Over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler, you will find some of the best information, most amazing people willing to help and offer advice, support, etc, and some really heated political discussion - in addition to some serious terrific publishing knowledge.
One of the sub-forums is the Beware & Background Check (B&BC) - there people post about this agent or that publisher and others chime in either from their own experience or what they know about the standards in the industry.
The other day, a question popped up about a certain e-publisher and that they charge a $90 set-up fee if one of their contracted authors opts for the POD (print on demand) option. It's a one time charge (per manuscript) and only applies to the option of having your work available in trade paperback as well. They don't charge for editing, cover art, or ebook set up fees. Just for the print option.
For anyone considering a publisher like this - remember one of the Golden Rules of writing: Money flows toward the author not away from the author. It's called Yog's Law and it's a biggie. Really. Any time a publisher asks one of their authors to contribute financially to the creation of their book - you're dealing with either a vanity press (such as PublishAmerica) or a subsidy press. Either way, neither one is considered a professional writing credit and I think such fees hurt epublishing because authors should NEVER have to pay a fee of any kind to a publisher. Never. Publishers pay you, not the other way around. And yes, PublishAmerica IS a vanity press. It masquerades as a commercial publisher (or, as they like to call themselves, a traditional publisher. Which is BS because there is no such animal in commercial publishing.) No, they don't initially charge - but they bury their authors alive in a continuous landslide of emails - Buy x amount of copies and we'll send a copy to Oprah/Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg/President Obama. < - Seriously, they have been deluging their authors with ridiculous pitches like these. PublishAmerica. Vanity. Press.
So before you seriously consider paying a setup fee to any publisher, make sure you've exhausted ALL other publishing houses because you're about to sign away your book to a vanity or subsidy press. Any epublisher that expects to be taken seriously cannot charge these set up fees and hope to achieve the level of respect that epublishers such as Samhain, Loose Id, Ellora's Cave, Aspen Mountain have achieved. It just won't happen.
Just a friendly public service announcement from your friends at A Few Thoughts. :D