Npm publish => "[package] is not in this registry"

Trying to publish a package - for a private repo - to Github packages I get (names changed)

35 timing command:publish Completed in 2164ms
36 verbose stack HttpErrorGeneral: 404 Not Found - PUT
36 verbose stack     at /usr/lib/node_modules/npm/node_modules/npm-registry-fetch/check-response.js:95:15
36 verbose stack     at processTicksAndRejections (node:internal/process/task_queues:96:5)
36 verbose stack     at async publish (/usr/lib/node_modules/npm/node_modules/libnpmpublish/publish.js:43:12)
36 verbose stack     at async Publish.publish (/usr/lib/node_modules/npm/lib/publish.js:120:7)
37 verbose statusCode 404
38 verbose pkgid theProject@0.2.23
39 verbose cwd /home/mmm/Projects/theProject
40 verbose Linux 5.4.0-88-generic
41 verbose argv "/usr/bin/node" "/usr/bin/npm" "publish"
42 verbose node v16.11.1
43 verbose npm  v8.0.0
44 error code E404
45 error 404 Not Found - PUT
46 error 404
47 error 404 'theProject@0.2.23' is not in this registry.
48 error 404 You should bug the author to publish it (or use the name yourself!)

I don’t know how to interpret this error. OF COURSE there is no such package in the registry - I’m trying to publish it (for the first time)! Chicken-egg error, I can’t publish unless it has already been published?

From what I read the fact that it’s a private repo should not matter, it sounded like that would just work the same and the published package(s) would just inherit the “private” access.

I’m running into the same issue while trying to publish a package for the same time too.