Another dive into the archives for this bit of advice, from January 2008 — before we’d even opened kt literary, at least officially. Some will complain about the glacial (or worse than glacial) pace of publishing, but at least there’s an upside — most advice stays valid, even a few years down the road! So a new author wrote and asked, in part:
Everywhere I look I’m told to ask an agent plenty of questions before signing on. I get that, and I even know which questions to ask. What I’m wondering is, when in the process should those questions be asked?
The timing’s a little tricky, but I would say you want to wait at least until after the agent has read the full and expressed continued strong interest. For my part, this is about when I send the author an email and say I’d love to discuss the manuscript in more detail — I never finish a manuscript and draft a retainer letter before first having a detailed conversation with the author.
Here’s exactly when you should pull out your list of questions and fire away. The agent is clearly interested, or they wouldn’t clear time for a phone conversation (up to this point, we’ve probably only communicated by email). And they WANT to represent you, or they’d have sent a rejection letter already.
I like to think I gave even more helpful advice — do take a trip back in time to read the whole thing. Do you think I need to update my answer?