Let’s go in somewhat chronological order on this story, meaning let’s talk about the very strange article that dropped on Friday, and then we’ll get into the denial and fact-checking of the article. On Friday, Rebecca English at the Daily Mail dropped a big exclusive: in addition to the memoir Prince Harry is currently working on, he allegedly inked a contract with Penguin Random House for a four-book deal. This is what Becky English’s sources claim now, nevermind the fact that those same sources apparently had no idea what was happening one week ago before the news of the memoir dropped. Some highlights from the DM:
The deal: Prince Harry has clinched a lucrative four-book deal – with the second due out only after the Queen has died, the Mail can reveal today. In news sure to alarm Buckingham Palace, industry insiders said the ‘tell-all’ tome unveiled by Harry earlier this week is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Sources said the Duke of Sussex oversaw the bidding and told publishing houses to begin at £18million, with the final figure possibly reaching £29million. The deal will see a memoir released next year – when it is the Queen’s platinum jubilee – with the second book to be held back until after her death.
Meghan is part of the deal? Harry’s wife Meghan is to pen a ‘wellness’ guide as part of the contract with Penguin Random House. The subject and author of the fourth title is unknown.
Harry led negotiations from Montecito: Two publishers flew out from London to see him and others took part in the ‘auction’ by video call, sources say. ‘He conducted negotiations – he had a very ‘take it or leave it’ attitude,’ said an impeccably-placed source in the publishing industry. ‘His starting price was $25million (£18million) and the final figure was way north of that, possibly as much as $35-40million (£25-29million). Those involved were actually very shocked by his approach, which was to look at them coldly and state his demands – $25million. In Britain, publishing is still a rather ‘gentlemanly’ industry. It’s high stakes, but is still conducted in very genteel terms.’
When Granny Dies: ‘The final contract was actually for a four-book deal, with Harry writing one “when his granny dies”. Meghan will write a wellness-type book and people are unsure what the fourth will be. But what is most shocking, frankly, is Harry’s suggestion that the second book won’t be published until the Queen is no longer here. People [will] start asking ‘what has he got, who is he going to target?’ The very idea of this unexploded bomb, hanging about waiting for the Queen to pass, is just extraordinary and may strike many as being in very bad taste.’
The DM updated with Harry’s denial: After being alerted to the story in detail on Thursday and told that it would be published on Saturday, lawyers acting for Harry replied to the Mail yesterday afternoon saying that they would not be commenting. Five hours later however, and after early editions of the paper had gone to press, they then wrote to the Mail again saying the claims were ‘false and defamatory’. They said there was only one ‘memoir’ planned by Harry, which will be published next year.
As the Mail updated, the Sussexes’ spokesperson went to certain outlets with the denial. Per Omid Scobie, “A report claiming Prince Harry is holding back a second book (of a multi-title deal) for after the Queen’s death seems to be wide of the mark. A Sussex rep says there’s NO project coordinated around such an event, adding that it would be factually inaccurate to suggest otherwise.”
I get that the hashtag #RebeccaEnglishIsALiar has been trending all weekend and there are huge chunks of her story which don’t make sense at all, which I will get to in a moment. But… I think it’s very likely that something simple got conflated into this psychodrama. I think there’s probably a good chance that Harry’s contract with Penguin Random House probably *does* include language about a possible second book, if Harry and the publisher agree to it. Publishers operate like Hollywood studios nowadays: they want to lock in their talent to multi-project deals, whether that means multi-film deals or multi-book deals. I think the Sussex spokesperson is being notably careful with how they’re denying the story.
Now, all of that being said, the details of English’s story make zero sense. There is no way the American wing of an international publishing house would agree to a “when granny dies” contractual clause. It also makes zero sense that a publishing house would send representatives FROM London… especially when Harry would likely have a literary agent or manager conducting the negotiations anyway. Also bizarre: the idea that Harry would negotiate his wife’s publishing contract. They would have separate contracts because they’re doing separate things with separate divisions at Penguin Random House. So… yeah, Rebecca English probably heard that Harry’s contract has a clause for a possible second book and she used that as a jumping off point for this ridiculous fiction.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red.