One of the companies called today and offered a book returnability program for $1300 a year, which would work through Ingram. The sales pitch included the idea of "local authors". I don't know if, in my circumstances and content, I would have the "popularity" for this to work, given the time it takes to visit and talk to stores. Of course, that's what my own father used to to (with glass). I think that working with more content in other media and with situation-specific networking is much more effective, given time constraints and lack of scale. I might visit a specific store for some specific reason (knowing the people there, or who visit there), but not do this as a regular strategy enough to justify the investment.
It does disturb some people that I would publish a book and then not "pimp" it as a consumer item (or wholesale item), but "publishing" has come to mean something much broader than just selling instances of one kind of item. "As the world turns."
Update: May 15
I visited a large Barnes and Noble Tuesday. I was told that stocking should go through corporate, perhaps from the publisher. But the wording of the returnability email seems to encourage working with smaller, independent stores.
I did notice that BN stores do keep a number of copies of more popular books on shelves (sometimes up to 20). There was only one case of "current affairs" but each book had three or four copies. So trying to stock them nationally could definitely make sense. My book would look good on the current affairs display. Most all of the books in the Current Affairs area on display were less than two years old. However, older books were present in "how to" sections as well as, of course, fiction (especially genre).
There's also a good question as to whether all three should be packaged together -- although I do not have the popularity of Harry Potter. There would seem to be a question about trademarking my catch phrase. I see that USPTO has just added a lot of new advisory material to its website and will look at it soon.
Barnes and Noble does have a link for how small publishers should get their books in its stores, here. There is also a link on bookfairs here. For an author with a series, there would be a question on trademarking the series name, which I discussed on my trademark blog today.
I have signed on to an Indepedent Bookstore pitch campaign. More details here.