How long does it take to publish a book?

On average, it takes our authors around 4-6 months to complete the journey from written manuscript to having their book published. This being said, the publishing process is different for all of our authors, making it difficult to predict an accurate timeline.

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The timeline for publishing your book mostly depends on (1) the services included in your publishing package and (2) how quickly you as the author complete each task assigned to you. It can also be impacted by the time of year; for example, the printing timeline can be expected to be longer in November, as orders peak in anticipation of the holiday shopping season.

To ensure that you publish the best possible version of your book, we always encourage our authors to give their book the time it deserves, which means taking time with each step, whether it is going to bookstores to do research before making design decisions, or being sure to proofread a design file before giving final approval.

If you have an idea of when you would like to see your book published and available to be purchased, be sure to talk to your Publishing Consultant or Project Manager to see if the timeline is realistic. You can also inquire about purchasing expedited design and/or editing services.

Please wait until you have a confirmed delivery date of printed books before setting event dates! 

Below is a general timeline that can be expected, on average, for Tellwell’s publishing process.

Tellwell tasks are shown in bold and author tasks are shown in italics

– Author completes Project Start Information task

ISBN Assignment
1 Business Day 

– Author submits manuscript and completes book design setup task 

– Author completes Project Start Information task

Manuscript Assessment
1 – 3 Business Days (plus the time it takes the author to re-submit if the manuscript goes not adhere to our guidelines)

– Author completes editorial questionnaire (if applicable) 

Editing (if applicable)
1 – 2 weeks per round (under 50,000 words)
or 2 – 3 weeks per round (over 50,000 words)

– Author completes illustrations questionnaire (if applicable) 

Illustrations (if applicable)
8-12 weeks, variable based on number of illustrations, illustrator availability, and the complexity of your vision.

– Author completes interior and cover design questionnaires

Initial Cover/Interior Design
2 – 3 weeks each

– Author submits interior/cover design revisions

Cover/Interior Revision Rounds (each, up to two included)
1 – 2 weeks to complete each design draft

– Author submits design approval

– Author selects pricing and metadata for publication

Proofreading (if applicable)
1 – 2 weeks (under 50,000 words)
or 2 – 3 weeks (over 50,000 words)

1.5 – 3 weeks

4 – 6 weeks

*Timelines do not include those times when the “ball is in your court,” because life happens, and we understand you won’t always be immediately available to complete the tasks assigned to you. Timelines are not guaranteed and may vary based on current workloads.

Expedited Services

Purchasing expediting design and/or editing services will reduce the above timelines to the following:

Expedited Initial Cover/Interior Design
5 – 7 business days each

Expedited Cover/Interior Revision Rounds (each, up to two included)
2 – 5 business days to complete each design draft

Expedited Proofreading/Editing (subject to editor availability)
3 – 5 business days (only available for manuscripts under 50,000 words)

How comfortable do I need to be with computers to work with Tellwell?

To be able to comfortably work through our process, we recommend that all of our authors have their own computer, or a computer readily available. While you certainly do not need to be a computer expert, our process is completely online-based, and as the author you will be expected to handle basic computer tasks, such as saving, opening, editing and submitting files. You will also need to be able to log in to your own account on our Octavo website.

The main computer programs that will be used throughout the publishing process are Microsoft Word (free 30-day trial available here) and Adobe Acrobat (download the free version here). We do have video tutorials available to help walk you through each step, however it will be best if you are already comfortable working with computers.  If you are less comfortable with technology, we strongly recommend that you ask a friend, family member, or assistant to help you throughout the process.

Is there any content that Tellwell refuses to publish?

Tellwell’s aim is to celebrate words and creativity while enriching our social fabric by helping authors tell their stories well; therefore, when it comes to the content of the manuscripts we publish, a full spectrum is represented. It is not in our interest to be restrictive or prohibitive, although there are certainly some areas in which we draw a line. This is not only to preserve our values and integrity as a company but also to maintain a reputation and publishing environment that our past, current and future authors can have confidence in.

Just because your book may contain graphic or “uncomfortable” content does not mean that Tellwell will refuse to publish it. That said, if any of the following dominate the content of your manuscript, Tellwell may decline to engage with it for publication:

  • Explicit and/or gratuitous sex or violence with no literary merit (if there are underage characters the threshold for merit is much higher)
  • Erotica and/or obscene pornographic material with no storyline
  • Content that in our opinion may violate someone’s privacy rights
  • Libellous content
  • Hate speech
  • Any other content that Tellwell in our sole discretion chooses not to publish

If Tellwell decides not to publish a book, we will provide a refund for all uncompleted services.

