Long time reader, first time email. (you're listening to too much talk radio) A few years ago I had a novel published by a small publisher in the Mid-west. At the time, there were no fees asked, but since then that publisher now asks for a "marketing fee" that I refuse to do.
My desire is to get published by a large publishing firm and to aqquire an agent for my second manuscript. In my query letters, should I include the previous published novel and the positive reviews it received or avoid any mention since now looking into the former publisher would look like a fee-paid POD?
I've got two clients with this situation. With the first, there was enough other stuff to talk about that I left it off (book sold). With the secon, I phrased it as "Author has a previous book, title, published by Slumgullion Inc before they changed to a fee based publisher". That book just sold.
Both approaches work but I vote for the second so that IF an agent googles you she will have the correct info in your query letter. I'm sorry to say this, but I assume the worst and never give anyone the benefit of the doubt in query letters. One too many people pawning off iUniverse print runs as publication credits has made me quite quite skeptical of everything.