Can watching people write books work as reality TV?

BookTelevision's foray into reality, The 3-Day Novel Contest: The Series, is turning a 72-hour novel-writing contest into an eight-parter, set to air on three CHUM channels next month. But can the pursuit of literary greatness really draw many viewers? CTV's Giller Prize awards did it last November, reeling in an average audience of 351,000 with 1.3 million people tuning in to see at least part of the glitzy gala.

BookTelevision inked a fitting partnership with Indigo/Chapters for the 2006 Labour Day long weekend, when 12 finalists came together for three days in an Edmonton Chapters bookstore to write books. With a grand prize of getting published, the contest attracted more than would-be novelists. It got coverage on national television in the form of news updates.

Now, CHUM Television’s specialty channel BookTelevision has re-packaged the idea for The 3-Day Novel Contest: The Series, set to premiere Sunday, Feb. 4 at 9:30 pm ET/7:30 MT on BookTelevision, followed by encores airing Tuesdays at 8 pm MT on Access and Wednesdays at 9 pm ET/7 pm MT on CLT.

Indigo/Chapters is not officially sponsoring the reality series, but the brand integration – being the set for the show – has obvious spinoff benefits. The idea was originally intended to be a one-off, but BookTelevision ended up with enough footage for a series. The show itself will benefit from cross-promotions in other CHUM Television markets, such as guest appearances on Toronto’s Breakfast Television and on HelpTV in Alberta.

The series features 12 writers – a journalist, a tattooed cook, an out-of-work student, to name a few – eating, sleeping and living in the bookstore, writing while facing additional contest challenges, with cameras and customers watching every key stroke. Judging the contests and novels are Edmonton Journal columnist and Giller Prize-nominated author Todd Babiak, award-winning author Minister Faust, and Jenn Farrell, an editor for the International 3-Day Novel Contest.

For a three-minute trailer, visit For more info on the history of the contest, visit