Question: Okay, my book is published, so how come it's not on the shelves at my local bookstore? I had a nice offer from another publisher who promised me I'd get into the big chain book stores....
Answer: If the other offer came from a mass market publisher, then they may have been telling the truth. But this sounds more like the kind of promise made by vanity publishers (the kind you have to pay big bucks to, who advertise everywhere from Writer's Digest to the classified section of your local newspapers, asking, "Have you written a book?" They will make a lot of promises and charge each time you agree to an option. Anyone can promise anything.
Here's my best advice on Vanity Publishers -- you pay them, they don't pay you:
1. If bookstores are your main market don't use any vanity publisher.
2. No matter how you choose to publish, unless you are with a large NY publisher, marketing is your job.
If you publish with us, or almost any other small publisher who follows the rules, your book is listed in Books in Print, is registered with Bowker, and has an International Standard Book Number, as all legally marketed books need to do. With an ISBN, any customer can go to any bookstore and order your book. You will see the number at the top of the bar code on the back cover and again on the copyright page.
ISBNs are publisher-specific. They are registered to the publisher who has paid for them. Anyone checking the number, through the Bowker Books in Print website, will be told the price and how to contact the publisher for purchase.
That means, if your friend buys some ISBNs, and gives you one that was left over so you can self-publish your book, when anyone goes to a bookstore looking for your book, they will be told to contact your friend to buy it. Same thing, if your former publisher had an ISBN on it, you can't still use the same number, if you publish this yourself. With the cancellation of the contract, the former publisher can NO LONGER SELL the title. But the number, itself, still belongs to them. And any customer who goes to a book store with that number in hand, will be sent to them to buy, although the publisher can no longer legally sell any copies.