The Waterstones 11 shortlist has been announced and contains 8 women writers, including a Shakespearean actress.
Rachel Joyce, whose career includes stints with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, is one of the first time novelists nominated for the award.
Her novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, is the story of a man who goes out to post a letter and ends up walking from one end of the country to the other.
Simon Burke, the Publisher Liaison Manager at Waterstones, said it was "a truly moving novel about the power and importance of love, faith and friendship and the lengths people will go for them".
Ms Joyce, who lives in Gloucestershire, has also written plays and adapted classic works for radio including Woman's Hour.
The full line-up, which includes an Alaskan bookseller and an Indian-born journalist, was announced this evening at a reception at the firm's flagship store in Piccadilly, central London.
Janine Cook, the chairman of the selection committee, said: "Is this a golden age of female writing? The presence of eight female writers out of 11 on our list might indicate so.
"Whatever their gender, this year's Waterstones 11 have a lot to live up to given the success, both critically and commercially, of last year's list, but I have no worries on that count - these are all truly wonderful novels."
It the second year the store has named 11 debut writers to watch. Among the book's shortlisted last year was Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, which went on to win the Orange Prize.
The full list:
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Shelter by Frances Greenslade
Care of Wooden Floors by Willa Wiles
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Absolution by Patrick Flanery
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Signs of Life by Anna Raverat
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan