I am focusing on entering writing competitions which would enable me to promote my novel. For example the short story competition with The Australian Woman's Weekly which in addition to a monetary prize also gives the winner an opportunity to have their novel read by Penguin.
My question is if the winner was offered a publishing contract by a publisher should they pursue an agent for representation or should they just sign the contract and thank their lucky stars? Furthermore, how interested would an agent be in representing a novelist under these circumstances?
Never EVER sign a contract without having it reviewed by someone who knows about publishing contracts. EVER. Did I convey never ever enough? NEVER EVER.
They are not doing you a favor, they are entering into a business relationship. They intend to make a boatload of money from YOUR work. Of course you get advice.
If an agent won't review it, cough up the dough to have a contracts lawyer look at it. When you talk to the lawyer, tell them you don't want them to negotiate it,just review it. That will save you some dough.
I don't care how much you want to be published, don't sign a bad contract. There are MANY worse things than being published and indentured servitude for your creative work is one of them.