As I was blogging yesterday about book contests and assembling a list of those I might target with my new manuscript, it seems the blogosphere was alive with reports and responses to Stacey Lynn Brown's "Cautionary Tale" about winning a first book contest which ultimately left her with no published book (until another publisher came to her rescue).
Take a look at "Cautionary Tale" on Brown's blog and comments about it. Also see Marie Gauthier's comments. There's also an interesting discussion on her blog about what you can do with $250 - $500 if you elect not to enter contests, but self-publish.
I am considering self-publishing and spending the money on advertising, which few book publishers do for poetry collections. If you can sell 200-300 copies in advance sales, you can practically finance a limited first run without much outlay for the actual printing costs. You can then spend your funds to advertise and send mailings. Of course, selling advance copies requires an audience for your work. But if you have already published and have a modest following, plus friends, family and neighbors who like your poetry, it might be possible. It's an interesting thought, anyway. Probably I don't have time to ride herd on book printing and design, but there's always Lulu and the like.