I have recently read yet another horror story of brand-new-author-getting-the-shaft-from-a-so-called-publisher. I feel awful for the author when I see those.
Mandy DeGeit shared her experience on her blog, here. This is actually the follow up post and she does link back to what actually happened.
Now, I know I am not the writing guru. I'm not the one everyone runs to for advice. But I do know what its like to fall into something and you have no idea how to get out of it, how to breathe...
How to get that huge, crushing weight off of your chest and figure out how to get that tattoo of "MORON" off your forehead.
You know its there, everyone else is just too polite to point it out.
You have to research anyone interested in publishing your work. Just because you can't find the dirt on them doesn't mean it isn't out there. Ask people. If you have a blog with a following or a network tool like Twitter and FaceBook, ask people. There are all kinds of links and sites to find stuff on publishers.
And just because some hack fancies himself a publisher doesn't make him one.
Check out Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write Water Cooler and Google the hell out of these people. Most importantly... follow your gut instinct. You'll know if the publisher is right for you.
But still research them to death.