10 of this year. All this for a request from the prince and his team. And that is why in the book it has this delimitation of “This book was written before.” And it was a show of respect for mourning. Of deducing it is not the moment to take out my book, to honor the departure of the queen.
So Harry didn’t ask to edit and cut chapters from ‘Spare’?
No, as far as I know. The direct team that worked with the prince’s team was headed by my colleague Gina Centerllo (President & Publisher Random House, United States) in New York. And actually in the process of a book, you always want to include an anecdote but then you want to delete it or vice versa. I didn’t work with the prince’s team but I think what happened is a very normal process when you do a biography.. You will have noticed in the book phrases like “As I remember…”. He makes these details because there are events that happened many years ago. So it was important to him. That he did transmit to us, that when he was not sure he wanted to put “I think that…”.
In my opinion, I believe that there has been no veto on his part. I don’t see it that way, on the contrary, part of the success is how revealing the book has been.. Come on, it’s that you even find out that he has a circumcision. It’s surprising, I’m telling you because I’ve had to work on other world biographies, —in fact, other great ones come, also with very important figures— and they reserve a lot. What would you think of a prince? Well, he’s going to reserve. It surprises me a lot because sometimes there is a level of candidness that for me is surprising in a real figure and I love it.
I think it was also therapeutic for him after everything he’s been through. Don’t you think?
You mention something very important that I’ve been asked and it’s this part of ‘is it Harry’s tantrum or if the therapy didn’t work for him’. I don’t see it that way. I don’t know so much about royalty, now I have learned a lot with this book, but what I can tell you is that is an exercise in a kind of narrative therapy. That is to say, for me it is important to tell you the story with my eyes and not behind the English lampoons. They have been very hard not only with Harry, but with all the royalty.
I think he changes his story, that is, now he has first-hand contact with a handful of North American journalists with whom he is beginning to forge a relationship and they are going to have more ethics in transmitting things with a little less sensationalism.
Speaking of Prince Harry’s relationship with the publisher, how was the rapprochement with him? Did he propose it or did you look for it?
It was really a back and forth process, because it was when they settled in Canada that the rapprochement began. It was of course totally secret like the negotiations I was telling you about. But they are always secret and even once the contracts are signed it remains top secret until a release plan is made and the figure decides to share it. The approach it was through the new team that Harry and Meghan formed with American people and it was thanks to them that contact could be made.
I’ve been asked if ‘Spare’ is Harry’s tantrum or if the therapy didn’t work for him. I don’t see it that way. […] I can tell you that it is an exercise in a kind of narrative therapy.
Obama had signed a contract for 60 million dollars. They said that a contract was signed with Harry for 40 million for four books. This is true?
I can’t talk about the contracts for the titles that have not been published due to the terms of confidentiality but What I can tell you and share with you is that the negotiation was also a millionaire. Harry asked that much of the royalties go to charities of his choosing..
It was a fairly easy subject because his interest was not economic in the book, which is also surprising.. I tell you this as an editor who worked in the industry with figures of that level. Like his maximum interest was “Help me to be spokespersons for what I want to say.” Harry was very clear that he would go with Penguin Random House because of the experience with local figures and because of the simultaneous publication in several languages.
He put the number?
No, we make an offer in all cases. It’s rare that someone comes up with a figure. It is not something that we have had to live, rather we as an editorial make a projection because In the end, the project has to be profitable, not lose.
then i What you do is a projection of how many copies you could sell, in how many countries, in how many languages and on that you can pay this advance. This number is an advance on a royalty account, that is, after what has been paid, we could still pay you more than expected or in other cases there could be an amount that never accrues because it did not reach the expected sales. In Harry’s case we paid more because, as I was saying, we did think that we were going to do very well but we weren’t aware of how well.
With sales up to this point, do you have any idea how much you’ll be paid?
I have the sales in Spanish, because I am in the Spanish arm of Penguin Random House and it seems to me that We are at 210,000 copies sold in Spanish already including digital formats, in English the last figure I have is 1.9 million. It’s historical.
The average book costs 30 dollars —multiply 2 million copies by 30 dollars, from there it keeps 10%, the publisher with another 10%, the rest the final client and production costs.
Is it the best-selling book from the publisher, Penguin Random House, in its history?
Not yet, because with Michelle Obama’s it seems to me that we are going at 6 million although Harry’s is still selling. What it is is that it is the most sold launch in history. That in one day it sells more than a million copies is something that is not seen every day. In the modern history of the publishing industry, it is the most successful launch, but the cumulative sales also add up, for example, the cumulative sales of Stephen King are at 50 million copies, they have a lot of books and they have been on sale for many years. It depends on how you measure it.
With Meghan Markle, have you not thought of releasing a book or is it in this package?
It’s in this very confidentiality package, what I can tell you is that of course there are conversationsyou can assume that.
They have been very hard not only with Harry, but with all the royalty.
In what edition are they, for example, in Mexico?
In Mexico we are in the third reprint, which is great. Spain goes in the fourth reprint, Chile goes in the second, Argentina goes in the first reprint, Colombia goes in the first reprint, United States in Spanish in the second reprint.
Do you own the rights to Princess Diana’s book ‘Diana: In Her Own Words’?
In the summer of this year we will recover the rights of Diana’s book. We will also publish it in Spanish. From the United States to Argentina and Spain. We are interested in having it in our catalogue, and more if we are already the editors of the prince.
There is a story connection of course…
There is something that really rescues me, I lost my mother a year ago and there are some passages from him where he says “I’m hoping it’s a lie.” You do not know how painful that was for me because it is a duel that I am experiencing. And what I see is that his whole life is colored by the weight of the absence of Princess Diana. He is very strong, you notice this adult who is and is still grieving. It is as if the wound were not healed. It is also a tribute to her presence in her life.
I perceived him as a child still in pain.
It’s a child and it seems that nobody took care of him. Carlos is not so affectionate, nor are Diana’s sisters, nor her grandmother, nor her brother…
It is a bit like in the air, and it is that he was very small. There is no one around you to take charge. It’s like no one can take him in.
And there are no reactions from the royal house. Haven’t you been in contact with someone from King Carlos III’s press office?
Not. I’m sure everyone has read it by now.. As far as I know, Harry and his team have no reactions yet.