It's not often that I do this sort of thing in general, but my best friend and fellow author is going through a situation with a bookseller that no author should have to suffer. He felt so strongly about it that he posted a video message to Facebook about it. Someone (management, I presume) was supposed to call my friend and let him know his books were going in the clearance bin before July 13th. That didn't happen, and so a week later (this past Wednesday, July 20th), he went to pick them up. Hastings, which is currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, refused to turn over his books per his contract with them. In fact, they told him that if he tried to pick up his books, the police would get involved.
In a discussion on my friend's Facebook page, it was noted that this hiccup could be related to the bankruptcy proceedings, which could place a higher priority on unsold inventory, instead of sending it back to the publisher and/or author. While I don't know the particulars and fine print of the contract, one would think that a book/entertainment store chain would like to keep its nose clean by honoring the spirit and word of its contracts with any publisher while they search for a buyer for their failing business.
I'm sure there are some people out there right now again going "Why post this? Do you want to poison the well?! Do you want to fail?" As I've explained before, I don't expect my RPG material to be sold in print, let alone be a household fixture in gaming groups. However, I do have a series of science fiction novels in the works and it behooves me to put this out as a warning to my fellow self-publishers - be careful who you do business with. Ask questions of other self-published authors. Also, have someone - namely a lawyer, or at least a paralegal - look at the language of the contract before you sign, and always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask questions, especially with regard to returning unsold copies and how bankruptcy might affect this.
That's not to say my friend didn't do his due diligence. He's well networked in the self-publishing community, and I'm sure he asked questions until everybody was tired of typing. Still, things like this happen, and when they do, it leaves a bad taste in one's mouth for a long, long time.
That being said, while my wife published her first children's book ("The Reindeer Tree") through Amazon's Createspace (with help from Concierge Marketing), I can't say enough good things about independent bookstores and the role they play in distribution. The Bookworm here in Omaha has been gracious enough to hold a number of book signings for local, self-published authors, one of which my wife and I attended as publishers. We are very grateful for the help they and Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing have provided.
I just wish things had turned out better for my friend.