How do other authors cope as they wait for reviews? Do they go out and have fun? I wonder who else sits at home with dirty hair and a collapsing basket full of laundry. Indian take-aways and chocolate bars are what I live for at the moment. And television is a great comfort. Every time the phone rings I wonder if it is my agent with news. She did warn me that watching the birth of a book is like watching seed-fertilisation in real-time. A few more weeks of waiting and I shall be a fat stupid blob with an addiction to Neighbours.

People keep saying to me: "I suppose you'll be on tour promoting your book". What tour? The tour to my local bookshop to see if they stock it?

There is a hierarchy to publishing, as anywhere else. Take book-signing. Authors at the top of the tree visit major cities in chauffeur-driven cars. Those high up in the branches go to a few shops in a taxi, accompanied by their publicist. Those like myself, who have yet to earn a place but look hopeful, slip into Hatchards one afternoon and sign a hundred or so in a back room. Everyone else gets ignored and feels bitter about it. Of course, talent and sales are not exactly commensurate in this business - which is one of those comforting thoughts, such as that personality is more important than looks, and that success is fleeting.

The same hierarchy works for interviews, poster campaigns, window displays and how quickly your editor returns your call. I always thought I was doing extremely well on the telephone side until I discovered that certain lucky authors actually had my editor's home number. A small clutch even have his weekend retreat's, too.

My book was published on Monday. The urge to call shops and ask whether any copies have gone is so strong that I can only compare it to the desire to ring an ex who has just given you the heave-ho. I admit that I did call Waterstone's once. But so far I have avoided sinking to the depths of the 'back-to-front shuffle', which is when you rescue your book from a back shelf and quietly put it on display at the front.

A friend of mine told me a ghastly story of how he visited Harrods to see whether his book was displayed. He went to the non-fiction section and couldn't find it anywhere , so he stopped a friendly salesman and said, hesitatingly: "Have you got that book - now what is it called, let me think. It's xxxx by um somebody xxxx or something"' The salesman took him by the arm and showed him an enormous pile right by the till. "How many would you like, sir?" he asked. My friend felt too sheepish to back out so he made a show of choosing a copy. But he opened his wallet and found himself short of cash. Bright red, he handed over his credit card and desperately tried to avoid the salesman's eye. A lesson to the rest of us: never do anything silly when carrying identification.

Amanda Foreman's 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' is published by HarperCollins at pounds 20

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