Welcome! Looking for a new kitten is so much fun! I spent MONTHS looking before Jasper and I found each other, so don't worry if it seems like it's taking a while, the perfect kitten is worth it!
I'll try to answer some of your questions based off of my own personal experience in this area.
1.) A good breeder should have almost as many questions for you as you do for them; they will show a clear interest in the welfare of the kitten and may ask you to contact them in the future to let you know how the kitten is doing; I send my breeder new pictures of Jasper every month or so and she just loves to see him grow! They will have their cats and their litters registered with CFA/TICA, and will not release the kittens to you until at least 12 weeks of age at the minimum. They will usually provide a guarantee of health (with tests for FIV, FeLV, etc), the first few vaccinations, and wormings. When you go to meet the kittens, they will introduce you to their parents and any other cats they have; I met both of Jasper's parents, littermates, an adult sister, and the breeder's pet Persian and dogs when I visited, and all of them were extremely friendly, which is a great sign! Finally, a breeder may also give you a 'kitten kit' with a blanket that smells like home/mom, a toy or two, and some food to get started.
Please take the time to find a good breeder that meets these standards. I spoke with several 'shady' sounding individuals before I found a breeder I was comfortable with, but when I did I knew I was in great hands! It's worth it to expend the extra effort to find someone that really knows what they're talking about, especially since they'll be able to answer any questions you'll have settling your new kitten in.
2. I don't know much about shipping. I was in the same boat as you, in that there were no breeders in my area (well, there were but I didn't trust any of them
) so I ended up driving ~6 hr round trip to get Jasper. He slept the first half of the way back then mewed softly when he did wake up. All in all, not too bad. He's WAAAAAY worse in cars now haha
3. I think you're referring to a backyard breeder? These families can mean well, but often do not have the knowledge or experience to properly breed; I would avoid them in favor of a CFA/TICA registered breeder.
Just a heads up as well, some don't support the breeding of cats with folded ears because they are associated with several health problems. I'm not sure what you know about this, but it might be worth looking into.
Hope this helps!