Many agents require some information about the author in a query. I have no publications so I assume I should include a little about my day job, but I am torn on including more sensitive information.
I am about to start querying a book with a LGBTQ focus, and thus I am focusing on agents who want diverse books. Many of these agents also say they want diverse authors. I am a very private person, but I am willing to disclose that I am bisexual if it will help.
However, I am also bipolar with an anxiety disorder, and I am concerned that this could be an issue either at the querying stage, if I mention it, or later if I were offered representation.
It's easy for agents to say they want authors with under-represented voices of all kinds, but I feel like mental health is an issue most people don't even want to touch.
Will agents automatically write me off as a crazy person that will be too difficult to deal with?
Should I conceal this information? Or should I be upfront about it? And if so, when?
We talked about what and how to to disclose this kind of information generally back in 2016, but it's a good time to talk about specifics in a query.
You are not obliged legally, ethically or by "best practices" to disclose any information about yourself that you don't want to. You can't lie but you don't have to strip down even metaphorically.
Mental illness comes with a whole host of negative stereotypes, incorrect assumptions, and fear. It's a tough illness to have because people can be ignorant and cruel before they learn to be sympathetic.
I think you're right to be cognizant of the stigma that comes with a mental illness.
I think you're right to be careful how you disclose.
I know you're right to understand some agents will shy away from your work solely because of this.
If you want to disclose you're going to need more than a line in a query. You might consider putting something on your website about what your diagnosis is, and how you manage it in your daily and creative life.
In your query you might say "I am one of the six million Americans who have a mental illness diagnosis. I have specific information about it on my website" and include a link.
If you want to keep this information to yourself at the query stage, that's totally ok.
If you want to hint with #OwnVoices in the description of your book, that's ok.
If you want to tell me when we begin discussion representation, that's ok.
If you never want to tell me, that's ok too.
If you think your diagnosis may have an impact on your professional life, tell me what you can and cannot do. The WHY you can or can not isn't relevant. If you can tell me the WHY it will help a lot if you can tell me BEFORE it creates a problem for you (I know, that crystal ball doesn't work as well as the reviews on Amazon led you to think.)
You do not owe me the details of your life.
You owe me great writing and professional deportment.