Fig Tree publisher Juliet Annan is to step down from her post at the end of October.
Annan is leaving full-time publishing and will begin an MA in English Literature at University College London, although she will also continue to edit a small handful of writers on a freelance basis.
Annan founded Penguin General imprint Fig Tree in 2005, after joining Penguin UK in 1997 to run Viking. She had previously worked as rights and contracts director for HarperCollins and Random House, as well as a publicist first at Chatto & Windus and then in New York for Viking and Pantheon, in a career spanning four decades.
At Fig Tree, Annan built a list based on her unique taste and wide-ranging interests, including memoir, biography, cookery, history and art history books.
"Juliet loves to publish extraordinary women: from Dolly Alderton to Marina Abramovic; from Penelope Lively to Meera Sodha; from Florence Welch to India Knight to Zoe Heller; as well as backlist stars Nancy Mitford, Anita Brookner, Muriel Spark and Helen Dunmore," Penguin General said. "She published debuts: Marina Lewycka, whose first novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was one of Penguin’s bestselling novels of the noughties, and then trumped this record when she bought Kathryn Stockett’s The Help in 2009.
"Juliet’s non-fiction publishing reflects her own interests in food (Juliet is the best cook any of us know), art, dance, music, fashion and – well, people, with biographies of Coco Chanel and Rudolf Nureyev and autobiography by North Korean Yeonmi Park (In Order to Live) and Alexandra Shulman (Inside Vogue). There are a few men too, not least 2019 Costa Book of Year winner, Bart van Es (The Cut Out Girl)."
Annan has also helped with literacy causes, worked with emerging writers and mentored many young publishers during her career, the publisher noted, including, at Fig Tree, "some stellar assistants who’ve all gone on to have great publishing careers".
Penguin General m.d. Joanna Prior said: “Life without Juliet at Penguin General seems almost inconceivable. The fact that she is leaving to become a student again speaks volumes of her ceaseless curiosity and interest in new things and her deep passion for reading and for writers. She is a brilliantly instinctive publisher with an unerring eye for the distinctive and has always resisted the ersatz. At Fig Tree she has created an imprint of dazzling quality, individuality and joy. Books that look fabulous as well as being a pleasure to read. It’s a list that is sometimes highly cultured but never pretentious; it’s smart but fun too – just like Juliet herself.
"Whilst Fig Tree remains, we are going to miss its founder hugely. Juliet is a generous and inclusive colleague, who loves to gather a team around her books and work together with every department, respectful of their expertise and unstinting in her encouragement and gratitude for their contribution to the process. Juliet cares hugely about success for her books and authors but she always wants to find the pleasure in publishing them. What a great gift that has been for everyone who has worked with her.”
Annan said: “I have had a wonderful career in books, my great passion — I was so lucky to find jobs that made me happy right away. I have loved working at Penguin. These last 23 years have been a grand adventure and I will miss my colleagues terribly. But even more I will miss the fascinating, delightful, clever, funny and maddening writers I work with. It’s been an honour to work with so many incredible authors. Now I am looking forward to working on and thinking about books in a completely different way.”
Prior will appoint a new publisher for Fig Tree "in due course".