The writing that is a major part of a scientist's professional life does not usually languish unread. Rarely, for example, is a go-between needed to direct a paper or grant proposal to the appropriate journal or agency. And attention and encouragement are intense for those who respond with in- terest to a textbook publisher's quest for authors. But for a researcher trying to sell a popular science book to a potential publisher, it's another matter entirely. In such instances, it is essential for the writer to have a literary agent who will smooth the way, scientist- authors say.

Once a scientist signs a contract to write a trade book, the agent usually fades into the background, handling payments and other business matters while the writer writes. But having a contract isn't a guarantee that you'll have a book. Your book may never see the light of day if it isn't...

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