Thursday, July 03, 2008

Focus groups in the arts

In The Guardian, Emma John considers the use of focus groups in the arts.
Last year, Tom Becker won the Waterstone's prize for children's fiction with his first novel, Darkside; last week he won another award, the Calderdale children's book prize. The talk among agents and publishers has been about his suspenseful prose, his great potential. But few people have been talking about a more salient fact: that the book's concept and story was generated not by Becker, but by focus groups.

The company behind Darkside is Hothouse, a London-based business that aims to give children what they say they want from stories, rather than what adults think they want. Becker's book was the company's first attempt at book-by-focus-group, and it is part of a successful supernatural horror series aimed at boys aged up to 12, published by Scholastic. In April, Puffin books launched a new series, Fright Night, also conceived and delivered by Hothouse.

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