Corner Office: Aiming for Agility
For a company that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, Minneapolis-based Lerner Publishing Group is not spending much time looking back at its history and tradition. Instead, it is focused on remaining lithe enough to adapt to the changing book market.
With its acquisition of Darby Creek Publishing on New Year's Day, the company's list of imprints grew to nine, and it has more than 3,500 titles in print, serving the K-12 school and library markets. But Adam Lerner, president and publisher of the independent, family-owned children's book publisher, says one secret to thriving in today's environment is understanding that the company can't continue to rely on print revenue alone.
"Keeping up with the pace of change and the speed at which we need to adapt as a company to be successful is probably what keeps me up most at night," he says. "Are we up to the challenge culturally, as a company? Do we have the right energy here to be able to be agile, yet leverage the wonderful history as a company that we have? Can I mesh those things together to be successful?"
Here, Lerner discusses with Book Business the publishing company's strategies for thriving in an evolving marketplace.
• What are some high points of your strategy in this transitioning book market?
Lerner: … It's a dog-eat-dog market, and it's all about marketing and market share, working your niche and creating efficiencies, and publishing the very best books. Each book we publish has to have something either exceptional about it and literary merit, or meet a specific audience need. Nobody, I don't think, can afford to just publish in the hopes that a market will come any longer. It's just too tough out there.
• How are you combating this strain? What role is digital publishing playing in your business model?
Lerner: … Most of our business is in the school library and institutional markets, which aren't changing quite as quickly as the consumer market. That's an advantage for us. … Digitally, in the school library market, it's still playing out what specific products are going to be wanted or purchased. But … as far as workflow and XML format, in creating a digital workflow so we can create print and digital products simultaneously, we know we have to transition to that kind of workflow, for one. And to also install a content management system to allow us to really leverage our content as assets.