I've heard from a literary agent that one of my books is a passion project. I told this agent that I normally write speculative/fantasy fiction, and for one book - an international thriller/suspense, was something I wanted to explore to broaden my portfolio. This thriller novel is based in Saudi Arabia and is about a persecuted Christian who overcomes his oppressive exile. What is a passion project and is this something negative? Because I wrote that thriller novel to appease mainstream publishers.

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    This question may be too subjective to answer, as opinions on this will vary wildly from publisher to publisher. That being said, when I have heard of my author friends receiving feedback to the effect of "this looks like a passion project," it was usually a gentle way of saying the book was not to that publisher's liking, despite obviously having a lot of love put into it. So you may want to take this as a very gentle rejection and seek out a second opinion.
    – Sciborg
    Apr 15 '20 at 20:00
  • @Sciborg Thank you. Apr 15 '20 at 22:14
  • While I agree with all the comments and answers (it isn't necessarily mean-spirited, or invalid regarding commercial appeal), I read the title and thought "passion project" = "religious agenda" before I read the rest of the question. My inference for 'passion' is Passion of Jesus the dramatized suffering of a martyr. That might just be me, but it's the reference that immediately came to my mind.
    – wetcircuit
    Apr 16 '20 at 18:17

What is a passion project and is this something negative?

A "passion project" is normally one written primarily to serve the needs/wants of the person writing it. It's not as simple as being always negative - certainly there's many reasons to undertake them and they can also fulfill a successful secondary position of having wide appeal.

In this context however I think it's unavoidable to consider it a negative - I think you have to take that as a comment that they don't believe the book has the mainstream appeal you were aiming for. That doesn't mean they were right - and I don't think we're particularly in a place to determine whether they were or not.

Further complicating the picture is that it may not even be the real reason for the rejection - it could be, or it could be a generic platitude to cover up anything from as mundane as "I just didn't like it" to "I don't want to touch a book that covers religious persecution in a country with a reputation for taking extreme dislike to criticism".

Single data points don't generally tell you much and single rejections are no exception - remember Decca Records rejected the freaking Beatles. So if this is a book you remain interested in getting published then shop it around a bit more - see if anyone else is interested.

  • It was just from one person but the other agents liked the book and my writing, just they don't represent my genre so they declined me. I plan on registering for a Christian writer's conference to meet agents who represent my genre. Apr 16 '20 at 22:53

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