The best way to get your books shelved and sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores is to provide the book to the store on consignment. To do this, you will enter into agreements with one or more bookstores, providing a number of copies of the book (typically ordered in advance by the author through Tellwell's print department), and the bookstore will take a cut of the profits (usually between 45-55%). The details of a consignment agreement are different for each bookstore, and arrangements must be made directly between the author and the bookstore.
To place a bulk order of books, you can start by requesting a print quote from your project manager at email@example.com after approving the interior design. Note that a better rate per book is offered when ordering in higher quantities, and so it is advisable to build your personal inventory if you intend to fulfill sales yourself at events (such as launches and markets) and/or if you wish to provide books to stores on consignment.
On the other hand, in order for bookstores to purchase a book directly from the distributor (Ingram) and stock it on their shelves, they will typically require a 55% wholesale (or retail) discount to be set with the distributor who makes the book available to them. On top of this, books will need to be marked as returnable, which comes with an unlimited amount of liabilities as there are charges (45% of the suggested retail price) per book that is returned.
Tellwell has created a program to enable authors to do this, but there is an opt-in fee (currently $500 +tax) and the book must be priced high enough to ensure that the royalty earned will cover the costs of returns in the event that 50% of the books are returned. Beyond this, Tellwell would withhold all royalties earned via the distributor until 6 months following the author’s decision to opt out of the program.
With this in mind, it is not advisable to choose this route before understanding the implications, and more importantly, having confirmation from bookstores that they intend to stock your book.
Having a bookstore order and shelve your book from the distributor is an extremely competitive process, and even if a book is set up with a 55% wholesale discount and a returns policy, it is unlikely that any bookstore will decide to carry the book without being approached by the author, and shown a history of high sales and a strong positive reception for the book.
Unfortunately, the process involved to allow returnability is set up so that the distributor, retailers and publishers can all minimize risk and maximize profit, with very little being earned by the author per book sold. In other words, it’s not particularly lucrative for independent authors.
This is why it’s best to start with a strong online marketing campaign, and take advantage of the existing online retail infrastructure, which is far simpler and lower-risk, combined with local launch and signing events. Proudly revealing your book to your community is often the most rewarding aspect of the publishing process for many authors.