If you’re uncertain and would like a professional opinion, a Tellwell editor would be happy to assess the content during an editorial evaluation.

Please also note that aside from the types of content listed above, the print-on-demand distributor reserves the right to block publication if a book contains any of the content specified in this article: What content can’t I include in my manuscript?

For further information, refer to Section 6 of Tellwell’s Terms & Conditions.

Why do I need editing?

All books get edited; pretty much every book you’ve ever purchased and read has been edited. In the traditional publishing model, all books undergo multiple rounds of editing. Even the very best, most highly regarded writers work with editors. Editing improves your manuscript by polishing the writing and correcting errors, as well as raising your confidence in releasing the finished product into the world.

Purchasing editorial services at the outset has an impact not only on your writing, but also on the marketability of your published book, the level to which readers will engage with it, and your credibility as a published author.

Editing brings fresh eyes and an objective new perspective. It looks for sense, logic, believability and meaning. It tests consistency, and ultimately improves your writing. It interrogates the overall content and structure, and examines the details at the word and punctuation level. It adds value and quality to a manuscript.

There is an unwritten contract between the author and the reader – a trust that is intact when a book is purchased, picked up, and opened. Not having the book edited is a surefire way to break that contract; it doesn’t take very many typos and errors to dissolve the author’s credibility. Long term, it helps you sharpen your eye and hone your skills as a writer and self-critic. If you get editing for this book, the quality of your writing will likely improve for the next.

How does the Illustration process work?

Before the illustrations process begins, as the author you will need to ensure your manuscript is polished and error-free, and you have a clear vision in mind for where each illustration will be placed relative to the text. Be sure to add your illustration tags in the places where the illustrations will best support the story.

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: if you were reading the book for the first time, which parts of the story would you most want to see illustrated? Ask your friends, family, or kids for their advice. Illustrations are a significant investment of time and money, make sure you do your research beforehand to get the most value out of this service! 

OK, now you’re ready! Please read on for an overview of the illustrations process.  

Step 1: Pick your top three illustrators and fill in the illustrations questionnaire

We work with a team of talented illustrators from Canada and around the world, and the first step is to review samples and make your top three choices for an illustrator.  Then, once your manuscript is edited and you have chosen a trim size for your book, your Project Manager will send you the Illustrations Questionnaire, within which you will describe your vision for the illustrations you have purchased, including important details like character and setting descriptions, colour schemes, and reference images. Together with your manuscript, the questionnaire comprises the creative brief sent to the illustrator, which they will use to create the first sketch.

  • Related article: Tellwell Illustrations Guide

Step 2: Initial illustration sketch

In this first phase the illustrator works on a single illustration, beginning with a sketch/line drawing in black and white, which your project manager will send you for review upon completion.

Step 3: Initial illustration sketch revision (if needed)

In the next phase you can request the illustrator make changes to the initial sketch as needed, as long as it does not completely differ from the original description, and a revised draft will then be sent to you for approval.

Step 4 Initial illustration colour

Following approval of the initial sketch, the illustrator will finalize the initial illustration with colour, and you will be sent the coloured image for approval.

Please note: colour revisions are not included in our services; therefore, it is important that you define the colours you want to see when you fill out the Illustrations Questionnaire. If you do not, the illustrators will use their judgement to select colour. You can choose to purchase colour revisions for digital illustrations (for which we will provide you a quote for at the time), but colour revisions are not available for hand drawn/painted illustrations (you could however purchase an extra illustration and re-start the colour phase).

Step 5 Remaining illustrations sketches

Upon approval of the initial coloured image, the illustrator will proceed to creating the sketches of all remaining images, which your project manager will then send to you for review.

Step 6: Remaining illustrations sketch revisions

As with Step 3 above, you can request that the illustrator make changes to any, all, or none of the remaining sketches as needed, as long as they do not completely differ from the original descriptions. You will need to submit all revisions at one time; similarly, all revised sketches will be sent to you for approval at one time.

Step 7 Remaining illustrations colour

Following approval of all remaining sketches, the illustrator will colour the illustrations and you will be sent the coloured image for approval. Note again that colour revisions are not included in our services.

Step 8 Author Approval

Once you approve of all your coloured illustrations, the interior and cover design processes will commence! At this point the illustrator will finalize the images for print, and your project manager will send you interior and cover design questionnaires via Octavo. Then, the cover and interior design services will commence, which will include the layout of your story text relative to the illustrations, and combining your front cover illustration with the title and author text.

How are royalties calculated? How much will I make per book sold?

