University Press of the South (UNPS), (warning: hideous website alert) is a primarily academic publisher that also accepts adult and children's fiction. Over the years, I've gotten a trickle of advisories from non-academic authors who were asked for substantial fees in order to publish--$2,500 due on contract signing for "administrative costs," plus the entire cost of printing.
UNPS does not disclose these fees on its website.
Academic vanity presses can serve as a fallback option for scholars who cannot find a more reputable academic publisher for their manuscripts. Academic vanity publishing isn't prestigious--but it doesn't carry the same stigma that we're familiar with in the trade publishing world. Libraries do acquire books from academic vanity presses, and scholars cite them on their CVs.
UNPS is an old-style vanity press. Manuscripts must be delivered camera-ready; UNPS then prints whatever quantity of books the author desires, and the author is responsible for storing and distributing them (unless the author wants to use UNPS's own distribution service, which costs extra). By contrast, the newer, digitally-based vanity presses offer design and formatting services, don't produce inventory unless it's ordered, and automatically offer some level of online distribution through the catalogs of wholesalers. While new-style vanity publishing may never earn back the author's investment, it's far cheaper and thus far less risky than old-style vanity publishing, which can involve truly enormous expenditures--and, in some cases, false promises and poor service.
In May 2007, one of UNPS's authors, Christian Augustin von Hassell, filed suit against UNPS and its Director, Alain Saint-Saens, alleging breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud. According to the complaint, the plaintiff incurred costs in excess of $100,000 in connection with his book (a contract signing fee of $500, an additional signing fee of $2,000, $42,000 to print 6,000 copies, $4,500 to ship copies of the book to UNPS for distribution, more than $34,000 in costs associated with UPNS's development, distribution, marketing, and promotional services, and thousands of dollars for his promotional and marketing activities). The complaint also alleges that not only did UNPS not provide promised marketing, promotion, and distribution services, it misrepresented its ability to provide them, as well as the scope and functionality of its ordering and distribution system. The plaintiff also alleged that UNPS did not pay royalties due, and refused to allow him to inspect sales records for his book, even though he was contractually entitled to do so.
Alain Saint-Saens and UNPS failed to answer the complaint or otherwise appear. On October 14, 2008, a judgment in favor of the plaintiff was entered in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, in the amount of $148,449.39: $141,933.07, plus $350 in costs, plus $7,348.49 in interest.