We kind of have the best of both worlds,” Adam Lerner, president and publisher of Lerner Publishing Group for the past decade, says as we sit by the huge window in his office, overlooking a busy intersection in downtown Minneapolis. Lerner was referring to the advantages of headquartering his company in the Twin Cities, with its highly educated workforce, large and diverse independent publishing community, relatively low cost of commercial real estate and excellent quality of life.

But he might as well have been talking of LPG itself. While LPG had grown steadily in the decades since publishing four titles in 1959, it wasn't until Lerner, 42, took over the company in 1998 from its founding publisher, Harry Lerner, that LPG embarked upon an aggressive strategy of diversification in the children's book market, which included forming a distinct trade unit.

“We were just very, very insular when I came here,” Lerner recalls, describing the company as having always been successful, but also “personally driven to [Harry Lerner's] taste. What he liked, and how he wanted to do it.” But while insisting that LPG remains fundamentally his father's vision, Lerner adds that it's been beneficial to implement some “larger world practices,” noting, “You've got to sometimes alter that vision to stay relevant, to change with the market.”

To keep pace with that change, five years ago LPG bought Millbrook Press in a bankruptcy auction and subsequently opened a New York City satellite office in the Empire State Building. More recently, LPG started distributing in the U.S. select titles from British children's book publisher Andersen Press.

While continuing to emphasize educational offerings, Lerner remains committed to maintaining a distinct trade program, while also publishing books in new formats, from graphic novels and nonfiction to digitization. “[Children's book publishing] is a couple of years behind the trade world as far as [shifting] to digital revenue,” Lerner says. “But I'm very uncomfortable just relying on print. I'm insistent that everything we do have some kind of digital strategy attached to it.”

Lerner's multipronged plan is working. The company has grown 50% since Lerner took over for his father, going from publishing 150 books each year to publishing 300, 80% of them targeting the institutional market and 20% the trade. Revenue is divided almost the same way with 80%—85% generated by institutional sales and 15%—20% from the trade. “I'm happy with that ratio,” Lerner insists. “It's a great balance. I don't want to be overly dependent on the trade, yet we do have the muscle in this channel to break out books.”

Part of Lerner's interest in maintaining a diverse publishing program is because part of his publishing education came in New York City. “My dad and I haven't always agreed on things,” Lerner recalls. “But what we did agree on was that I should go to New York City, work for other publishers and see if [the family business ] was for me.” During the eight years Lerner lived in New York after he graduated from the University of Minnesota, he worked at Macmillan in the international rights and children's sub rights departments, and spent five years in Farrar, Straus & Giroux's children's rights department, where he worked his way up to subsidiary rights director.

“Both were great places to work,” Lerner says. “I saw how a big, corporate publisher operates at Macmillan. When I went to FSG, I got to see how an idiosyncratic founder [Roger Straus] ran his company, how he cared about his employees, how he cared about his authors, how he cared about the environment there.” The experience in New York has helped Lerner guide LPG, and the business model he is following comes from one of the city's largest publishers. “My vision for our company is to be a mini-Scholastic,” Lerner says. “I want to have a tremendous range of offerings for children from k to 12, in the trade, through the libraries, through the schools.”

Name: Adam Lerner

Age: 42

Company: Lerner Publishing Group

Title: President and publisher

First job: Pizza chef, Shakey's Pizza, Minneapolis

Publishing in the future will be… “using our expertise in print media to allow us to reach larger audiences with digital offerings that complement our print media.”