Understanding how Distribution works

Completing distribution is the final step in the production process of your book. Before distribution begins Tellwell verifies that all your information is correct and then places your book in the distribution queue. Once distribution is complete your book will start to show up on various online websites.

Some websites take longer than others to list your book and print books always take longer than eBooks to be listed. This is because the logistics involved with selling a print book are vastly greater than that of an eBook which requires no printing or shipping.

While your book can appear for sale on a large number of online websites there are only four companies that Tellwell distributes your book to. At Tellwell we refer to these companies as “channels” and they are:

  • Ingramspark (included in every print package)
  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) (only included with ‘enhanced amazon distribution’ service for print or if you have a Kindle ebook)
  • Rakuten Kobo (included if you have Kobo ebook)
  • Smashwords (included if you have Smashwords ebook)

The reason we call them channels is because all purchases of your book, no matter where the book is purchased, anywhere in the world, will be fulfilled by one of these four companies and royalties for all purchases of your book are collected by one of these four companies.

Print Format

For print copies of your book, Ingramspark and KDP are the two printers that Tellwell distributes to. Ingramspark prints both paperback and hardcover while KDP only prints paperback format. The major difference between Ingramspark and KDP is that Ingramspark does not have a retail presence, they fulfill orders only (i.e. print and ship orders). Ingramspark do, however, have a huge world wide network of printers and they provide listings of all their print on demand books to many 3rd party retailers, including Chapters, Barnes & Noble and even Amazon, who will add these listings to their websites.

KDP, on the other hand, being owned by Amazon, can be viewed of as both a printer and a retailer. They do not provide listings to 3rd party retailers, books distributed to KDP will only be printed by KDP for orders placed on Amazon’s primary websites. While they do not cast the net anywhere near as wide as Ingramspark do, the advantage of listing your book with KDP is greatly improved shipping times & availability for orders from Amazon’s primary websites in US, Canada, UK and Europe (which can normally make up a significant part of your overall orders). Also, book orders made from Amazon.ca will be printed in Canada when you distribute to KDP. If you do not have ‘Enhanced Amazon Distribution’, orders from Amazon.ca will be printed by Ingramspark in the USA.

Print Book Distribution


Without ‘Enhanced Amazon Distribution’ your book page on Amazon.ca will initially show shipping times of 1-2 months to Canada. Once you demonstrate some sales through Amazon.ca this will often change to being listed as ‘in-stock’.

The reason for this is that when an order is placed on Amazon.ca, Amazon have to order your book from Ingram, who will print your book in the USA and ship your book to Amazon’s Canadian Fulfillment Services Center (ACFSI) in Mississauga, Ontario. Once it reaches the ACFSI it will then be shipped to your customer’s address. Therefore if Amazon.ca listing is important to you and you don’t want initial purchases to be delayed we strongly recommend ‘Enhanced Amazon Distribution’. With enough sales, the AFSCI will often find that they have surplus stock in their warehouse and at this point your book will be listed as ‘in-stock’, with 2-3 day shipping times.

Another quirk to bear in mind is that your book will also be listed by many third party resellers on Amazon and at varying price and shipping cost points. The buy box* shown on Amazon.ca will often default to one of these 3rd party resellers. It’s important to bear in mind that Tellwell has no direct control over which seller is listed first by Amazon for your books buy box. However Octavo can provide you with a link that puts Amazon prime in the buy box.

Whatever the advertised price, you will receive the royalty agreed to with Ingramspark based on the retail prices you chose in Octavo – the actual retail price shown on any website does not change this as the third party reseller still places their orders through Ingramspark.

*Amazon’s buy box is the area on your book page that lists the price, shipping cost and displays the buy button. Although there may be multiple sellers selling your book, only ONE is shown in the buy box.

eBook Format

That is how print copies of your book are distributed, eBooks are much simpler since there is no shipping required and therefore there are far fewer third parties involved. Tellwell also limits the number of third parties by distributing direct to the major eBook players; Kindle, Kobo and Smashwords. It is important to note that Smashwords, while being a major eBook retailer themselves also distribute your eBook to other websites, notably Apple, Scribd and Overdrive.

eBooks distributed to Kindle will be available on all Amazon websites, eBooks distributed to Kobo will be available on Kobo websites and Smashwords on Smashwords.com, Apple books, Barnes and Noble, Scribd and a host of other niche websites.

Want an even deeper dive into distribution? Click here:

Author: Alan Hunter

I'm the Lead Developer at Tellwell.

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