I’ve wondered a bit about how self-publishing differs from vanity publishing. Admittedly, I’m still trying to figure this out, but I think I like Angela Booth’s definition: The publisher should pay you, not the other way around.
I don’t know if I’m brave enough to take one of my NaNovels and clean it up enough to send off to agents to start gathering rejections (despite the fact I’ve been encouraged to do just that). I sort of think of self-publishing (with a million editing rounds) as the safer route, because then I only have to let friends and family know what I’ve done, and then it really doesn’t matter if it sells one or fewer copies because I only told people close to me about it.
I don’t think I could ever bring myself to go the vanity press route. Most of the vanity press companies I’ve seen just feel too slimy (not that all self-publishers have left me feeling confident about adding them to my list of companies to consider).
Research your options. Decide what you want to accomplish. Pick the route that permits you to get what you want.