I'm depressed. It isn't the fault of the weather, although a weekend of continuous rain is enough to make even my normally bouncy, happy-go-lucky bichons huddle on the settee and hide their heads under the cushions. No, what's made me feel like burying my head is listening to Open Book on Radio 4 yesterday.
    Mariella Frostrup asked someone from one of the big publishers what her favourite crime novel is. She was one of those young women who speak like an uncertain Australian. You know the sort–every sentence ends with a question mark. She said she was attracted to her favourite novel by meeting the author at a literary event. The interviewee praised her bright red hair, Bronx accent and the fact that she only started writing after she'd been in rehab and joined a bikers' gang. She went on to boast how there's a new generation of editors who haven't come to publishing through the usual editing route, but from marketing and publicity, and how what she looked for in a novel was a marketable author. Not a marketable subject or style, you'll note, but a marketable author.
    Where does this leave all the writers slaving away in spare rooms after a day holding down a boring nine to five job, doing the school run and looking forward to being a 'certain age' so they can write full-time? Where would it have left the Brontës or Anthony Trollope? I know authors should be prepared to market their work, and it helps if there's something in your background that gives the publicity people an angle, but surely the work should still be more important to publishers than whether the author wears a tutu to the supermarket or stuffs weasels in his or her spare time.
    It's enough to make any writer hoping to get a publisher on the strength of their synopsis and three chapters turn to drink, or junk food, or maybe develop an aversion to publishers that results in them being committed or jailed. Of course, once that happens getting a book deal should be a doddle.