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‘Fifty Shades’ publisher Anne Messitte is leaving company

NEW YORK (AP) — The publisher who helped make E L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” a phenomenon is being forced out amid a company restructuring.

Anne Messitte, longtime head of the Vintage and Anchor paperback imprints, will depart next month, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group announced Wednesday.

Spokesman Paul Bogaards said that Vintage and Anchor had operated independently, but now would be more closely aligned with the hardcover publishers Doubleday and Alfred A, Knopf. He declined further comment on the news, which marks an abrupt end to Messitte’s 20-year reign.

Messitte will be succeeded by Suzanne Herz, who will continue in her current job as Doubleday’s executive vice president and executive director of publishing. Knopf Doubleday Chairman Sonny Mehta said in a statement that Messitte had invigorated “all aspects of our paperback program” and cited her work with authors and launch of the Spanish-language publishing program Vintage Espanol.

“Anne has taken our marquee backlist of over five thousand titles and run it as a front-list program,” Mehta said, “curating opportunities for our authors, optimizing marketing and media promotion for their books, and developing other strategic initiatives — from series publishing to reading groups to academic marketing and movie tie-in programs — all as a means of driving consumer awareness.”

Vintage and Anchor are two of the premier paperback lines, with authors ranging from Margaret Atwood to Robert Caro. Paperbacks usually follow the hardcover editions, by a few months or longer, but Messitte is best known for signing up books that went straight to paperback.

She is widely credited with spotting the potential of James’ explicit fiction, acquiring the “Fifty Shades” trilogy when it was just catching on as a digital release and publishing the books as paperback originals in 2012.

The three novels — “Fifty Shades of Grey,” ”Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” — have since sold more than 150 million copies and were adapted into a blockbuster movie franchise.

Associated Press