The difference between a query and a pitch

Where the most important part of a pitch is your specific story idea, the most important part of a query is you: your bio, your experience, your expertise, your fit with the publication.

What is a pitch?

A pitch is the proposal of a specific idea.

You have something you want to write.

You describe it in the most interesting way possible. Then you send it off to an editor and ask them to like it and approve it. If they approve it, you get to write it for the publication.

If they don’t, you get to… throw it away in despair? Weep and gnash your teeth?

No. Never throw away writing. Don’t waste your words. Review it, polish it, customize it for another publication, and send it back out.

And also, no. Gnashing your teeth is bad for your dental health. Feel free to weep, though. Weeping is good for the soul, as long as it’s not all the time.

If your pitch is rejected

A no to a specific pitch can mean a few different things:

  • It might mean that you’re not a fit for the publication at all and it’s not worth your time to continue pitching them.
  • It might mean you’re a good fit, but this particular idea wasn’t a good fit. If that’s so, then check out Step 2 of How to write a pitch letter.
  • It might mean that you’re a good fit and your idea is a good fit, but a) they’ve done something similar recently, or b) their editorial calendar is smashed full with related ideas, or c) somebody was having a rough day and rejected your idea because their KitKat bar melted.
  • It might mean that the publication isn’t accepting pitches and/or unsolicited contributions right now, which means you sent a pitch when you should have sent a query. No worries. Read on for what a query is.

What is a query?

A query is a question. Literally, query means question.

When you send a query, you’re asking for permission to send a pitch. You’re asking if the editor/publication a) accepts unsolicited contributions and b) is open to receive a pitch or two from you.

If you get a positive response to a query, then you write and send a pitch.

In many cases, a publication’s website will make clear whether or not they are open to unsolicited pitches. If they have pitch guidelines, then skip the query and write the pitch.

Don’t waste an editor’s time by making them answer questions that have already been answered.

If you get a negative response to a query, but you really really really want to pitch this publication, here’s an idea:


Like, really, don’t. If someone answers your query and personally says, “Thanks, but no, we aren’t accepting pitches,” and you ignore their response and go ahead with your pitch, you have burned a bridge.

You have proven that you cannot receive editorial direction.

Editors don’t love working with writers who can’t receive editorial direction.

If your query is rejected

If you get a negative response to a query but you really really really want to pitch this publication, here’s what you can do:

  1. Write the kind of thing you want to write for the publication and publish it on your own site. Do this repeatedly. Share what you write other places, as well: social media, Medium, or Quora, as guest posts, etc.
  2. Find and follow the publication, editors, and writers on social media.
  3. Be friendly. Interact online when you can. Share or respond to stuff they share when it’s genuine for you to do so.
  4. Find and follow the blogs and other online writings of people involved in the publication. Read. Comment. Share.
  5. Obviously, continue to be an avid reader of the publication. Share what they publish. Leave thoughtful comments.
  6. After some time, if you’ve had some interaction, let an editor know that you’d love to write for them if there’s an opening.
  7. Leave it alone and repeat steps 1 through 5.
  8. After some time, if you’ve continued to have positive interaction, send over a piece you’ve written that you think an editor would love.
  9. Leave it alone and repeat steps 1 through 5.
  10. You can cycle through steps 6 through 10 as many times as you want, but if you’re not getting an invitation to pitch after a time or two, drop it and move on with your life.

In the meantime, you’ve written a bunch of stuff for yourself, gained experience, and expanded your professional connections. Maybe that was the real point, eh?

Photo by Ián Tormo on Unsplash