I have made all sorts of comments about contests being good fer nuttin but just today I realized there is one instance when contests, and also previous publication of pieces of the novel, come in handy.
I received a query letter. The whole entire premise of the novel sounded so stupid I almost didn't read on. Then in the third paragraph came the news that pieces of the novel had been published in literary mags, and another piece won a prize I'd actually heard of.
I kept reading. Knowing somewhere, somebody didn't think this was stupid was enough to make me read more carefully.
So, enter the contests, send out the pieces, quote the results, it may be your salvation in the slush pile.
Even Miss Snark must revise upon occasion!