While self-publishing may be a more worthwhile endeavor these days, more and more shady publishers seem to be popping up.
Vanity publisher PublishAmerica has recently started a program wherein they "send" one of their workers to JK Rowling's home and drop off a box of promotional material for some of their books. And then they charge their authors $49 for this service by claiming that they put the books right into Rowling's hands.
Rowling's lawyers have issued a cease and desist letter, to which PublishAmerica responded with this rather hilarious letter - one in which the "lawyer" involved uses triple exclamation points (he apparently never took my composition class).
The whole point is that you need to know who you're working with. You wouldn't take a job from a company that's not going to pay you what it said it was going to pay you, so why would you take a contract from a book publisher who's likely to cheat you? In other words, before you send your manuscript anywhere, you MUST research them (and I don't use all caps lightly).
For instance, if you go and google PublishAmerica, you will quickly find things like "PublishAmerica Scam" and "True Stories about PublishAmerica" on the front page of Google. If there's just one bad account, ok, fine, the author has a gripe. If there's several, all of the same type, then you've got a bad publisher.
Legally speaking, PublishAmerica might not have broken any laws yet. So, they're still in business. They can even advertise right here on my page (I've seen them but I haven't figured out how to stop them and now that I wrote a story about them, they'll probably show up more. I'm sorry.) Please don't use them.
If you truly can't get a deal with a good publisher, then self-publish. Don't use a vanity press. There's simply no reason to in this day and age. Lulu, iUniverse, and Createspace are all great programs for people who simply want to be in print. Amazon's Kindle Direct program is awesome for e-books. There are ways - just please don't waste your time and money with a program like PublishAmerica. It ain't worth it.