Yesterday, I went to the Tucson Book Festival and had the chance to listen to several speakers from the book industry talking about what they know. It was thoroughly depressing.
The agents said writers should be prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars editing and promoting their work. The publishers said self-published books are horrible and that self-publishing is pretty much required in building your platform. The writer/publicist/publisher "team" were proof that if you have a recognizable name and the money to hire someone to help write and promote your story, you can get multiple publishers to make you an offer.
It wasn't so long ago that the way to spot a publishing scam was to find yourself asked to spend your own money. Now, that seems to have changed.
Honestly, this has not been my experience. I've had two books published and they never asked me to kick in a dime. And despite all the industry professionals saying publishers aren't giving advances to new writers anymore, I got one. So as depressing as the day was, I'm not sure all the information was accurate. Maybe they're just trying to discourage us, keeping the slush pile manageable.
Perhaps the most depressing information of the day was the trend that readers have begun to assume that books aren't something you pay for. As writers continue to publish their work for ever-lowering prices, they're perpetuating this idea.