Here's how Alloy works: development meetings, a fleshing out of a good idea into a short summary, a spec writer comes up with a sample chapter, he/she meets with a couple of editors and they hash out an entire plot.
Sounds like workshop to me. Except what Alloy is interested in is blockbusters! And 18 of their 29 titles were on the Times childrens' best-seller list. They must be doing something right.
Even more interesting is Alloy's willingness to perhaps leave books out of the success-equation. Alloy doesn't care if "an idea ever appears in book form." Someone at Alloy can pitch an idea to TV and sell it inside of a month. Why bother with the book except to show that the concept is already popular with consumers. So it's a book as means-to-an-end rather than an end in itself.
No hardback volume to show Mom and Dad. Instead gather the family in front of the TV, point and say, "I thought of that!"
One of the things I like about Alloy is how fast they work and how well they time their product. If vampires are hot, they'll get vampire books out quickly. When vampires retire to their cozy crypts and time-traveling girls in skinny jeans are popular, they turn out those books. (So if we could get a cute vampire in skinny jeans on a trampoline, then . . . Sorry. I promised not to go there.)
Take a look at this piece in TNY and see what you think.