America’s Next Great Author takes more than a little inspiration from American Idol’s format—the plan is for “tryouts” to take place in cities across the country, with would-be authors delivering their one-minute pitches to industry professionals. The field will be narrowed to six contestants who will participate in a month-long writer’s retreat during which they will live together Big Brother-style. During the month, the aspiring authors must start a project on the first day and finish it by the last. Throughout the retreat, they’ll also participate in storytelling challenges and work with mentors to develop their stories. Sterry said the challenges will “show off a writer’s ability to use words, think fast, be creative,” but also help them to learn to market and promote their books “because writers are called upon to do so many different tasks now in modern publishing that have nothing to do with writing your book.”

Along with Newbery-winning author Kwame Alexander, the show is the brainchild Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry, authors and co-founders of the longstanding pitch contest Pitchapalooza (an “American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler”) and principals of the book coaching business the Book Doctors. Alexander said after years of developing the concept, the creators are ready to shoot a pilot, which they hope will lead to a full production of the show, aimed at an audience that “loves drama on and off the page.”