Keep young and beautiful if you want to be read

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IN AN article in last Monday's Guardian Linda Grant bemoaned the fact that these days, if you aren't a "babe" you can't get published. Things you wish you hadn't read. I'd suspected as much, but had hoped it was only my paranoid imaginings. She quotes Derek Johns, a literary agent: "Literary fiction is hard to sell ... If the author is a woman she's got to be good-looking and if the author is a man he's got to be interesting."

Whatever happened to the cult of the unphotogenic recluse? They were very popular in the Middle Ages. But in these enlightened times, even if you're a violinist, you've got to look good in a bathing-suit. I think I'll change my name to George and just try to be interesting. You can't win. If you're beautiful enough to get published, everyone will accuse you of getting published only because you're good-looking.

Soon to reach the shelves is The Diary of a Novelist. We have bought exclusive rights to the following extracts:

Monday: met Naomi Wolf and AS Byatt at the manicurist's. Talked shop, debating what works better: mascara, eyelash dye, eye-liner or tattoos. Had mineral water for lunch then dashed for my massage. Later had a drink with Martin Amis. He gave me the name of a good dentist. Must look tip- top when I deliver the manuscript in three weeks. Failed to find a moment to work on book.

Tuesday: off to Groucho Club to meet my agent. Tried to make a big entrance. Got crushed in the doorway by several other female novelists trying to make an entrance at the same time. After checking our lipstick in the loo, we all made a bee-line for the nearest representative of a colour supplement. Having eaten nothing for two months, I think it was I who perched most gracefully on the arm of his chair. He gave me an important tip for making it big in the literary scene: I must have an affair with somebody big in the literary scene.Looked around the Groucho for a while but could find only small ones.

Saturday: met Iris Murdoch for lunch. She seemed unusually talkative. We started with chit-chat about this and that but by the end she was going on about the death of the novel or some such thing. I wasn't really listening. I'd caught a glimpse of my hair in the mirror behind her head and it was really troubling me. Went straight to Vidal Sassoon. Was there for five hours while they sorted me out. Too tired to write today.

Monday: in preparation for all the publicity, had an appointment with a beauty consultant who advised me to wear red as much as possible. She also said my left profile would be best for serious interviews, my right for full-page spreads with hardly any commentary attached. Semi-frontal of course for the back cover and review pages. Then she taught me how to cross my legs when on television. She's the woman responsible for convincing the world that Sue Lawley's legs are good so I trust her. As I was leaving she asked what my novel's about. That reminded me, I'd better decide soon. Went home and walked about with a book on my head.

Thursday: today I was determined to outline a plot. But the word "outline" made me think of hair-line. I spent an hour in the bathroom surveying my roots, and decided I seriously need a bit of work on my highlights, which are becoming low lights. A few facial blemishes, meanwhile, did not escape my attention. Before I knew it I was lashed to a comfy swivel chair at the beautician's with a layer of mud all over me. I wondered if this might be a good time to mull over my plot but fell asleep.

Tuesday: my delivery date came and went yesterday without my presenting anyone with a novel. But I'm doing everything else right. Met my editor for lunch wearing a snazzy crop top. He still urged me to finish the novel, though, as otherwise the whole publicity schedule will be thrown off - all those two-page spreads, television engagements up North, appearances on Bookmark, Good Morning, Start the Week and Through the Keyhole, not to mention the nationwide tour of book readings and best of all, the launch party, to which the entire features departments of Tatler, Vogue and Vanity Fair have begged to be invited. This is pretty flattering, considering it's my first novel. Came home and dutifully pounded out a couple of chapters. Looked ragged afterwards, which worried me, so I took to my bed for some beauty sleep. Will Self, Caryl Phillips, and Ian McEwan were already in there, waiting for me.

Wallace Arnold is on holiday

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