I got an agent several years ago at what is considered a really great NYC agency, but I'm not happy. My agent frankly scares me and is often not nice, and they want me to take my books in a direction I'm not comfortable with at all. . . So we're at a stand still.
I feel like a girl in bad relationship - afraid to break up in case no one else wants me, (everyone is always all, "Wow, you're with Fancy Pants agency?!") but I'm not really getting anything out of this relationship. I always envisioned an agent helping me build my career and that so isn't the case. They make me cry, and we're definitely not partners in this.
Signed, Should I Go Solo Again?
There are all kinds of things an agent might do for you. But here's what I think an agent MUST do: Be ethical, communicative, savvy about publishing, and work with you to help you achieve your career goals. That means giving advice - but also following your directions. After all, they are supposed to be acting on your behalf. That means, basically, as far as the publishing world, they are an extension of you. You don't have to LOVE your agent -- but I think you do have to respect them and trust that they have your back.
"Nice" is a personality attribute -- it actually isn't a basic requirement for an agent. It may be a requirement for YOU to work with a "nice" agent -- and that's fine! Now you'll know that for when you go agent-hunting again. Some people rub along best with those who are more like motherly nurturers, or excitable cheerleaders, or thoughtful therapists, or detail-oriented accountants. Some people really do want agents who are total unmitigated bastards . . . but even those total bastards still have to follow the base standard above with regard to their own clients.
[As an aside: I don't consider myself particularly "nice," in fact. I think I'm GENERALLY GOOD and KIND-HEARTED and COMMUNICATIVE and FUNNY (and also HUMBLE obviously haha just kidding not that) -- but "nice" is not a word I'd use to describe myself, and that's OK.]
Just like any long-term relationship of any kind, you aren't always going to love everything your agent tells you (and assuredly, vice-versa!) - and given enough time there WILL be weird communication breakdowns or confusions - but usually any issues like this can be worked out with a clarifying email or frank conversation.
If you simply can't have a frank conversation, though, that's a huge problem. If they're doing things you don't want them to do, and not doing things you do want them to do, and not telling you things you need to be told, and making you cry and feel worthless, and you are actively afraid of them??? That's . . . not good, to say the least.
It sounds like you are in an extremely dysfunctional relationship with your agent. If I was in your shoes, I'd ask myself:
* Am I getting what I need from this relationship? * (Make sure what you need is within their power to give, too, obviously. "Timely communication" IS within their power. "Boatloads of cash" isn't - hopefully it will come as a result of both your work, but it is never guaranteed, of course!)
* If I'm not getting what I need, have I clearly articulated to this person what my needs are, that they are currently not being met, and what I need in order to continue the relationship? * (If so, has the problem not resolved or gotten worse?)
* Would I be better off WITHOUT this person than with them? * (Hint - if you always get off the phone with them feeling like shit, or if you dread seeing their name in your inbox, the answer to this is probably yes.)
It sounds like the answers to these questions are No, No because I'm too afraid of her, and YES.
Even if this agent is REALLY SUCCESSFUL and GREAT for her other clients, it seems clear she is not a good agent-fit for you. So, yep . . . time to move on, no matter how scary it is. Trapping yourself in a bad relationship is not going to help you move forward. Better to be flying solo and free than shackled to something that is holding you back. But you already knew that, probably.
Be brave! And good luck.