Okay, so we all know that publishers pay around $10,000 each to have books featured on Amazon's recommendations...do they also pay for shelf space in bookstores, the way food manufacturers pay for prime space in grocery stores?Hell yes. (It's called co-op.)
And if so, should an author ever bother with a small, award-winning publisher who has very little marketing budget, or is that almost as bad as self publishing, because even with great reviews, the public may not be readily able to find the book?Depends how small and how award-winning. Some smaller publishers are still well worth your time. Some less so. I would think very hard before publishing with a house that offers less than 10 children's books per season. But if that's likely to be the only house that will take your manuscript (because of very niche topic, etc), then it's still a publication credit, and can help you a bit on your way somewhere else.
It's not the same thing as self-publishing. Anytime you get paid for your work rather than you paying for the privilege of publication means someone besides yourself thought your work had a chance in the marketplace. The difference between real publishing and self-publishing always boils down to competition.
I hear self publishers say (not infrequently), "I'm glad I self-published, because I got to do the book just the way I wanted."
A trophy won for being best in your league (whichever league that is) means at least something. But buying yourself a trophy? Even if it means the trophy looks just the way you wanted it to, that doesn't count.