Contest entries are a wonderful way to get feedback on your writing, and if you win, a perk is that you might get your work seen by an agent or editor. Winners can also use the moniker “Award Winning Author.”
I am a member of the Romance Writers Group on LinkedIn and there was a forum about entering contests. Several responders stated that they did not want to enter contests for piracy or they just didn’t want someone unknown to see their work. My opinion on that is that you’ve got to get it out there, and get feedback from all kinds of people, because they’ll see things you are your inner circle will never see.
One objection was to sending work to an unknown entity. I agree that you need to research contests before you enter. The Romance Writers of America lists RWA chapter contests on their web site, and members can sign-up for an e-mail to be notified of contests, classes and conferences. Also, many conferences come with a writing contest. Some that I am aware of are:
San Francisco Writers Conference: http://sfwriters.org/
League of Utah Writers: http://www.luwriters.org/
Crested Butte Writers: http://www.crestedbuttewriters.org/
Pacific Northwest Writers Association: http://www.pnwa.org/
Romance Writers of America (for all RWA chapters): http://www.rwa.org
I think contests are another way to hone your skills. The feedback can be invaluable, and you might just get recognition as well.
~Write on Friends!