“Distribution” is an important term in book publishing. How do we get a book from point A, the publishing house, to point B, the bookstore? The answer lies in national distribution.
National distribution, for the purposes of this overly simplistic explanation, is basically having your book listed in Ingram’s national database of books for sale. This is where retailers, such as Barnes and Noble and Books a Million, are able to see the details of your book and order it. Most bookstores will not order books unless they are listed in this database.
One important reason that self-publishing still carries a stigma is that self-published books are usually not available on Ingram to be carried in bookstores. Most self-publishing companies do not have access to the database.
A couple of behemoth self-publishers (i.e., Lightning Source and Amazon’s Create Space) advertise that they do have national distribution through Ingram. They entice authors to self-publish with them and pay for the added service of national distribution. However, one other important thing to remember about bookstores is that they will not carry books unless they are fully returnable. Lightning Source and Create Space are print-on-demand self-publishers that do not list the book as “returnable”; therefore, bookstores will not carry books listed this way, even though they are in Ingram’s system. To get your book into a bookstore, you have to be working with a publishing company that gives your book legitimate national distribution.
So, if you are interested in getting your book into the brick-and-mortar bookstore, make sure that you are with a publishing company like Sourced Media Books (shameless plug!) that gives you legitimate national distribution–and will set up book signings for you, too.