Meghan Markle’s 107-second audiobook version of her children’s title The Bench costs 5.6-per-word, making it one of the most expensive on Amazon.
The revelation comes after critics slammed the book, which has been consigned to a half-price bargain sale just hours after its release, as a ‘semi-literate vanity project’.
The debut book, which hit stores across the UK today, was inspired by a poem the Duchess of Susssex, 39, wrote for Prince Harry’s first Father’s Day the month after Archie was born.
And the audio version of the novel, narrated by Meghan, was on sale yesterday for £10.49, making it more expensive word for word than Richard Osman’s 12-hour audiobook of his bestselling book The Thursday Murder Club.
The book, read by Osman, his fellow author Marian Keyes and the actress Lesley Manville, costs £17.49, according to The Times.
Meghan’s novel is already part of a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal at a WHSmith store in Newcastle city centre.
It comes after the £12.99 book was slated by some critics as a ‘vanity project’ – with one calling it a ‘self-help manual for needy parents’ and another labelling it ‘semi-literate’.
Meghan Markle’s debut children’s book was consigned to a half price bargain on the day of its release
The children’s book was part of a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal at WHSmith in Newcastle city centre today
In Newcastle today, one passerby said: ‘She’s trying to make a name for herself any way she can.’
While another added: ‘The illustrations aren’t good enough. Especially when there are so few words.’
The book, which was published by Random House Children’s Books, is illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson and explores the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’.
However it has since been slammed by critics as a ‘vanity project’, with The Telegraph’s Claire Allfree calling it ‘semi-literate’.
Ms Allfree wrote: ‘One wonders how any publisher could have thought fit to publish this grammar-defying set of badly rhyming cod homilies, let alone think any child anywhere would want to read it. But that’s planet Sussex for you, where even the business of raising a family is all about the brand.’
Meanwhile The Times‘ Alex Connell described it as a ‘self-help manual for needy parents’, adding: ‘The story [is] so lacking in action and jeopardy you half wonder if the writing job was delegated to a piece of furniture…’
Despite the very harsh reviews, The Bench has crept into the Amazon bestseller list, reaching number 40 on the rankings.
It is not known if Meghan has received an advance for the book and whether any of the proceeds will be donated to charity, but a branding expert previously suggested it would have already netted her £500,000 following a ‘bidding war to secure her first venture’.
Meghan’s book has been performing well in more niche categories on the site, including ‘Fiction about Virtue and Values for Children’ and ‘Exploring the United States for Children.’
But critics slated the work online, with Ms Allfree offering the children’s book a one-star review.
Meghan Markle’s first children’s book The Bench has been slated by critics on the day of its release – with one calling it a ‘bland self-help manual for needy parents’
An illustration in the book shows Prince Harry sitting on a bench while holding a newborn baby while his and Meghan’s dogs sit close to them
It is not known if Meghan has received an advance for the book and whether any of the proceeds will be donated to charity, but a branding expert previously suggested it would have already netted her £500,000 following a ‘bidding war to secure her first venture’
She wrote: ‘The Duchess’s first children’s book is all bland parenting ‘wisdom’ and no story – and it’s hard to imagine any child enjoying it.’
She said it appeared to show ‘Harry’s role in this marriage is to sit on his bench holding the baby while Meghan gets on and conquers the world’.
The Evening Standard’s Emily Phillips said the writing was ‘loving and soothing’ but also ‘schmaltzy’, writing: ‘The closing line with its abridged ‘lone doesn’t read so well in an English accent as it might do in American, but the sentiment of togetherness does.
‘I for one am looking forward to reading what Meghan has in store for Lil Diana.’
Meanwhile readers widely panned the book online and questioned the grammar within the work.
Posting a one star review on Amazon, one person, from the UK, commented: ‘We didn’t enjoy this book at all – I have no idea why the author thought this story would appeal to children. It’s incredibly boring and uninspiring.
‘Clearly based on the author’s life, it would have perhaps been better as a private project kept within the family that they can read themselves, and then treasure in the future. For anyone else, it’s just completely irrelevant. The grammar is also questionable at times. Absolutely do not recommend.’
