Let's say your book is available for purchase through a number of prominent online retailers like Powells, Amazon, B&N -- even places like Walmart and Target online. Given the prominence of online shopping nowadays, is it worth sweating and fretting if Borders and B&N don't also carry your book in their brick and mortar stores?Short answer: Yes. Sorry.
Longer answer: Not necessarily. (I know, I'm a contradictory person.)
Look, available through Amazon and B&N.com doesn't mean much. It's the digital equivalent of being available in a warehouse-sized bookstore on a dusty shelf somewhere in the back. There's no guarantee someone will find the book.
But there's more than one book doing quite well out there --quite well by anyone's measure-- which was not picked up immediately by B&N. Which is really why you should all be shopping at independents-- they're the ones making or breaking it for a lot of the lesser-known books out there.
A book is skipped by B&N, but the independents pick it up and sell the heck out of it, and they get the ball rolling. The next time the publisher's sales reps visit B&N, they'll point out how well this book (the book B&N had no faith in) is doing at the indies, and then B&N will think, "Oh, hmm. Maybe there's some money to be made there." And then B&N picks it up.
The "sorry" part comes from the fact that a hell of a lot of America still does its book shopping at B&N, and that's the part of America we like. The book consumers we would use to wipe our feet on are shopping at Target and Costco.
And let's also remember that what "doing quite well" means for a book is not how it ranks on some cosmic, absolute scale. It's a comparison to how well the publisher expected it to do. So if your publisher is a behemoth corporation that paid $300,000 for your book, and the book sells 25,000 copies in its first year, then the book has FAILED. But if your publisher was in a more sane mood when it offered on your book and when it determined the 20,000 copy print run, then selling 25,000 copies means the book did GREAT.