You are dacrygelotic when you swing rapidly between laughing and crying, or do both at the same time. Fiction Bitch has put me into that condition through a pair of posts which are, sadly, all-too-relevant to us here.
Her first post discusses a hydra of a problem--getting first novels published, following up the first with a second, first novels pushing existing midlist authors out of the game (not least because of unearned advances), and little problems like photogenicity. No summary I give can do justice to the post. Check it out.
She follows up with a post on the topic of looks and publicity, with some links to fascinating articles. One claims, for example, that the deck is no stacked against established novelists in favor of first-timers. (You folks trying to get your first book published didn't realize you were the lucky ones, did you?) This segues into a discussion of photoshopping dead authors--Jane Austen just had a makeover--and then comes to the dacrygelosis-inducing revelation: Apparently a UK reality TV show is planned where new writers are discovered by having them pitch to judges. Appearances count, one suspects.
I'm almost (but not quite) charmed by the idea that TV producers in the UK believe that novels would be of enough interest to the TV audience to draw in viewers. Over here, you'd have a better chance of selling a show where people competed to make the best three-minute sculpture from a wad of cheing gum. So, although I'm amazed that Britain's culture is deemed sufficiently literate to support such a show, it's also probably the single stupidest idea I've ever heard.
It's the logical consequence of the query letter/pitch mentality that some agents have brought to publishing. Who cares if the person can write? In fact, let's judge novels entirely on how well we like the authors when they talk about their book.
Now, I'm one of the lucky ones in this scenario, since I'm devastatingly handsome, and, like Sean Connery, only look better with age. But I'm still a little concerned I might not be ready for prime time...
That settles it. I'm off to the plastic surgeon.