Many readers took to Amazon to leave one-star reviews for the book, suggesting it was more of a ‘vanity project’ than a successful children’s story
Critics pan Meghan Markle’s first children’s book The Bench as ‘a bland self-help manual for needy parents’
The Telegraph’s Claire Allfree: ‘The Duchess’s first children’s book is all bland parenting ‘wisdom’ and no story – and it’s hard to imagine any child enjoying it.’
‘Harry’s role in this marriage is to sit on his bench holding the baby while Meghan gets on and conquers the world’.
The Times’ Alex Connell: ‘The story [is] so lacking in action and jeopardy you half wonder if the writing job was delegated to a piece of furniture…’
‘Penned as a self-help manual for needy parents’
The Evening Standard’s Emily Phillips: ‘The Duchess’ writing is soothing, loving, although a little schmaltzy in places, but did at one point bring a tear to my eye’
Another wrote: ‘Not really engaging. Apart from the bad grammar, my grandson, who is 3 years old, was not at all engaged when reading this book together. Will stick to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Very disappointed.’
Scenes in the book include several illustrations of Prince Harry, recognisable with his ginger hair and beard, and the couple’s two-year-old son Archie.
The first illustration features a bearded ginger father – who bears a resemblance to the duke – cradling a smiling baby on a bench under a tree.
The text reads: ‘This is your bench, where life will begin, for you and our son, our baby, our kin.’
Another illustration shows the duke sitting on a bench while feeding his rescue chickens, which the couple house at their £11million mansion in Montecito.
Meghan, dressed in a summer’s hat, white T-shirt and jeans, also appears to be sketched in a vegetable patch located near her husband and son cradling her daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who arrived on Friday.
As well as the chickens – which appeared during the broadcast of the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March – two dogs also feature in the illustration.
Further into the book, a father lies asleep on a bench holding his son closely. The boy sweetly clutches a toy giraffe in one hand while holding his father’s hand in the other.
The text reads: ‘From here you will rest, see the growth of our boy.’
In another illustration, a father and son duo each wear pink tutus while performing ballet poses.
The accompanying words read: ‘You’ll love him. You’ll listen. You’ll be his supporter.’
Paintings of Prince Harry are depicted throughout the book, with some critics deeming the story ‘unavoidably personal’
Despite the scathing reviews, Meghan’s book has been creeping up the bestseller list today (pictured)
The book, which was released today in the UK, (pictured, a bookseller at Waterstones Piccadilly placing the book on a display)
Meghan Markle’s children’s book The Bench features an illustration of Prince Harry and son Archie feeding their chickens while the duchess is in the garden with her dogs (pictured)
The Duchess announced last month she would release the book, and said it was inspired by a poem she had written for Harry on Father’s Day the month after Archie was born and will explore the ‘special bond between father and son’ as ‘seen through a mother’s eyes’
The duchess also makes an apparent reference to the popular 1964 children’s book The Giving Tree from author Shel Silverstein.
To accompany an illustration of a father and son sharing lunch on a park bench, Meghan wrote: ‘You’ll sit on his bench, as his giving tree.’
Another page is illustrated with the words: ‘He’ll feel happiness, sorrow, one day be heartbroken. You’ll tell him ‘I love you,’ those words always spoken.’
A father using a wheelchair also features in The Bench.
He is drawn fixing his son’s shoes alongside the text: ‘This is your bench, for papa and son.’
Meghan’s Pilates instructor and friend Heather Dorak was sent a copy, with a penned note from the former-actress reading: ‘From one momma to another – for the love of our boys.’ (pictured)
It continues on the next page alongside a father and son wearing turbans: ‘To celebrate joys and victories won.’
The Prince of Wales memorably remembered his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as ‘dear papa’ following his death in April.
One illustration from the book is accompanied by the words: ‘Looking out at my love and our beautiful boy. And here in the window I’ll have tears of great joy…’
The picture shows a weeping woman watching through a ground floor window as a soldier, in army combat uniform, throws his son in the air, apparently having returned home.
Meghan sent a copy of her children’s book to a Hollywood friend, photographer pal Gray Malin, with a personal note ahead of its release
Eat your heart out, Meghan: Kate Middleton’s Hold Still photography book was an instant bestseller
Kate Middleton is reigning supreme in the publishing stakes, with her book Hold Still an instant bestseller.
The mother-of-three, a keen photographer, started her campaign during the first lockdown last year to ask the public to submit images which captured the period.