Net Royalties are defined as the total royalty paid by each distribution channel, and are determined by the Suggested Retail Price chosen by you. The print cost of your book will also impact the amount of royalties you will earn, which itself is impacted by the size, page count, interior colour, and binding type of your book. The Retailer Discount also impacts royalties, so in order to maximize royalties we recommend you set the minimum discount. For more info, check out our article How do I choose a price for my book?

Suggested Retail Price – Retailer Discount – POD Print Cost = Net Royalties

As such, once the page count of your typeset interior draft is set and you have chosen a distribution model, you will be prompted to set the pricing for your book through Octavo. Octavo will calculate your expected net royalties for each edition and market.

Authors on the Managed 85 distribution model earn 85% net royalties, while authors on Managed 100 will earn 100% net royalties.

For eBooks, as long as you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 CAD and USD, you will generally earn 70% of the list price in royalties, depending on the distributor and retailer involved.

  • eBooks do not have a print cost, though Kindle deducts a small “delivery fee” from the royalties based on the file size of your ebook. For eBooks distributed through Smashwords to retailers like Apple Books, you will earn 60% royalties.
What is Print-On-Demand Distribution?

Print-on-demand printing is technology that allows our authors to sell their books globally without having to fulfill orders through their own physical inventory of books. When you sign up for one of our Managed Distribution options, Tellwell sets your book up with Ingram, which makes it available to thousands of different online retailers such as Amazon, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Each retailer can decide whether or not they list your book, but the most popular retailers that our authors typically see listing their books online are Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, and Barnes & Noble.

Print-on-demand means that when someone orders your book online, a single copy is printed and then shipped to the customer.  Ingram will be the one to print, ship, and fulfill those orders. Print-on-demand cost is the dollar value per copy that our print-on-demand partner retains to cover their cost of producing the book, and is the value that will be used to determine the royalty that the author takes home when a book is sold online.

Authors also have the option of purchasing the Enhanced Amazon service, where Tellwell will set their book up for print-on-demand distribution through KDP, so that paperback orders placed through Amazon will be printed and fulfilled by Amazon itself. Click here to learn more about the pros and cons associated with this option.

What is Managed Distribution?

Managed Distribution is by far and away the most popular distribution program that we offer and it essentially ensures that we not only set up an author’s book for publication, but also manage the accounts with whom we have provided the information that allows the book to be available through online retailers.

This means that your book remains available for sale via Ingram’s network of 39,000 booksellers and you receive ongoing print-on-demand order fulfillment whenever your book sells. Your book remains in the Kindle, Kobo and other ebook stores if applicable. We consolidate and payout royalties from all channels and provide regular sales and royalty reports. You are also entitled to one annual listing support change, which may include a change to the metadata, suggested retail price, price discounting, or other minor changes to your listing data.

Managed Distribution Options:

Managed Distribution 85
Managed Distribution 100
Net Royalties: 85% 100%
Setup Fee: $0 $500
Annual Fee: $75*

*First year of distribution is always free, the second year is free when you complete our feedback survey, and you’ll get three more years free if you refer an author to Tellwell.

Notes: Combines the ease of use of having your distribution channels managed and published by Tellwell without any setup fees. Your distribution channels are managed and published by Tellwell. You get 100% net royalties paid by Tellwell but there is a setup fee associated.
Tellwell Managed Distribution Options

Distribution Channels:

All Tellwell publishing packages include print-on-demand paperback distribution through Ingram, which will make your book available for purchase online through popular retailers like Amazon.com, Chapters/Indigo, and Barnes & Noble.

Depending on the services included in your publishing package, your book may also have Enhanced Amazon paperback distribution, hardcover distribution through Ingram, and/or eBook distribution through Amazon Kindle, Kobo (Chapters-Indigo), and/or Smashwords (Apple Books and Barnes & Noble Nook).

To find out what editions your book will be available in, log in to Octavo, click the Purchases tab, and scroll down to the Distributions heading.


Under the Tellwell Managed Distribution program, you will receive your royalty payments via cheque, mailed 45 days after the end of each quarter in which Tellwell receives payment from the distributor, provided that you meet the minimum sales threshold of $100.  You’ll also be able to view sales reports monthly, 45 days after the end of each month, under the Sales & Royalties tab on Octavo.

Additionally, Because Tellwell has completed tax paperwork with distributors to avoid the 30% tax withheld by the major USA book distribution companies, the Author does not need to do this extra tax paperwork that is required under the Direct Distribution program.

For more information on Direct Distribution, please read our article titled What is Direct Distribution?

To view the “fine print”, check out Section 3 of our Terms