The result is Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, features 100 final ‘poignant and personal’ portraits selected from 31,000 entrants.
The proceeds from her book will be equally split to support the work of the National Portrait Gallery and Mind, the mental health charity while Meghan’s is believed to be a commercial venture.
Upon the day of its release, it was number two on the charts overall, as well as reaching number one in the Art, Architecture & Photography.
It continues to soar high on the bestseller list, and is currently ranked at 113 on the overall rankings.
Over the final pages, the passage reads: ‘Right there on your bench, the place you’ll call home… With daddy and son… Where you’ll never be ‘lone.’
Meghan dedicated her 34-page illustrated story to Prince Harry and son Archie, saying they make her heart go ‘pump-pump.’
The touching inscription in the book, reproduced from a hand-written note in the Duchess of Sussex’s distinctive calligraphy script, reads: ‘For the man and the boy who make my heart go pump-pump.’
Meghan has gifted copies of The Bench to her Hollywood friends, with photographer pal Gray Malin, from Los Angeles, promoting the book to his 35,400 followers on Instagram on Friday, sharing a clip as he opened the first page to reveal an unseen illustration of Prince Harry and Archie.
The duchess’ Pilates instructor and friend Heather Dorak was also sent a copy, with a penned note from the former-actress reading: ‘From one momma to another – for the love of our boys.’
The Duchess had also penned a note to Gray on the first page of the book, writing: ‘From one parent to another – all my love from my family to yours. As ever, Meghan.’
It’s far from the first time that Meghan’s friends have promoted one of her post-Megxit projects for her.
In December, Oprah Winfrey shared a basket of coffee latte treats from a brand the Duchess had invested in with her 19 million followers.
Elsewhere, the first illustration in the book is also one of Prince Harry and baby Archie walking hand-in-hand together. The Duke could be seen wearing a grey polo shirt and blue jeans.
The children’s book is illustrated by bestselling Californian artist Christian Robinson, who was brought up by his grandmother in a one-bedroom flat also shared with his brother, two cousins and aunt.
In one illustration in The Bench, a red-headed soldier wearing an American-style Army cap is seen holding his young son aloft as a woman watches on crying from a window (pictured)
Another image features a father with his baby boy sleeping on a lounger outside. A media release said the book featured a ‘diverse group of fathers and sons’
A publicity release said Meghan, who chose to use her title on the cover of the book, wanted the story to be told through an ‘inclusive lens’ and will feature a ‘diverse group of father and sons’. Meghan will also narrate the audiobook costing $4.99 – which together with the hardback version could earn her millions from sales.
The royal, who went by the pen name ‘Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’, said in a statement: ‘The Bench started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born.
‘That poem became this story. Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolour illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life; this representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens.
‘My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.’
In authoring a children’s book, the duchess follows in the footsteps of fellow Royals Sarah, the Duchess of York, who has produced her own money-spinning series, Princess Michael of Kent and even Prince Charles, who penned a children’s book called The Old Man of Lochnagar in 1980 to raise money for the Children’s Trust.
It comes weeks after Kate Middleton’s photography contest book Hold Still instantly topped the bestseller list on the day of its release
Kate’s book remains on the list and is currently ranked above Meghan’s at 113 in overall bestsellers
Sources told Vanity Fair’s Katie Nicholl that Meghan plans to write more books in the future, with Nicholl revealing: ‘She wanted to have a go at writing a children’s book first and depending on the success of this, there will be more. She is also keen to write books for adults too.’
However speaking to True Royalty TV’s The Royal Beat, Angela Levin – author of Harry: Conversations with the Prince – said the subject matter of Meghan’s tale is ‘not interesting’ to children.
‘Children’s books are directed at children. They like elephants, they like nasty tigers. They do not want a lecture about how different your relationship is with your father, whatever level of society you are at,’ she claimed.
It comes weeks after Kate Middleton’s photography contest book Hold Still instantly soared to the top of the bestseller list on the day of its release, becoming the second highest-selling book out of all titles on Amazon.
The mother-of-three, a keen photographer, started her campaign during the first lockdown last year to ask the public to submit images which captured the period and the result is Hold Still: A Portrait of Our Nation in 2020, features 100 final ‘poignant and personal’ portraits selected from 31,000 entrants.
Kate Middleton’s book remains on the list and is currently ranked at 113 in overall bestsellers.